About our Orthodox Icons
Images of saints and martyrs have long adorned Eastern Orthodox churches, reminding believers of the world beyond their senses. For many centuries after the Renaissance, icons were viewed by Westerners as stiff and naïve, a reminder of primitive art prior to discovery of the law of perspective. However, creation of icons is one of the world’s oldest artistic traditions, and icons can powerfully inspire spiritual contemplation. “Icons are spiritual Christian art par excellence,” says Bulgarian artist Encho Avramov.
In recent years we have purchased more icons than we've been able to post, so these are only representations of a much larger collection. We also have exceptional antique and new Ethiopian Orthodox icons, though only a couple are posted here. If you live in the Michiana area, you are welcome to come by to see the new selections, but we likely won't have these catalogued and posted for some time yet.
All of our Bulgarian iconographers, including Ivan Zhabov, use the ancient methods for creating their works. They paint on boards covered with gesso, and laboriously mix dry pigments into egg tempera paint. The prototypes which our artists follow are all in Bulgarian or Russian monasteries and cathedrals.
Just as an iconographer is an image writer rather than a traditional painter, an icon must be read rather than looked at simply as an aesthetic object. Nearly every aspect of an icon has symbolic significance – even the shape of the board on which it is painted can represent, for instance, the arch of heaven. Jesus always is identified by his halo, which is a cross inscribed with the Greek letters omicron, omega, and nu, which stands for “He Who Is.”
The nose and fingers of icon figures always are slender, denoting spiritual refinement. The figures in traditional icons are fixed in order to avoid any suggestion of portraiture. Faces always face the viewer or, at most, are in a three-quarters pose, so that both eyes are visible. “A spiritual person cannot be depicted incomplete, with one eye,” according to tradition.
Christ’s right hand often forms the Orthodox benediction, which spells out a stylized “IC XC,” which represents “Jesus Christ” in the Greek and Old Bulgarian alphabet. The clothing in icons is non-naturalistic – it is depicted in stylized geometrical forms, not as it would appear in real life. This is part of the unrealistic nature of icons, designed to lift the viewer out of the material world and into the spiritual world. The traditional gold background of most icons is an attempt to incorporate heavenly light, a color one never finds in nature.
Given our relationship with a number of Bulgarian iconographers, FOUND commissioned a series of three limited-edition Anabaptist Icons. These Anabaptist pieces -- of Menno Simons, after whom Mennonites are named; Dirk Willems, best known of the Anabaptist martyrs; and Margaretha Sattler, co-writer of the Schleitheim Confession -- are all exquisitely crafted by iconographer Jivko Donkov, and available only through FOUND.