Zograf (2006-01-01)

Painting or relief: The ideal icon in iconophile writing in Byzantium

  • Pentcheva Bissera V.

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 2006-2007, no. 31
pp. 7 – 14


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This text is focused on the transformation of the definition of the icon in Byzantine image theory from an identification of graphe with painting in the writings of John of Damascus (ca. 675-754) to the equation of graphe with typos understood as the imprint of an intaglio on matter in the theory of Theodore Studies (759-826). The virtues of painting, therefore, are that its masters see their works admired and feel themselves to be almost like the Creator. Is it not true that painting is the mistress of all the arts or their principal ornament? If I am not mistaken, the architect took from the painter architrave's, capitals, bases, columns and pediments, and all other fine features of buildings. The stonemason, the sculptor, and all the workshops and crafts of artificers are guided by the rule and art of the painter. Indeed hardly any art, except the very meanest, can be found that does not somehow pertain to painting. So I would venture to assert that whatever beauty there is in things, it has been derived from painting.