That is exactly the moment that this icon pictures, being a study from an older work made by an unknown master from of the 16th century, found in Sofia.
The art of the byzantine icons’ painting , an art form that was expressionism centuries (maybe a millennium) before expressionism /symbolism or surrealism ever even existed. Some of the characteristic elements of this painting “genre” that point towards this direction are:
-The main figure/ feature Enlightened being -The saint, the Saviour or the Holy Mother) is bigger that anything else in the icon
You can see saints in the background that are bigger than the ones in foreground- You can see Saints on horses that are equal in size with the animal. Proportions in general are based on priority that is a sort of unrealism: But then again, we we seek meaning
-The background too- it may be buildings (which are always distorted or proportionally wrong, rendered with reverse or inverse perspective ) it may have rough mountains – but the main mentallity is that the background shows a distortion a lack of space or time. That is also why gold is used symbolizing enlightement, eternity, something infinite and eternal.
We speak by symbols. As we alter proportions in space we also alter facial features or body proportions in order to highlight a spiritual quality.
So that is why the ears are longer lips are thin, eyes are big, noses are way to long
and that is also why bodies are “bodiless” – There is no muscular tone, and certainly no curves 🙂
The body is just like a cloth of convenience that would soon be thrown away.
Finally in byzantine painting we are speaking of , we are narrating (the first word in Greek for painting icons is historein which means sayng the history of) the story of another reality, one that is more real than this one we are living in.
|Various sizes of prepared icon panels|
For every application of the mixture we first put it in the baigne-marie so it becomes liquid
|Saint Dymphna religious icon|
When applying color -in our technique- you actually get a certain number of “opportunities” to actually intervene in the facial expression- I usually tend to avoid pronounced or easily identifiable expressions in my icons (for several reasons), but some works seem to take a course of their own like in the case of Saint Dymphna of Gheel, the patron saint of people with mental ailments
|Vintage style icon of Saint Alexis the man of God|
I always vintage Russian icons and I particularly loved one of the “popular” themes of Russian iconography and religious storytelling – The life and imaging of Alexis the Man of God.The Saint’s story, a story of humility and anonymity is very moving let me quote orthodoxwiki.org here:
“… The rare title, “Man of God,” was bestowed on St. Alexios for the manner in which he gave himself over to Jesus Christ…. He kept his true identity a secret for an entire lifetime rather than run the risk of betraying the Master through his own emotions and there is no telling how much mental anguish he suffered in silence for the sake of his commitment….” (http://orthodoxwiki.org/Alexios_the_Man_of_God)
I tried to represent Him using a special technique to make the icon look old- The icon was hand painted, with several layers of egg tempera, on a special gessoed canvas that was wrinkled after painting, and then covered on edges with a special plant dye that gives the icon an antique patina.
|The wrinkled canvas with the painting of St Alexios on the wooden panel|
The same dye was used to paint the wood that the canvas was attached on. Finally the icon was sealed with traditional wax varnish (or keronefto in Greek )made with turpentine and wax to add the a scent – “the scent of sanctity” as it is traditionally done in byzantine icons.
|Noli me tangere icon – 13×18 cm egg tempera on wood|
|Another version of Touch me Not orthodox icon|
Finally, if you want to learn more about this unique orthodox icon you surely have to read a great article on its history and origins: https://iconreader.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/touch-me-not-from-west-to-east/
|The Byzantine icons of Sts Theodora and Euphrosene|
There is also a connection between them that I considered a nice coincidence and a good “omen” for this commission: the Holy Empress when retired chose the monastic life for the 8 final years of her life, in the Monastery of St Eufrosyni in Constantinople.
Sometimes icons seem to “choose” one another!
Here are some of the wonderful frescoes that glorify his Cathedral – a sample of a living, vibrant tradition of byzantine iconography right in the Center of my town, Heraklion.
|The dome with the Image of the Christ Pantocrator (IC XC ΠΑΝΤΟΚΡΑΤΟΡ) overseeing everything|
|View on the Iconostasis, on the top scenes from the Passions of Christ|
|A fresco of the Theotokos|
|Saint Menas of Egypt, riding his horse and his life of many Miracles|
Note: The images are found on the web and are not my property- Nevertheless, would love to have permission to share and give the due credit to their owners.
Egg tempera is the medium for byzantine iconography – But what about the mineral pigments? Despite the variety of colors available on the market, there are only ten (yes, 10) mineral powders that tradition holds necessary for the creation of a byzantine icon.
|Powder pigments of byzantine iconography in a row|
So depending the school, or the master, the colors used (with some variations from time to time) are basically the following (in random order):
1.Titaneum white/ Blanc de titane
2. Black/ Noir d’ ivoire
3. Yellow ocher/ Ocre jaune
4. Cinnabar Red/ Vermillion claire
5. Rouge Anglais (a sort of brownish red)
6. Cadmium Red (a sort of Carmin)
7. Cadmium Yellow
8 Turquise Blue (or Blue Cobalt)
10 Ombre vert/ Green Umbre
For example, -if numbers are easier for you to remember- a ccombination of 2,3 and 5 (while other schools use 3,5,1 and 10 or 9) produces what we call “proplasmos of the face” or simply the brown flesh, the color of the earthly soil out of which Adam was made.
|Egg tempera: One egg yolk and a spoonful of vinegar|
The proportions of the colors are important as well as proportions in the mixture of powders with egg and vinegar; How thick or thin we need the paint to be. White, ochre and vermillion combined, very thinly -that is with al lot of egg and vinegar- are used for the almost transparent in some spots — highlights of the skin- but that is a subject of another post!!!
|Making wooden panels in angelicon’s workshop|
First (after choosing a wooden board of the size you like) we have the connective medium, a type of hide glue that is turned into a gel with the addition of water.
Then zinc and gypsum is added in it and thoroughly mixed and then the pure linen cloth is attached to the wooden board with the assistance of the above materials
After layers and layers of the white paste, there is a lot of sandpapering (I really don’t like this dusting part…) till the white surface becomes perfectly smooth.!
Finally we have the painting on the back and on the sides with glue and red color as a finishing touch.
And not to forget to add your metal hanger on the back. The panel is now ready!