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 Anyone who visited this page should know that "icons" spells exactly as that of a computer.  Thanks to the GUI, which borrowed the word from the original "icons" that existed long before the advent of computers, the word "icons" became wide spread among people of today.  However, it is a pity that the origin of the word has not become so familiar with us as the word itself is.  Not too many people would be able to answer the question precisely - that is, "what is icons, originally?"

To answer the question briefly, icons can be defined as below: "an icon is a holy picture that is used at the Orthodox Church as medium for a prayer to God". We can easily get lost with the unfamiliar names and words, such medium for a prayer, a holy picture, and the Orthodox Church, but one should not spend too much time on trying to understand those terms.  The best way to understand icons is to "look at" them.

Most of the people who see icons might have the impressions such as  "mysterious", "scary" or even "grotesque". Before the "rediscovery of icons", between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, even people in Europe had thought that icons were "grotesque". How come the icons became popular again in this modern age?

Can we regard icons as "art filled with exotic splendor"?  That depends on the definition of "art", but one thing is clear: even though regarded as medium for a prayer to God throughout many centuries, to this day icons have kept their original style almost intact, and retained its supreme universality and completeness.

The golden age of Russian icons, between the 14th and 16th century, was blessed with the greatest masters such as Feofan Grek, Andrei Rublev, Master Dionisi.

The icon shown above, drawn by Andrei Rublev in the beginning of 15th century, is the treasured "The Holy Trinity", which is also known as "the icon of the icons".  One can never fail to recognise the spirituality profound enough to oscillate one's soul with this highly sophisticated composition and through the three angels who came to Abraham.

Unfortunately, that supreme spirituality is rarely found in the Russian icons made after the golden period.

Various histories have been woven in icons.  It is evident that icons are a kind of idols, which is strictly prohibited by the Old Testament.  The reason that the Old Testament prohibited idols is that human beings are likely to fall into idolatry.  Naturally, in the course of its long history, Orthodox icons fell victims twice to the extensive iconoclasm in the 8th and 9th century.  But icons have survived.  Why?  There must be some reasons.

Let's take a moment and look at many icons.  You may find some icons that you can be fond of.  If you encountered the one, you would immediately find that icon talking directly to you.



 イコンを見られた人の感想の多くは、「気持ち悪い」「おどろおどろしい」といったものかも知れません。それは、19世紀末から今世紀初頭の「イコンの再発見」以前のヨーロッパ人の感想でもありました。なぜ、近世になって再び脚光を浴びるようになったのでしょう? 一体どんな魅力があるのでしょう?

 また、イコンは異国情緒にあふれた「芸術品」なのでしょうか? それは「芸術」の定義にもよりますが、言えることは「何世紀にもわたり神への祈りの媒体とされながらも、ほとんどその様式を変化させておらず、高度な普遍性と完成度を持っている」、ということです。





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16 June 2001