Icons and their influence in the society

Iconsand their influence in the society

Institutionof affiliation


Accordingto the English dictionary an icon is an “image, symbol, picture ora representation usually as an object of religious devotion alwaysdone on a wooden panel”. With this we get to understand that inorder to have an icon there must be a religious background thatsupports or is well acquainted with the picture or painting, thus agiven population of believers should be able to relate to the icon,with this I would define an icon as a religious work of art made inrelation to a background consisting of devoted group of people. Inthis paper I choose to talk about my trip to the museum of Russia toview the icon of Jesus Christ which is called “image not made byhand” which historians say was made by Jesus for King Abgar who onhis ben sent his painter to paint the picture of Christ, onapproaching Jesus he only covered his face and the image was made.This paper talks about the significance of icons, how icons are madeor ‘written and the purposes of this particular icon to a group orreligion.

Processof making the icon of Christ

Accordingto the museum of Russia icons the “image not made by hand” is oneof the icons that was perfectly crafted and its material used had tohave significance in portraying the life of Jesus Christ. Before thepainting the artist had to read through the sacred text in order tovisually interpret it very well to obtain the necessary informationneeded for making the icon. This is preceded by the artist choosing awooden board made of hard word which serves as a symbol of Jesus andhis family being a family living on carpentry, braces were put at theback of the board to reduce its curving due to drying with time. Inthe tempera painting was done using an egg yolk to symbolize a newera or beginning marked by the coming of Christ. It is important tonote that each stage in icon making was accompanied by prayers andspiritual contemplation. On completion a linen cloth is spread on thesurface of the wooden panel a substance called gessoin Russian, which is a mixture of chalk and glue is applied on top ofthe cloth, this process marks the completion of the wooden panel, theicon writer now scratches the outlines of the icon on to the boardssurface using a stylus, the lines are traced in black to make thevisible. Painting is done after and in the case of the “image notmade by hand” the darker inks and dye were used before the lightcolors during the art work this is always interpreted as a symbol oflight coming into darkness. Application of linseed oil marks the endof the icon writing, the oil helps in brightening and acts as avarnish to protect the icons surface. Replacement of the organicmaterials is done with time to maintain the color of the iconwritten.

Purposeof icons

Iconsare always made with a purpose or to serve a given purpose. The“image not made by hand” has served the following purposes itprovided a spiritual being or figure that was used in prayer by theorthodox believers as they had a visual image of the son of God, thiseven led to some having spiritual vision in the dreams (Dirksen 15).The icon was a representation of God to the and it showed toimportant information about the life and purpose of Christ (Dirksen15). Icons were made to preserve the history and happening of thepast for the future generation and with icon making information andteachings was passed from one generation to the other (Dirksen 15).

Propertiesof icons

The“image not made by hand is characterized by different propertiesboth within the material and that of image itself. Firstly, the iconhas a face, this is the face of Christ Jesus son of God with angelsat the corners looking down upon him. The icon has an inner spacecurved out of the center called kovchenginRussian, this was a symbol of the ark of Noah (Strezora 3). It as aspiritual connection, in that just by sight one can be able to feelthe spiritual presence of a superior being (Strezora 3). The icon isa sacred work of art, and is used for religious purposes only by thebelievers.

Astime moves by we have seen different copies of icons with the samemeaning being made, most iconic images are sometimes duplicated intoother works of art such as the Jesus crucifixion being almost similarto the veil of veronica or the shroud of Turin. Coping was sometimesdone to provide an easier icon to understand to the people of a givengroup if the original icon was hard to understand. Icons are copiedin cases of translation where the information is perceived in manyways that may not necessarily mean the same thing. Icons where copiedin instances where the original icon was destroyed due todecomposition of the organic materials used and other accidents thatresult to destruction of the icon such as the earthquake in 1474(Strezora 3).

Christiansopposed the icon of Jesus because of it human touch and others arguedthat if it was created by a human being then it could have been awrong icon that could be created by anyone. Peopled have argued thisway on other icons regarding them as mare works of works of art(Strezora 3).


Dirksen.“Icons for evangelicals: the theology and use of icons in orthodoxchurches and the potential applications for the use of symbols incontemporary evangelical churches.” CCWS, 2001

Strezova.“Function of religious images in Byzantine Iconophile Apologia.”International journal of orthodox theology 4:3(2013)

Imagenot made by Hand. Viewed 10thNovember 2015, Museum of Russia icons