Beginning to do some research into byzantine art...icons, bas reliefs, tile work. Its all pretty formulaic, down to where the highlights go, how to render them, specified stances and poses, specific saints and holy people. Look at this sweetheart to the left--He is Saint George. No damned dragon. But what a wistful boy he is...with his moody eyes, and dreamy gesture. Good thing there isnt any dragon--those teeny hands might have trouble handling a weapon, let alone a fork and knife. There is absolutely nothing that is fierce in this gentle being. I love the shape of the actual icon...the way the gold interfaces with the jaggy and messed up wood. Fine and crude together. Really works.
The byzantine fabric is all rectilinear--absolutely having nothing to do with the actual folds. And the craziness around knees and elbows, almost creating little halos around the joints. NUTS! And of course, the halos that could injure. Can you imagine bumping into your pal, another saint, and if you didn't zig when the other guy zagged...what a black eye you could give each other...just with the halos. Forget the fabric. Ouch! If only the halos were tablesaw blades? They have some nice little devices in circle to the left and right of the head that they use to hold words, symbols or in one case, little bitty angels.
Not many smiles amongst this grim crowd. And the eyes verge on the dreaded manga.
Was given a beautiful book for Christmas from my friend,Groons-- "A Brush with God, an Icon Workbook" by Peter Pearson. Am busy devouring that. Also some cool sites--one from http://www.skete.com--a monestary with iconographers working in the medium and style. The greek site, www.culture.gr has some beautiful, historic examples with good descriptions of the piece along with detail on the symbology. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America have a wide range of icons to see...but check out the Three Hierachs with their patterns and robes...Does it get any better that that? (the hierch on the right looks a tad cranky though).
Man, do I dig this stuff.
Image at the top is from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture website. Image at the bottom is from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website (www.goarch.org)--icon gallery/clip art page.