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Author Topic: Why aren't icons "fixed"?  (Read 702 times) Average Rating: 0
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icecreamsandwich
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« on: March 01, 2013, 08:36:32 PM »

Hi all Smiley.

I have, unfortunately, another silly question.

Basically,



and



These two (more especially the latter) are two such icons which have visible signs of damage/age/change: namely, they aren't looking the way they did when they were first written. If you were to buy an icon of either of them, it would appear exactly the same - that is, without any of this fixed. Why is that? I can understand not wanting to touch the actual original, for example, and leaving it as is, but given that most icons seem to be duplications of a certain icon, why not repair that (the duplicate)?

Thanks Smiley.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2013, 08:36:55 PM by icecreamsandwich » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2013, 08:47:06 PM »


I have, unfortunately, another silly question.
We're good at giving silly answers around here, but silly questions are few and far between. Yours isn't one of them.

Quote
These two (more especially the latter) are two such icons which have visible signs of damage/age/change: namely, they aren't looking the way they did when they were first written. If you were to buy an icon of either of them, it would appear exactly the same - that is, without any of this fixed. Why is that? I can understand not wanting to touch the actual original, for example, and leaving it as is, but given that most icons seem to be duplications of a certain icon, why not repair that (the duplicate)?

Thanks Smiley.
Answers will be interesting. I hadn't thought about that myself. After all, the painted originals will continue to deteriorate (though perhaps more slowly if kept in proper storage) whereas modern copies will likely last much longer.
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« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2013, 09:01:48 PM »

Maybe because they provide a certain nostalgic charm that way?  I personally like them looking like that and have that icon of the Theotokos in my prayer closet.  It adds character and a certain authentic feel.  But those are most likely not the answers you are looking for.  Tongue
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« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2013, 09:17:00 PM »

That first icon, if I am not mistaken, is part of the deisis mosaic in the Hagia Sophia. Its state of repair or disrepair is a bit out of our hands, and constricting a replica with real gold smalti would cost thousands of dollars.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2013, 09:19:37 PM by Cavaradossi » Logged

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icecreamsandwich
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« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2013, 09:49:00 PM »

We're good at giving silly answers around here, but silly questions are few and far between. Yours isn't one of them.

Thanks - I was worried this isn't the kind of question that really erits an answer, but for whatever reason once a question enters my head it has to be answered or else it will keep repeating itself lol.

Answers will be interesting. I hadn't thought about that myself. After all, the painted originals will continue to deteriorate (though perhaps more slowly if kept in proper storage) whereas modern copies will likely last much longer.

Indeed. It would be another means of preserving them.

Maybe because they provide a certain nostalgic charm that way?  I personally like them looking like that and have that icon of the Theotokos in my prayer closet.  It adds character and a certain authentic feel.  But those are most likely not the answers you are looking for.  Tongue

True, but at the same time, it's damage on an otherwise perfect condition icon. After all, I assume you keep your icons well, and the wood on them would be flawless and unblemished, but yet depicting an icon that is damaged, if that makes sense?

That first icon, if I am not mistaken, is part of the deisis mosaic in the Hagia Sophia. Its state of repair or disrepair is a bit out of our hands, and constricting a replica with real gold smalti would cost thousands of dollars.

That's correct. However I think you may be mistaken by what I mean. I don't mean going into the Hagia Sophia and removing the damage / fixing the original, for obvious reasons. What I do mean, though, is "fixing" the "damage" on the duplicate, so for that it'd be photoshopping the image of the icon (from what I understand, the non hand-painted icons are simply the icon printed on high quality paper, and then glued onto the wood), reinserting the gold around Jesus, re-adding the detail to the Bible, etc. You could have a committee of scholars / iconographers etc figure out how exactly that would be done but the end result is that the duplicates in circulation and sold in parishes/icon stores/wherever are "proper" and the damage is constrained to the original. After all, put it like this - would you buy an icon if a quarter of it was covered over?

Of course I am using crude methods to get the point across - no doubt there'd be a more respectful and appropriate method of bringing the duplicates to their original state.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2013, 09:49:22 PM by icecreamsandwich » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2013, 09:55:42 PM »


Leave them the way they are....

.....so this doesn't happen....


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« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2013, 10:07:34 PM »

If only I could see the Hagia Sophia the way it was. It's really a shame.

And Liza, let's not bring up the perfect restoration please.
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« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2013, 12:17:55 AM »

Personally, I love that they are ancient and unchanged...just like the Orthodox Church.  They are a beautiful reminder that I am no longer chasing after the newest trend or teaching of the week.
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« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2013, 12:25:53 AM »

The icon of the Mother of God in the post, known as Vladimirskaya, or Mother of God of Vladimir, is one of our earliest surviving icons, painted in the 1130s. Far from being "untouched", this icon has indeed been retouched more than once over the near thousand years of its existence. It has survived much, including fire, during that time, but it is telling, and heartening, that the parts which remain original and intact are the faces of the Virgin and the Christ-child, His hands, His left foot, and her left hand which embraces her Son, and, at the same time, points to Him as the Way to salvation.

Many an iconographer has attempted to paint a copy of this treasure. Few, if any, have come close to reproducing the majesty, compassion and poignant love in the Virgin's face which graces the original. Some things are best left alone.  Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2013, 12:25:53 AM »

We're good at giving silly answers around here, but silly questions are few and far between. Yours isn't one of them.

Thanks - I was worried this isn't the kind of question that really erits an answer, but for whatever reason once a question enters my head it has to be answered or else it will keep repeating itself lol.

Answers will be interesting. I hadn't thought about that myself. After all, the painted originals will continue to deteriorate (though perhaps more slowly if kept in proper storage) whereas modern copies will likely last much longer.

Indeed. It would be another means of preserving them.

Maybe because they provide a certain nostalgic charm that way?  I personally like them looking like that and have that icon of the Theotokos in my prayer closet.  It adds character and a certain authentic feel.  But those are most likely not the answers you are looking for.  Tongue

True, but at the same time, it's damage on an otherwise perfect condition icon. After all, I assume you keep your icons well, and the wood on them would be flawless and unblemished, but yet depicting an icon that is damaged, if that makes sense?

That first icon, if I am not mistaken, is part of the deisis mosaic in the Hagia Sophia. Its state of repair or disrepair is a bit out of our hands, and constricting a replica with real gold smalti would cost thousands of dollars.

That's correct. However I think you may be mistaken by what I mean. I don't mean going into the Hagia Sophia and removing the damage / fixing the original, for obvious reasons. What I do mean, though, is "fixing" the "damage" on the duplicate, so for that it'd be photoshopping the image of the icon (from what I understand, the non hand-painted icons are simply the icon printed on high quality paper, and then glued onto the wood), reinserting the gold around Jesus, re-adding the detail to the Bible, etc. You could have a committee of scholars / iconographers etc figure out how exactly that would be done but the end result is that the duplicates in circulation and sold in parishes/icon stores/wherever are "proper" and the damage is constrained to the original. After all, put it like this - would you buy an icon if a quarter of it was covered over?

Of course I am using crude methods to get the point across - no doubt there'd be a more respectful and appropriate method of bringing the duplicates to their original state.

Another famous icon which is very badly damaged is the Savior of Zvenigorod, painted by St Addrei of Radonezh (AKA Andrei Rublyev) as part of a deesis (supplicatory) series for the Cathedral of the Dormition in the town of that name. Sadly, only three panels survive, the Archangel Michael, and Apostle Paul being the other two, and the damage on all three is serious. Yet this Savior is regarded by most, if not all, iconographers worth their salt, as unreproducible, even in reproducing what remains, let alone attempting to reconstruct what is missing. They are, quite rightly, daunted by the utter sublimity, subtlety and power of the original.

Here is what an iconographer I know has said about seeing the original Savior. There is much wisdom and food for thought in what he says:

Quote
No reproduction can capture these qualities, nor could any copy. When you see the original, you are overwhelmed by it. You look at it trying to figure out how the effect has been achieved but in the end you just give up. The important thing is that, despite being in a gallery, you can pray in front of it. Thoughtfully, they have put benches in front of it so you can sit and contemplate it.

Unlike some icons, or singing, which are beautiful and brilliantly done, you don't admire its aesthetic beauty. Rather, its beauty serves, and is subordinate to, its spiritual beauty and power to work on the soul. The other icons in this series hang either side of Christ, that of Archangel Michael on the left and St Paul on the right. These too have great power. The famous Holy Trinity icon is in the same room. The original Mother of God of Vladimir used to be there but thankfully is now in a church attached to the Tretyakov. This icon by contrast has been much copied but rarely very well.
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« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2013, 12:25:53 AM »


Leave them the way they are....

.....so this doesn't happen....




Oh, God, yes!!! A sad and salutary tale .....   Shocked Shocked laugh
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« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2013, 12:32:32 PM »

Zvenigorod Savior:

The original:



A contemporary copy, which also attempts to reconstruct the damaged areas:



(Mods, please delete my earlier post)
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« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2013, 12:34:42 PM »

To be frank I also do not understand why to make icons that look damaged despite them being brand new. Isn't destroying icons condemned somewhere?
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« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2013, 01:44:45 PM »


Leave them the way they are....

.....so this doesn't happen....



That is out of the scope of this question for two reasons. First, she wasn't trained as an iconographer, or art restorer, or anything similar, as evidenced by the results of her work. Second, she was working on the original, not a duplicate of it.

The icon of the Mother of God in the post, known as Vladimirskaya, or Mother of God of Vladimir, is one of our earliest surviving icons, painted in the 1130s. Far from being "untouched", this icon has indeed been retouched more than once over the near thousand years of its existence. It has survived much, including fire, during that time, but it is telling, and heartening, that the parts which remain original and intact are the faces of the Virgin and the Christ-child, His hands, His left foot, and her left hand which embraces her Son, and, at the same time, points to Him as the Way to salvation.

Many an iconographer has attempted to paint a copy of this treasure. Few, if any, have come close to reproducing the majesty, compassion and poignant love in the Virgin's face which graces the original. Some things are best left alone.  Smiley

I don't see anything wrong with leaving the original alone, but why is it that the duplicates, and hence the exact copies of that icon sold (for example at http://www.legacyicons.com/products/theotokos-of-vladimir-legacy-icon) reflect the same damage without having been damaged themselves?



Notice the wood is flawless, and the icon itself (the image) is a print that has been affixed to the wood. If you're not going to be appreciating the full splendor of the icon in its original form, why would you be settling for something that reflects only a part of that, despite not having been put under the same conditions?

Another famous icon which is very badly damaged is the Savior of Zvenigorod, painted by St Addrei of Radonezh (AKA Andrei Rublyev) as part of a deesis (supplicatory) series for the Cathedral of the Dormition in the town of that name. Sadly, only three panels survive, the Archangel Michael, and Apostle Paul being the other two, and the damage on all three is serious. Yet this Savior is regarded by most, if not all, iconographers worth their salt, as unreproducible, even in reproducing what remains, let alone attempting to reconstruct what is missing. They are, quite rightly, daunted by the utter sublimity, subtlety and power of the original.

Here is what an iconographer I know has said about seeing the original Savior. There is much wisdom and food for thought in what he says:

Quote
No reproduction can capture these qualities, nor could any copy. When you see the original, you are overwhelmed by it. You look at it trying to figure out how the effect has been achieved but in the end you just give up. The important thing is that, despite being in a gallery, you can pray in front of it. Thoughtfully, they have put benches in front of it so you can sit and contemplate it.

Unlike some icons, or singing, which are beautiful and brilliantly done, you don't admire its aesthetic beauty. Rather, its beauty serves, and is subordinate to, its spiritual beauty and power to work on the soul. The other icons in this series hang either side of Christ, that of Archangel Michael on the left and St Paul on the right. These too have great power. The famous Holy Trinity icon is in the same room. The original Mother of God of Vladimir used to be there but thankfully is now in a church attached to the Tretyakov. This icon by contrast has been much copied but rarely very well.

Exactly my point - you don't get to the same place of contemplation, awe, and presence in being in front of a duplicate of the original, even if it is pixel-perfect. Not everyone can actually get to see the original. The contemporary copy you linked is not anywhere close to bringing that out, BUT, it remains more full and visible in the depiction of Jesus than the original does - rather than being a face that is shown, it is a face, a body, and clothing.

To be frank I also do not understand why to make icons that look damaged despite them being brand new. Isn't destroying icons condemned somewhere?

As far as I'm aware if they're no longer fit for veneration they should be burnt and buried in a place where the ashes will not be disturbed. I don't know if this is correct or not, though. I figure it'd be best to ask a priest what to do with the icon should it reach that state.

Quote
Under no circumstance can such an icon, even one that has not been blessed, be simply thrown away. A holy item, even if it has lost its original appearance, should always be treated with reverence.

If the condition of the icon has deteriorated with age, it should be taken to the church, to be burned in the church furnace. If that should be impossible, you should burn the icon yourself, and bury the ashes in a place that will not be sullied or disturbed, e.g. in a cemetery or under a tree in the garden.

http://www.stjohndc.org/Russian/what/WhatE/e_PrayerCorner.htm
« Last Edit: March 02, 2013, 01:53:57 PM by icecreamsandwich » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2013, 07:04:26 AM »

To be frank I also do not understand why to make icons that look damaged despite them being brand new. Isn't destroying icons condemned somewhere?

Oh, don't get me started on the fake "antiquing" of painted or printed icons!!! Though I must correct you, Michal, the "antiquing" effect is achieved not by damaging an existing icon, but by either painting an incomplete composition to mimic a damaged icon, or by modifying the top coat of lacquer/varnish with stains and/or technique of application to give the illusion of age or wear.

Folks who do this should be made to realize that this only results in turning the icon into kitsch. The truth of an icon is in its content. Faking its age is unnecessary and wrong.

Quote
but why is it that the duplicates, and hence the exact copies of that icon sold (for example at http://www.legacyicons.com/products/theotokos-of-vladimir-legacy-icon) reflect the same damage without having been damaged themselves?

Because it is faithfully reproducing the icon as it is at present. Should the statue of Venus de Milo have its arms reconstructed so that it looks better? Or should the Winged Victory in the Louvre have its head and arms restored, and the pockmarks in the drapery filled in to make it more esthetically pleasing?

Quote
Not everyone can actually get to see the original. The contemporary copy you linked is not anywhere close to bringing that out, BUT, it remains more full and visible in the depiction of Jesus than the original does - rather than being a face that is shown, it is a face, a body, and clothing.

Some historic icons lend themselves to being copied well by a spiritually mature iconographer with a skilled hand. Some are not, such as the Zvenigorod Savior and the Vladimirskaya. There are icons out there painted by a rustic hand which greatly move the soul, and there are many others which look beautiful but have little spiritual power imbued in them.

As I said before: A good iconographer soon works out which existing icons what he is capable of reproducing, and what he leaves well alone. People often forget that it is not simply artistic skill which makes a good icon, but the spiritual state and maturity of the iconographer.
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« Reply #15 on: March 04, 2013, 01:36:40 PM »


Leave them the way they are....

.....so this doesn't happen....




I LOLed when Colbert did his bit on this.  He said he doesn't understand the criticism of the "restoration", because clearly it was effective.  Because everytime he sees the work done all he can say is, "JESUS!"  Tongue
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« Reply #16 on: March 04, 2013, 02:33:20 PM »

Convert Issues.

NVRMND.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2013, 02:35:37 PM by orthonorm » Logged

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« Reply #17 on: March 05, 2013, 02:05:24 AM »

Self cleaning icon.  This one was found totally black, and is gradually becoming an icon again, though no one has cleaned it.

Sorry about the crayony thing on the side.  I had to resize it, which was a new adventure for me, then suddenly the crayon pointer went crazy. 
« Last Edit: March 05, 2013, 02:19:16 AM by Velsigne » Logged
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