Everything You Should Know About Coptic Icons

Everything You Should Know About Coptic Icons

There are many events and traditions in the history of Christianity, which have influenced the way modern religion is developing today. Coptic icons, for example, are unique monuments of Egyptian Christian art, which first appeared in the early ages of Christianity. Interestingly, Coptic art exists and flourishes up to the present day. Keep reading to learn more about this phenomenon.

The origins and types of Coptic art

Coptic art is a mixture of ancient Egyptian and Greek cultures. Many plots originate from the mythologies of both countries and are interpreted according to the Christian tradition of the Egyptians. However, Coptic art was also influenced by other cultures, such as Persia and Syria. A good example is the images of the griffin and the peacock, which were adopted by the Copts from these two mythologies.

Overall, Coptic art is known for its textiles, frescoes, metalwork, manuscripts, and certainly iconographic pieces.

Coptic icons: major characteristics

Coptic icons are a significant part of the art of the ancient Egyptians and their successors. The specific style of Coptic iconography is distinguished by large and out-of-proportion eyes, ears, and heads of the saints. However, holy figures are often depicted with a small mouth. The reason for such a stylistic feature is the special symbolism of Coptic art. A righteous Christian should listen to God’s words and devote themselves to prayer, so their ears and head are large. A small mouth, in its turn, indicates a source of empty words.

Similar to Russian icons, Coptic icons represent tranquility and peace. It is known that many iconographers did not sign their icons. Here we note another similarity to Russian religious art. Among the famous Coptic iconographers are St. Luke, Pope Gabriel II, and Pope Macarius I.

Modern Coptic art

Modern Coptic art is called Neo-Coptic or Modern School of Iconography. Religious icons are considered to be the main focus of the school’s activity. It was formed in the 1960s, and its masters were, and still are, inspired by Christian icons of the 3rd-7th centuries.

Among the well-known contemporary icons is the icon of St. Anthony the Great, which features the key characteristics of Coptic art: avoidance of unnecessary details and decorations, unrealistic features of the saint’s face, frontal depiction of the saint’s figure, direct look at the viewer, etc.

Today, antique Coptic icons can be seen in many Christian churches and monasteries. As for the contemporary pieces, you can buy them in Egyptian local souvenir stores and specialized shops.