For no particular reason, this morning I was thinking about St. Nicholas and his role in the first Ecumenical Council. Suddenly, I found myself wondering if there are any icons of him slapping Arius. After searching online I was only able to find one, but it is still nice to know there’s at least one in existence.
After seeing this thread today, I figured this icon would be a relevant contribution:
Nicholas striking Arius
Fresco: Soumela Monastery, Turkey
What century was this from?
It's interesting that here too, Arius also wears plain garments with no crosses.
I think there are many different traditions and customs of iconographies, i.e. different rules of what was allowed to be drawn, what was not allowed, different purposes of the drawings (like one tradition draws to help illiterate people and another tradition for purely symbolic theological purposes).
This is just my hypothesis, since I'm sensing a bit of inconsistency in iconography if we were to assume one major tradition of rules and regulations and purposes.
Concerning the icon of the 4th Council at Chalcedon, I'm assuming the central figure is Leo? Who are the ones behind him?
The fresco at Soumela is probably no older than 18th century, and possibly 19th, going by the artistic style which is quite fluid and animated (a little too animated for an icon, IMO).
In the Chalcedon icon, Emperor Marcianus is shown enthroned, not Leo; above his head is a (barely legible) inscrption (The) King Marcianus. Three of the mitred bishops seated in the foreground have their names written in their haloes, but they are too indistinct to read. Some of the fathers present at this council include Anatolius, Archbishop of Constantinople; Maximus, Archbishop of Antioch; Juvenal, Archbishop of Jerusalem; Thalassius, Bishop of Cappadocia; and Bishops Paschasinus and Lucentius from Rome.
Regarding the idea that "there are many different traditions and customs of iconographies, i.e. different rules of what was allowed to be drawn, what was not allowed, different purposes of the drawings (like one tradition draws to help illiterate people and another tradition for purely symbolic theological purposes)",
this is not at all true. Sure, there are geographic variations in the "artistic" styles of icons (a knowledge of which is very useful in determining age and place of origin of old icons, as, strictly speaking, icons should not be signed by the iconographer). There are generally distinct differences between Greek, Russian, Serbian, and Romanian icons, for instance. Also, within a country, there are further stylistic variations, in terms of how the figures and details are painted, which region or province the icon came from, and even the range of colours used, depending on the availability of pigments and oxides.
What is allowed or not allowed to be depicted must
conform to the scriptural, doctrinal, theological and liturgical traditions of the Church, irrespective of country or region. Icons are the visual equivalent of scripture and liturgy (not just the Divine Liturgy, but the whole liturgical deposit of the Church, what is read, chanted and sung, which represents the life and mind of the Church). The teachings of the Church do not change according to geography or ethnicity, therefore there cannot be "different rules" in the content of icons for different parts of the world.
Many people are understandably confused when trying to work out which images are acceptable, and which are not. This confusion is not helped when iconographers themselves, including some quite prominent ones, continue to paint images such as the so-called NT Trinity, Angel of Blessed Silence, or the Mother of God surrounded by a mandorla of Uncreated Light (as seen in the image Multiplier of Wheat). Over the years of studying and writing about icons, perhaps the most valuable source of knowledge for me comes from within the life of the Church. A knowledge of scripture, of patristic writings, lives of saints, and, above all, the liturgical deposit of the Church have filled in many, many gaps in my knowledge, and I'm always learning more. It takes a lot of time to develop the experience and discernment needed to distinguish between a true icon and a false one. My comments on the "ark of salvation" image are a case in point.