Author Topic: Differences in Icon Style  (Read 4592 times)

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Offline byhisgrace

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Differences in Icon Style
« on: June 06, 2015, 08:57:34 PM »
Hi,

Why are the OO and EO icons significantly different in style?

Such as this:




and this:

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Offline Sam G

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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2015, 09:47:28 PM »
Local tradition. Even Russian and Byzantine icons differ in style.
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2015, 10:36:31 PM »
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2015, 05:38:29 PM »
Syriac and Ethiopian icons are quite distinct from Coptic icons, too.
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2015, 10:14:12 AM »
Syriac and Ethiopian icons are quite distinct from Coptic icons, too.

How exactly traditional syrian icons look like?
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2015, 03:51:13 PM »
Well, they often feature black or dark backgrounds and bold color schemes, and depict the subject at a slight angle.  My avatar is a Syriac icon of ancient origin of St. Athanasius at a monastery now lamemtably in the hands of the Syriac Catholics, who use it as a convent.  The frescoes there are exceptional.  I think the Rabbula Gospels also are definitional in terms of setting the Syriac iconographic style.  Here is a lovely image from them: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8d/RabulaGospelsFolio13vAscension.jpg

Here are some contemporary Syriac icons: http://www.aramaic-dem.org/bilder/Iconography%20Of%20%20the%20Western%20Syriac%20Churches/0.htm

The older styles are mainly preserved in illuminated manuscripts and decaying frescoes.

My avatar came from Mar Musa, some good photos of which are here: https://www.rom.on.ca/en/blog/the-monastery-of-st-moses-syria-the-frescoes

This typically Syriac icon was used for a time by Cyrillic as his avatar: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3c/Mor_Ephrem_icon.jpg/220px-Mor_Ephrem_icon.jpg
« Last Edit: June 16, 2015, 04:10:23 PM by wgw »
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2015, 04:26:38 PM »
Well, they often feature black or dark backgrounds and bold color schemes, and depict the subject at a slight angle.

Interesting. I wonder if Giotto (who in the west is often considered the father of perspective/3D-like drawing) was familiar with them?
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Offline TheTrisagion

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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2015, 04:58:48 PM »
For the trained eye (ie. not me), icons can be identified by country and even individual iconographer. It is primarily a matter of style and personal preference. I don't think a Greek would have a problem venerating a Coptic icon or vice versa.
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2015, 07:46:24 PM »
Well, they often feature black or dark backgrounds and bold color schemes, and depict the subject at a slight angle.  My avatar is a Syriac icon of ancient origin of St. Athanasius

The background in wgw's avatar is not black. It is dark blue, a common alternative to gold, and very commonly used in mural icons.

Black is NEVER used as a background colour in iconography, it makes no sense at all to use it in such a way. Black represents death, sin and ignorance, such as the abyss of Hades in icons of the Resurrection, or the darkness surrounding Kosmos, the bearded figure holding a basket of scrolls representing worldly wisdom in icons of Pentecost.
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2015, 09:09:26 PM »
Yes, Isaac Fanous is the father of the Neo-Coptic style that is very famously used in Coptic Churches.  The ancient Coptic style can be seen in these examples:













http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_oV3xZrQwWsQ/Svidt-Wc5bI/AAAAAAAAAbU/zNHr7ozoEXY/s1600-h/coptmuseum22.jpg


And post-Islamic era icons:











« Last Edit: June 16, 2015, 09:11:52 PM by minasoliman »
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2015, 03:09:47 PM »
Well, they often feature black or dark backgrounds and bold color schemes, and depict the subject at a slight angle.  My avatar is a Syriac icon of ancient origin of St. Athanasius

The background in wgw's avatar is not black. It is dark blue, a common alternative to gold, and very commonly used in mural icons.

Black is NEVER used as a background colour in iconography, it makes no sense at all to use it in such a way. Black represents death, sin and ignorance, such as the abyss of Hades in icons of the Resurrection, or the darkness surrounding Kosmos, the bearded figure holding a basket of scrolls representing worldly wisdom in icons of Pentecost.

It must be a very dark navy blue then, since it looks black.  What you say about using blue instead of black makes sense, but why such a dark blue?

Offline xOrthodox4Christx

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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2015, 03:31:10 PM »
EO icons follow Roman "Byzantine" style, OO icons do not.
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2015, 03:33:24 PM »
Well, they often feature black or dark backgrounds and bold color schemes, and depict the subject at a slight angle.  My avatar is a Syriac icon of ancient origin of St. Athanasius

The background in wgw's avatar is not black. It is dark blue, a common alternative to gold, and very commonly used in mural icons.

Black is NEVER used as a background colour in iconography, it makes no sense at all to use it in such a way. Black represents death, sin and ignorance, such as the abyss of Hades in icons of the Resurrection, or the darkness surrounding Kosmos, the bearded figure holding a basket of scrolls representing worldly wisdom in icons of Pentecost.

There are many Greek icons which use dark blue backgrounds, I have a couple. One of St. John the Merciful and another of the Theotokos.
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #13 on: June 17, 2015, 07:41:28 PM »
Well, they often feature black or dark backgrounds and bold color schemes, and depict the subject at a slight angle.  My avatar is a Syriac icon of ancient origin of St. Athanasius

The background in wgw's avatar is not black. It is dark blue, a common alternative to gold, and very commonly used in mural icons.

Black is NEVER used as a background colour in iconography, it makes no sense at all to use it in such a way. Black represents death, sin and ignorance, such as the abyss of Hades in icons of the Resurrection, or the darkness surrounding Kosmos, the bearded figure holding a basket of scrolls representing worldly wisdom in icons of Pentecost.

It must be a very dark navy blue then, since it looks black.  What you say about using blue instead of black makes sense, but why such a dark blue?

As xOrthodox4Christx said, deep blue is a common background color in icons. The mural icons in several churches where I live have blue backgrounds, as do many other churches I've visited elsewhere over the years. The depth of color in photographs of such icons depends on the lighting conditions when the photograph was taken. Ultramarine blue or royal blue can come up almost black when photographed from a distance.
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2015, 08:20:29 PM »
Well, they often feature black or dark backgrounds and bold color schemes, and depict the subject at a slight angle.  My avatar is a Syriac icon of ancient origin of St. Athanasius

The background in wgw's avatar is not black. It is dark blue, a common alternative to gold, and very commonly used in mural icons.

Black is NEVER used as a background colour in iconography, it makes no sense at all to use it in such a way. Black represents death, sin and ignorance, such as the abyss of Hades in icons of the Resurrection, or the darkness surrounding Kosmos, the bearded figure holding a basket of scrolls representing worldly wisdom in icons of Pentecost.

It must be a very dark navy blue then, since it looks black.  What you say about using blue instead of black makes sense, but why such a dark blue?
It looks blue on my screen. Maybe its just your color settings on your monitor.
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #15 on: June 17, 2015, 08:28:09 PM »

Offline wgw

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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #16 on: June 21, 2015, 06:14:16 PM »
I am mot sure Byzantine iconographic rubrics can be coherently applied to ancient Syriac iconography, which amomg other differences from the Byzantine style, seems to favor a more realistic, less stylized appearance (as opposed to later, highly "diagramatic" Syriac icons), and which use black extensively to depict things that should be reharded as Holy.

For example, consider this image from the Rabbula Gospel: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0d/Meister_des_Rabula-Evangeliums_002.jpg

Here we see a somewhat realistic, decorative panorama in miniature, with the two holiest subjects, our Lord and the Virgin Mary, both not only depicted in black attire, but with a black outer halo surrounding the gold inner halo, providing contrast.

I think its clear that in Syriac iconography, black, or rather, a palette of black, dark greys and dark blue-green-greys, in all cases faded through time, are considered holy and are used to depict objects of the most divine signifigance.  I would also observe the interesting case of the Coptic icon of St. Anthony and St. Paul the Hermit; the black monastic hood is rendered in its original color and helps convey the holiness of St. Anthony, and meanwhile, the bird which according to the hagiography fed St. Paul by bringing him bread, which sounds a bit like Pneumatological imagery, but even if read as a literal bird, is clearly an object of sublime holiness, is rendered in the black color.  So I am not convinced in Oriental iconography there is any taboo against depicting holy things in black.

Even if the walls of Mar Musa were originally painted in a dark blue, it was obviously a very dark shade of blue indeed, dark as the night sky, and thus effectively black.  This stands in contrast to the ocean blue or royal blue backgrounds, which are the darkest blue backgrounds I have seen in EO iconography, excepting some background decorative elements.  It should also be noted that Syriac Orthodox clergy wear either black eskimos (hoods) or phiros (skullcaps) during the service of the Divine Liturgy, and thus black alomg with gold is one of two colors you are most likely to see on the sacred vestments of a Syriac Orthodox priest (the others usually being white, with red trim, although black trim is not unknown).   

Also, I have to ask, if black occupies such a despised place in the color palette of Eastern Orthodox iconography, then why wear black vestments?  Yes, it is true, rhese were originally introduced under Tsarist influence, but it seems to me these beautiful vestments have become an accepted, holy and sanctified part of the weekday Lenten and Holy Week services.  And for that matter, I have seen one Eastern Orthodox icon that featured a hellmouth, depicted in a crimson color that was reminiscent of the dark red color of vestments, a color evocative of clotted blood, that has largely been superceded by black and violet/purple, except on Maundy Thursday.  It just seems to me that what colors symbolize in painted icons ought to also hold true with regards to sacred vestmemts and paraments.
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #17 on: June 21, 2015, 08:05:01 PM »
Here we see a somewhat realistic, decorative panorama in miniature, with the two holiest subjects, our Lord and the Virgin Mary, both not only depicted in black attire, but with a black outer halo surrounding the gold inner halo, providing contrast.

The garments in that miniature are not black. They are purple, signifying royalty.

Quote
I think its clear that in Syriac iconography, black, or rather, a palette of black, dark greys and dark blue-green-greys, in all cases faded through time, are considered holy and are used to depict objects of the most divine signifigance.

Wrong. Black remains a color depicting darkness, ignorance and evil. You are attempting to concoct a positive iconographic meaning of the color based on false assumptions based on the vagaries of how colors appear on a computer screen.

Quote
Even if the walls of Mar Musa were originally painted in a dark blue, it was obviously a very dark shade of blue indeed, dark as the night sky, and thus effectively black.

Wrong again. Photographing any deep blue from a distance will result in a color which looks black.

Quote
It just seems to me that what colors symbolize in painted icons ought to also hold true with regards to sacred vestmemts and paraments.

Wrong again. Clerical and monastic cassocks are black to signify one's denial of self. Liturgical vestment colors were, and are, traditionally and simply "bright" and "dark", depending on whether the liturgical season was festal or lenten, and most local churches still keep to this simple directive. The adoption by the Russian church of a more structured color scheme is interesting and lovely, but some of the colors, like black or purple, are based on meanings not associated with iconographic tradition.
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #18 on: June 22, 2015, 02:26:49 AM »
A computer screen with proper color calibration can accurately display an icon within the range of human eyesight, or a scanmed folio, with 24 bit or 32 bit color.

I see no purple in the linked to image.  If this is due to an improper scan, link me to a better one; if my monitor is miscalibrated, tell me what RGB and CMYK values you are sampling in the black garments and halos.

Also while were at it, the fact that St. Ephraims contains a reproduction of the saint, attired in a noticeably black robe, from the Rabbula Gospel, also must be addressed.  And what about the black bird?

I think its just as likely you are attempting to apply your considerable knowledge of Byzantine iconography to Oriental Orthodox iconography, which is an entirely different ball of wax, so to speak. You thus far havent cited any sources in support of your interpretations, so I am unconvinced.
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Offline LBK

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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #19 on: June 22, 2015, 03:03:13 AM »
A computer screen with proper color calibration can accurately display an icon within the range of human eyesight, or a scanmed folio, with 24 bit or 32 bit color.

That's all very well and dandy, but this is not taking into account the lighting conditions when an image is photographed. You insist on saying the backgrounds of icons painted on walls are black when they are not. Such images cannot be scanned, either. As to the folios, it's more likely they were photographed, not scanned.


I see no purple in the linked to image.  If this is due to an improper scan, link me to a better one; if my monitor is miscalibrated, tell me what RGB and CMYK values you are sampling in the black garments and halos.

I do see purple (blue with a hint of red), in the garments of both the Mother of God, and the crucified Christ. This is what my eyes are telling me, not from digital color sampling. The dark color forming the drape modeling is almost certainly sepia, a very dark brown. The haloes of Christ and the Mother of God are outlined in a mid-blue color (similar to the darker blue used on this forum site's pages), not black.

Also while were at it, the fact that St. Ephraims contains a reproduction of the saint, attired in a noticeably black robe, from the Rabbula Gospel, also must be addressed.

Did you post this image, or a link to it?


And what about the black bird?

I cannot comment on the St Ephraim icon of which you speak as you have not posted it. However, there are innumerable icons of Prophet Elijah sitting pensively at the mouth of a cave, looking up at a raven bringing him a piece of bread. Ravens are black.

I think its just as likely you are attempting to apply your considerable knowledge of Byzantine iconography to Oriental Orthodox iconography, which is an entirely different ball of wax, so to speak. You thus far havent cited any sources in support of your interpretations, so I am unconvinced.

On the contrary. You are attempting to construct a "theology of iconographic color" based on false perceptions and premises.
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #20 on: June 22, 2015, 10:32:38 AM »
I see no purple in the linked to image. 

I saw only purple.
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #21 on: June 22, 2015, 09:16:12 PM »
I saw black.  But I'm willing to concede it was navy blue.

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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #22 on: June 22, 2015, 09:34:51 PM »
I saw black.  But I'm willing to concede it was navy blue.

To me it looks like black with a bluish lustre.

But I'm willing to concede it was actually ultraviolet. Computer screens have limitations, but then so do our own eyes. There are many colors that exist but that we just can't see. Most of us can't, anyway.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2015, 09:38:14 PM by Minnesotan »
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #23 on: June 22, 2015, 11:20:27 PM »
Vain existence can never exist, for "unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain." (Psalm 127)

If the faith is unchanged and rock solid, then the gates of Hades never prevailed in the end.

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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #24 on: June 22, 2015, 11:56:28 PM »


It was a white and gold dress.  All the hubbub was really just one thing and one thing only: witchcraft. 
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #25 on: June 23, 2015, 06:58:13 PM »
It's white and gold.

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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #26 on: June 23, 2015, 07:11:49 PM »
It's white and gold.

This is the true Orthodox faith.  This is the faith that established the dress. 
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #27 on: June 23, 2015, 08:10:28 PM »
God bless!

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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #28 on: June 23, 2015, 08:39:05 PM »
For the life of me, I do not know why the dress broke the internet that well.
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #29 on: June 23, 2015, 08:43:51 PM »
For the life of me, I do not know why the dress broke the internet that well.
Normally, I have great respect for you mina, but if you use the phrase "broke the internet" one more time, I'm pretty sure we can never be friends.
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #30 on: June 23, 2015, 08:54:55 PM »
I'm looking for a child about to cry gif...I can't find any...so here is the best I can do:

 :'(
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Offline TheTrisagion

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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #31 on: June 23, 2015, 09:08:04 PM »
I'm looking for a child about to cry gif...I can't find any...so here is the best I can do:

 :'(
Clearly, this is a job for kelly.
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #32 on: June 24, 2015, 06:07:33 PM »
Are there any all inclusive books on Icons that cover all the great traditions and their styles?     

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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #33 on: June 24, 2015, 06:18:29 PM »
There is an intersting book by Alfredo Tradigo. Not sure if it deals with icons outside the Eastern church, but it's very informative.
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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #34 on: June 26, 2015, 03:05:07 PM »
Here we see a somewhat realistic, decorative panorama in miniature, with the two holiest subjects, our Lord and the Virgin Mary, both not only depicted in black attire, but with a black outer halo surrounding the gold inner halo, providing contrast.

The garments in that miniature are not black. They are purple, signifying royalty.

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I think its clear that in Syriac iconography, black, or rather, a palette of black, dark greys and dark blue-green-greys, in all cases faded through time, are considered holy and are used to depict objects of the most divine signifigance.

Wrong. Black remains a color depicting darkness, ignorance and evil. You are attempting to concoct a positive iconographic meaning of the color based on false assumptions based on the vagaries of how colors appear on a computer screen.

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Even if the walls of Mar Musa were originally painted in a dark blue, it was obviously a very dark shade of blue indeed, dark as the night sky, and thus effectively black.

Wrong again. Photographing any deep blue from a distance will result in a color which looks black.

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It just seems to me that what colors symbolize in painted icons ought to also hold true with regards to sacred vestmemts and paraments.

Wrong again. Clerical and monastic cassocks are black to signify one's denial of self. Liturgical vestment colors were, and are, traditionally and simply "bright" and "dark", depending on whether the liturgical season was festal or lenten, and most local churches still keep to this simple directive. The adoption by the Russian church of a more structured color scheme is interesting and lovely, but some of the colors, like black or purple, are based on meanings not associated with iconographic tradition.

LBK, I posted links to all the icons I referred to in a post earlier in the thread; if you scroll up you can see them.

I do know the dark blue background of which you speak; there is am exquisite icon of St. Epiphanius of Salamis painted on such a colored background at a monastery in Kosovo my father was involved with politically (defending its right to exist at a conference on the philosophy of international law at the University of Oregon in 2000 if memory serves), nd some modern Syriac icons use this color.  But the background color at Mar Musa is noticeably darkwr; I will concede it could be navy blue, but it seems so dark as to effectively be black.  And this coupled with the other instances Ive cited, as well as the copious use of black in some Coptic icons, such as that of St. Paul the Hermit, fearuring the black bird which fed him, posted above, make me think that the Oriental tradition on this ismless rigid than the EO tradition.
Axios and many years to you, Fr. Trenham!

Offline LBK

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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #35 on: June 27, 2015, 04:21:41 AM »
Re this icon:



1. St Anthony's cowl is dark blue, not black.

2. The bird feeding St Paul the Hermit was a crow or raven. The bird that brought bread to Prophet Elijah was a raven. Crows and ravens are black. You expect them to be white?

3. This color is not found "in copious quantities" in any of the images posted.

4. Black is not a background color in any of the OO icons posted.

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I will concede it could be navy blue, but it seems so dark as to effectively be black.

Yet it is NOT black, but dark blue. Deal with it.

Yet again, wgw, you are attempting to shoehorn the color black into a theological or doctrinal meaning of your own making, a meaning with no basis at all.

Am I posting? Or is it Schroedinger's Cat?

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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #36 on: June 27, 2015, 11:29:03 AM »
Re this icon:



1. St Anthony's cowl is dark blue, not black.

2. The bird feeding St Paul the Hermit was a crow or raven. The bird that brought bread to Prophet Elijah was a raven. Crows and ravens are black. You expect them to be white?

3. This color is not found "in copious quantities" in any of the images posted.

4. Black is not a background color in any of the OO icons posted.

Quote
I will concede it could be navy blue, but it seems so dark as to effectively be black.

Yet it is NOT black, but dark blue. Deal with it.

Yet again, wgw, you are attempting to shoehorn the color black into a theological or doctrinal meaning of your own making, a meaning with no basis at all.

I sided with you in reply no. 20, but on this I will have to disagree.  The colour of the cowl and of the raven look identical on my screen, the same screen which saw purple in no. 20.  They are black.  I do see dark blue in the garment just under the brown mantle and behind the scroll held by St Anthony.  The colours are different. 
Mor Ephrem is a nice guy.  Just say sorry and it will all be ok. Say I had things that were inside troubling me but I didn't know how to express appropriately. I will not behave that way again but I am seeking help.

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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #37 on: June 27, 2015, 07:25:44 PM »
The raven is black. The cowl is dark blue, the same color as the central part of the monastic stole.
Am I posting? Or is it Schroedinger's Cat?

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Re: Differences in Icon Style
« Reply #38 on: June 27, 2015, 10:12:24 PM »
The eskimo is black however.  This garment is what separates a Coptic or Syriac monk from a lay priest in a black zostikon-like garment.

By the way, when Coptic monks celebrate the liturgy, they wear a white hood of the same colour over the eskimo, and a white exorason, giving them a ghostly, angelic appearance, whereas Syriac monks amd bishops wear the black eskimo in a liturgical context.

So one would think if anyone would shy away from using black in icons on holy objects the Copts would, yet they dont.
Axios and many years to you, Fr. Trenham!