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Author Topic: Our Lady of Perpetual Help  (Read 5278 times) Average Rating: 0
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Alveus Lacuna
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« on: August 13, 2009, 04:08:51 AM »



I was going to buy this image for my icon corner.  Is there anything unOrthodox about this Roman Catholic depiction of the icon?  Do the crowns or any of the other messages in the icon violate any canons surrounding icons?
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« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2009, 04:13:36 AM »

The crowns are an unneccessary embellishment which do not add anything to the theological and doctrinal understanding of the Mother of God and/or her Son, nor to the meaning of the image, which, in Orthodoxy, is known as Mother of God of the Passion.
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« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2009, 04:16:38 AM »

The crowns are an unnecessary embellishment which do not add anything to the theological and doctrinal understanding of the Mother of God and/or her Son, nor to the meaning of the image, which, in Orthodoxy, is known as Mother of God of the Passion.

But is there anything wrong with the embellishments?
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« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2009, 06:01:17 AM »

The practice of placing crowns on images of the Virgin and Child arose (as I understand it) from entirely within Roman Catholic tradition, as a means of expressing a greater magnitude of piety towards the subject. A similar phenomenon exists in the East of placing a riza or oklad, an elaborately-tooled cover of silver or gold (often also studded with precious stones or pearls) over an icon, with often only the hands and faces showing through. This practice goes against the purpose of iconography, which, through its content, pictorial composition and use of color, expresses and proclains the truths of the Orthodox faith. Obscuring the icon in any way, however honorable and pious the intent, reduces the icon's ability to be the "window to heaven" that it should be.

I might also add that, while not all versions of Our Lady of Perpetual Help are "crowned", there is another, more important problem with this image: I have yet to come across any version, be it the "original" 15th century form, or a copy of it, which shows three stars of perpetual virginity on the Virgin's mantle. Sure, the star on her left shoulder would be obscured by the Christ-child, but there is no star at all on her right shoulder. There is one star only, above her forehead. This single star is characteristic of Roman Catholic Marian art.

I am in no way suggesting that the RC church does not uphold the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God, but this deficiency of doctrinal expression, though subtle and easily-missed, is an example of the legacy of the western church not taking up many of the canons and resolutions of the Quinisext and Seventh Ecumenical Councils, notably those on iconography. An excerpt from Leonid Ouspensky's Theology of the Icon:

The teaching of the Church on the christological basis of the icon, therefore, remained foreign to Western Christianity. This teaching could not enrich the sacred art of the West, which even today retains certain purely symbolic representations such as the lamb. The refusal to accept the decisions of the Quinisext Council later had, in the realm of sacred art, a great importance. The Roman Church excluded itself from the process of a development of an artistic and spiritual language, a process in which all the rest of the Church took an active part, with the Church of Constantinople providentially becoming the leader. The West remained outside of this development.

The Orthodox Church, on the contrary, in accordance with the Quinisext Council, continued to refine its art in form and in contents, an art which conveys, through images and material forms, the revelation of the divine world, giving us a key to approach, contemplate and understand it. It seems to us that it is particularly important for Western Orthodoxy, as it emerges in our own time, to be well aware of the significance of Canon 82 of the Quinisext Council. The canon, in fact, is the theoretical basis of liturgical art. Whatever course Western Orthodox art will take in the future, it will not be able to bypass the basic directive which was formulated for the first time in this canon: the transmission of historical reality and the revealed divine truth, expressed in certain forms which correspond to the spiritual experience of the Church.
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« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2009, 10:50:48 AM »

A similar phenomenon exists in the East of placing a riza or oklad, an elaborately-tooled cover of silver or gold (often also studded with precious stones or pearls) over an icon, with often only the hands and faces showing through. This practice goes against the purpose of iconography, which, through its content, pictorial composition and use of color, expresses and proclains the truths of the Orthodox faith. Obscuring the icon in any way, however honorable and pious the intent, reduces the icon's ability to be the "window to heaven" that it should be.
So are you saying that this traditional practice in the Orthodox Church is...umm...unorthodox?


I might also add that, while not all versions of Our Lady of Perpetual Help are "crowned", there is another, more important problem with this image: I have yet to come across any version, be it the "original" 15th century form, or a copy of it, which shows three stars of perpetual virginity on the Virgin's mantle. Sure, the star on her left shoulder would be obscured by the Christ-child, but there is no star at all on her right shoulder. There is one star only, above her forehead. This single star is characteristic of Roman Catholic Marian art.
I don't know where you are getting "the single star is characteristic of Roman Catholic Marian art"? The problem is that the newer versions of this icon utilize excessive highlighting on the shoulder that almost completely hide the star. On more faithful copies, if you try really hard you can still discern where the star is, but on the much more modern version, it does get missed. But, it is there on the older, less highlighted versions, such as this one:



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« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2009, 11:12:58 AM »

Hello, Alveus

Personally, I prefer the simpler icons of our Lady and Savior and also see the crowns as  an unnecessary embellishment. Besides, why settle for something that has a possible Catholic interpretation when the Orthodox tradition is so rich and beautiful? Just my two cents, mind you.
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« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2009, 11:53:11 AM »

This is a very interesting subject to me, as I have this icon. One thing I notice is the color of the robes on the Virgin Mary is different in the first icon compared to the one posted by Athanasios. I've always wondered why in the Perpetual Help icon she is dressed in blue when it seems like most other icons show her in red.  I had also wondered about the crowns as they looked like an addition made somewhere along the way. Thanks for the answer on that.

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« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2009, 12:01:00 PM »

This is a very interesting subject to me, as I have this icon. One thing I notice is the color of the robes on the Virgin Mary is different in the first icon compared to the one posted by Athanasios. I've always wondered why in the Perpetual Help icon she is dressed in blue when it seems like most other icons show her in red.  I had also wondered about the crowns as they looked like an addition made somewhere along the way. Thanks for the answer on that.

The blue represents her purity, the red represents her sorrow when her son died on the cross. It is common in Western religious artwork to dress the Virgin in a blue outer garment rather than red. In Eastern iconography, the reverse is true.





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« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2009, 12:16:19 PM »



The blue represents her purity, the red represents her sorrow when her son died on the cross. It is common in Western religious artwork to dress the Virgin in a blue outer garment rather than red. In Eastern iconography, the reverse is true.

Thank you! Very interesting!


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« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2009, 12:49:15 PM »

I was always wondering why the blue and red were reversed in the Catholic icons. I have a traditional Theotokos of the Passion in my icon corner that is a copy of the Sinai icon from the 17th Century. http://skete.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&Product_ID=5&Category_ID=27

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« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2009, 01:48:25 PM »


As for the colors of the robes, I was taught that the "red" colors signify royalty, while the shades of "blue", humanity.

Christ was first royal, and He put on Humanity.
The Theotokos was Human and put on Royalty.

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« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2009, 02:12:38 PM »

Well my Priest told me red was her bloody humanity and Blue was the ocean depth colors that are underneath for her reception to the divine life (cough... womb).
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« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2009, 12:40:42 AM »

A few random points:

- the icon "Our Lady of Perpetual Help", according to tradition, was stolen from Crete by a merchant living in Rome, possibly in the late 1400s.   

- the original icon does not have the crown

- there are Byzantine icons of the Theotokos where she wears blue robes-see the cover of the Ormylia Akathist CD.  There are also Latin icons where the Theotokos is wearing red - see, I believe, the icon of the Theotokos with Christ in the Catacomb of Saint Comodilla in Rome. 

- Rome's most preeminent Marian icon, the so-called "Salus Populi Romani" in Santa Maria Maggiore, and thought to be of Late Antique provenance (i.e. from the period when Rome was unquestionably Orthodox), also wears blue. 


As for the icon, if you have worries about it I'd ask your parish priest.  Again, the crown is an addition and there are plenty of depictions out there without it.   Or, if you want to see other options, www.skete.com has an excellent selection of icons. 
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« Reply #13 on: August 14, 2009, 03:10:07 PM »


As for the colors of the robes, I was taught that the "red" colors signify royalty, while the shades of "blue", humanity.

Christ was first royal, and He put on Humanity.
The Theotokos was Human and put on Royalty.



There are many different symbols in the Church and often more than one understanding of the symbols as well.
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« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2009, 05:38:07 PM »

I'll probably just end up sticking with a traditional Orthodox depiction.
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« Reply #15 on: August 19, 2009, 12:56:03 AM »

The practice of placing crowns on images of the Virgin and Child arose (as I understand it) from entirely within Roman Catholic tradition, as a means of expressing a greater magnitude of piety towards the subject. A similar phenomenon exists in the East of placing a riza or oklad, an elaborately-tooled cover of silver or gold (often also studded with precious stones or pearls) over an icon, with often only the hands and faces showing through. This practice goes against the purpose of iconography, which, through its content, pictorial composition and use of color, expresses and proclains the truths of the Orthodox faith. Obscuring the icon in any way, however honorable and pious the intent, reduces the icon's ability to be the "window to heaven" that it should be.

The Pochayiv icon still retains the crowns that were placed upon it by order of Pope Clement in 1773 when the lavra was under the care of the Basilians.



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« Reply #16 on: August 19, 2009, 01:10:59 AM »



I was going to buy this image for my icon corner.  Is there anything unOrthodox about this Roman Catholic depiction of the icon?  Do the crowns or any of the other messages in the icon violate any canons surrounding icons?

Dear Alveus Lacuna,

The icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help underwent much needed restoration in the early 1990's to protect it. This involved the removal of the crowns as well as the jeweled necklace and star that were placed on the icon.

The icon now looks like this:


There are copies of OLPH for sale that reflect how the icon now looks.

I was before the original icon in Rome two years ago and it is so beautiful. No photograph can capture the richness of the colors of the icon.  Here is where the icon is enshrined:



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« Reply #17 on: August 19, 2009, 09:36:50 AM »

I was advised by a iconographer that I studied under that the outer robes of the Theotokos on Icons after the sacking of Constantinople were switched from  dark blue to the rich dark red and the inner robes changed from rich red to blue as a witness against the Latins who stole so many icons during the sacking. Imagine the shame of a Latin nobleman proudly showing off his icon of the Theotokos brought home by his grandfather only to be corrected by a visiting Byzantine friend that it was obviously stolen because of its colors. He said that is why most icons of the Theotokos before the sacking show the blue outer robes and those after show the red outer robe.

I don't know how accurate his statement was but it certainly seems to correlate withthe historic record of iconography and changes that occurred during the crusades.

Thomas
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