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The Icon of God and the Mirror of the Soul: Exploring the Origins of Iconography in Patristic Writing

The Icon of God and the Mirror of the Soul: Exploring the Origins of Iconography in Patristic Writing

Andreopoulos, Andreas

Comitatus Vol.31 (2000)

Introduction

Several analyses of Byzantine art have described an unusual iconographic feature: Quite frequently, icons seem to adhere to a perspective that can be understood despite our post-medieval conditioning of direct,
naturalist perspective, if we assume that the view presented does not correspond to a gaze directed towards the surface of the image from a fixed, assumed distance, but to a gaze coming from a place behind the
center of the image itself. This phenomenon, known as inverted perspective, is largely responsible for the unworldly appearance of Byzantine icons. Inverted perspective represents space as a distortive mirror
that is somehow turned inwards. In this paper I would like to explore the significance of the concept of the mirror in early Christian thought as a major factor that shaped iconography through inverted perspective and the implied concept of the icon as a mirror of the soul, something quite consistent with one of the main functions of an icon, to facilitate prayer.

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