Russian icon

Russian Icon Myths You Shouldn’t Believe

A Russian icon has come a long way toward becoming an integral part of Orthodox iconography and being recognized by the whole world as a unique phenomenon. The distinctive features, the high mastery of Russian iconographers, and the incredible depth of composition allowed it to become equal to Byzantine iconography. The heyday of Russian Orthodox icon art came in the 15th century when Andrei Rublev icons were created. Since then, Russian religious icons have been constantly surrounded by legends, tales, and myths. The latter will be discussed in this blog post.

Russian icon myths you shouldn’t believe

1. All miraculous images of the Mother of God were created in Russia

As you know, many Russian Orthodox icons of the Mother of God are considered miraculous. However, not all of them were created in Russia. Many images are not originals and were copied from Roman Catholic icons and Protestant engravings, such as the Marian icons of the Mother of God.

2. Icons are written, not painted

This widespread myth was born out of a misunderstanding of the Russian language. The words “write” and “paint” in Russian mean the same thing when it comes to painting or iconography. In English, however, they are given very different meanings. A Russian icon in English-speaking discourse is not written but painted.

3. Russian icons depict the saints accurately and realistically

Russian religious iconography is known for its unusual manner of depicting the figures of saints and Jesus Christ. Iconographers do not employ a “realistic” technique but attempt to create an image devoid of emotion, which conveys the holiness and spirituality of the figure. The saints usually differ only by the range of attributes, color and length of hair, clothing, and other details. Most Russian icons are not historically accurate and precise but rather metaphorical images.

4. All Russian Orthodox icons are painted using a reverse perspective

In fact, a reverse perspective often does not play a huge role in Orthodox Christian art. Interestingly, it is not easy to find its pure form. A Russian icon is usually created using several kinds of perspective: direct, spherical, reverse, etc. Certainly, the reverse perspective was highly popular among Russian iconographers, but it was not the main visual method in icon painting art.

These were some myths about Russian iconography you should not believe. Read more interesting information about religious icons on our blog.