General Classification of Russian Icons

General Classification of Russian Icons: Main Parameters and Types

Religious icons remain to be some of the most integral works of religious art nowadays. Contrary to popular belief, there are now no draconian dogmas and restrictions influencing the appearance, form, and content of holy images. Historically, there were certain strict rules and limits that made some Russian icons canonical and some non-canonical. However, as of today, icon art is a combination of different powers uniting Orthodox Christians from all around the world.

The diversity of icons is one of the strengths of modern iconography. Accepting the fact that sacred icons come in a variety of shapes and sizes makes them more accessible to a bigger audience. While canonical law remains a question of personal attitude and choice, you might want to find out more about the general classification of Orthodox icons.

General classification of Russian icons: main parameters and types

Russian icons are classified by:

Plot. Depending on the depicted scene and image, icons can be roughly divided into icons depicting Jesus Christ, the Theotokos, saints, angels and archangels, and feasts. Each type has its unique historical significance and place in the world of holy art.

Icon painting technique. Some icons are painted with tempera on wood, some are carved from wood or metal, and some others are embroidered. Techniques can vary a lot.

Placement. There are Russian icons that are meant to be stored at church, while others need to stay at home. Besides, some holy icons are even used as symbols of protection on the road.

Composition. There are one-, two-, three-, and four-part icons. In fact, the number of parts is not limited. If needed, icon painters use many frames to depict different parts of the saint’s life. 

Purpose. Almost every holy icon serves a certain purpose and hence is used in different situations. For example, there are wedding icons that symbolize harmonious marriage and love.

Size. From pocket to cathedral-sized icons, there is not a standard size of religious images. As a matter of fact, size sometimes signifies the role and purpose of an icon.

Body coverage. There are several ways of how icon painters paint bodies in icons. That is why you usually see half-length, shoulder-length, and full-length images. 

The world of Russian iconography is still rich in conventions. The classification that is given above conclusively proves that icon art is unique and magnificent. Such knowledge allows people to delve deeper into the matter and start enjoying Russian icons even more.