This is topic Re-use of a Propotype... in forum General Questions & Answers at Iconofile Forum.

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Posted by John_Curran (Member # 5464) on :
I came across an icon I admired very much: Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Further research revealed that it was actually the "tenderness" icon, clothed in the habit of a Carmelite, with the addition of a scapular.

Would this be considered "acceptable?" I note there is another, more "standard" icon with the title as well.

Thank you for your thoughts.


PS I am interested in how this "rule" might generally apply, as well as in this specific instance; e.g., could the "tenderness" be "adapted" for an icon of Our Lady of Fatima.
Posted by Tom (Member # 16) on :
Well....this is where things always get sticky and folks are afraid to post and get upset. You can paint whatever you want. If you want acceptable by Orthodox standards We don't change things. Not colors, meaning, inscriptions or positioning.

That does not mean you can't do it but if you seek approval on some Orthodox level then Does that matter?

Depend on why you want to paint icons. True icons are generally considered an Orthodox art. We don't usually seem them in any other churches except for rare panels now and again. But the Orthodox are dead serious about their icons, at least those who know about such things.

Past posts have had drop down drag out fights and words regarding some subjects that frightened off those faint of heart. While this is not necessarily an "Orthodox" site because the owner runs a business depending on painters of all types and views, iconography when viewed by the Orthodox, is a singularly Orthodox endeavor.

That statement frequently leads the shrinking violets to hurt feelings to mean that only Orthodox can paint icons. Of course, not true. But if an icon you have painted is to remain truely "Orthodox" then it must conform to the standards so set. Sometimes those standards are a bit muddy but most of the time pretty clear.

So, in this case, paint freely whatever you feel....but you create religiously themed art, not an icon by true Orthodox definition.
Posted by daniel (Member # 190) on :
I am a Byzantine Catholic, and I would not paint an icon of the Mother of God clad in a Roman Catholic religious habit. I know, there are Orthodox icons with the Virgin clad in monastic garb, and I am not sure what I- or Tom- think about that, but it seems too much a departure from tradition to me.
And I have had disagreements here about images that Orthodox posters did not approve of (St Joseph with the Christ child), but I proceeded only when I thought the arguments did not hold water. In general, I try to observe the tradition pretty strictly.
The only other image I have done that does not have an Orthodox precedent- aside from RC saints- is the Divine Mercy. I refrained from this for years because it was not traditional, in spite of the urgings of friends. But then one day it hit me: I believe that Christ did appear to St Faustina, and I believe that he requested an image be painted of the Divine Mercy, so how could it not be an icon?
Posted by John_Curran (Member # 5464) on :
Thank you, Tom, you've answered my question. I might have been more specific with my question, but I was indeed interested to learn whether such an adaptation was acceptable re: Orthodox tradition.

The follow-up question would be then, would an iconographer never find 'approval' (Orthodox tradition) for 'icons' of the recent Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary? I take it the answer is "no", based on Tom's posting.

Likewise, what of recently beatified Saints, such as Padre Pio?
Posted by John_Curran (Member # 5464) on :

I find it interesting that previously your arguments with me were based on a strict interpretation of Orthodox Tradition.

Yet now, you allow your personal ideas and beliefs to over-ride Tradition, when something "seems too much of a departure", or alternately when you "thought the arguments did not hold water."

You may be interested to learn that before finding iconofile, I found your icon of "Divine Mercy," and felt it spoke strongly to me.
Posted by Jill (Member # 355) on :
Hello John

The points Tom raises are quite serious and correct, as there comes a time when one has to know where to draw the line on what can and cannot be portrayed on an icon. It must also be remembered that an icon is also the visual equivalent of the liturgical, theological and doctrinal traditions of the Orthodox Church, and are used and venerated by the Orthodox both in their private devotions, and, most visibly, liturgically, i.e. during the various services. They are kissed, they are prayed before, they are censed at various designated points of a service, candles are lit to them as a silent prayer and supplication. Even if a Divine Liturgy is held in the room of a house, or out in the open, three items are required as an absolute minimum: an antimension, an icon of Christ, and an icon of the Mother of God.

Deviations in form and content of an icon therefore represent a distortion of the faith, no less serious than changing the words of liturgy or scripture according to one's imagination or whim. Many would know the unfortunate story of the Roman Catholic priest who honestly, and not maliciously, thought it would be a good idea to baptise in the name of the "Creator, Liberator and Sustainer". The result? All these baptisms, carried out over several years, now need to be "validated" because an incorrect trinitarian formula was used.

What to make of the image of Our Lady of Mt Carmel?

1. It does not sit well for me to see the Mother of God clad in monastic garb, be it a Carmelite habit, or, as has sometimes happened, in the mantle of an Orthodox abbess, as seen in the image "Abbess of Athos". The Mother of God is truly the exemplar par excellence of an obedient, contemplative and sanctified life dedicated entirely to God, so her being a "role model" for monastics, male and female, is entirely fitting and proper. Orthodox tradition holds that she is the patron and protector of the Holy Mountain. However, to dress her as a monastic (which she never was, in the formal sense), and to portray her in these, or any, images without the Christ-child is incorrect. At the very least, such as in icons of a post-Resurrection historical feast or event, such as of the Holy Protection, the Visitation to St Sergius of Radonezh, or Bogolyubskaya, there should be a motif of Christ or the Holy Trinity in the upper border of the icon. It is interesting to note that in these icons, the Mother of God is shown bearing an abbess's staff, denoting her authority (in much the same way as angels hold long rods, being messengers of the heavenly court, as it were) but is dressed in her conventional blue inner garment and red omophorion.

2. Of the images I have come across of Our Lady of Mt Carmel, it strikes me that there is only one star of perpetual virginity, if, indeed she bears any at all. Granted, her left shoulder is obscured by the Christ-child, but there is no star on her omophorion above her forehead. No less than an Ecumenical Council decreed, in its repudiation of Nestorius, that the proper title for her is indeed Theotokos (Birthgiver of God), and not, as Nestorius had argued, Christotokos. Indeed, for proper Christological reasons arising from this Council, it has also been deemed an essential feature of iconography theat the Virgin be always shown with the three stars of perpetual virginity, and the shorthand inscription ΜΡ-ΘΥ. A deficient icon of the Mother of God leads to a deficient proclamation of who and what Christ is.

I emphasise that this is not at all "angels on the head of a pin" stuff, only to show what a serious matter painting icons is. They are not merely "religious art", they represent, at the most fundamental level, the incarnation of God, and all that has flowed from that incomprehensible and monumental event. "Pick up your brush with fear and trembling!" is a phrase you'll come across time and time again. The wisdom of that statement cannot be underestimated.
Posted by John_Curran (Member # 5464) on :
Thank you, Jill.
Posted by daniel (Member # 190) on :
But John, my "personal ideas and beliefs" did not "override Tradition". Rather, my Church had blessed the apparition in question and canonized the seer. This overrode any Orthodox objection, knowing that many Orthodox do not honor Roman Catholic saints nor recognize RC apparitions.
I may be Eastern in worship and spirituality, and indeed I feel like I have more in common with Orthodox believers than Roman Catholics, but I am in communion with the See of Peter and am in fact a Catholic.
Posted by Tom (Member # 16) on :
I believe that we all get into trouble and hurt feelings when there is an opinion expressed that is wrapped in the Orthodox Tradition. I have said many times that I don't really care what is painted but IF you want it to be called an icon then it must follow the standards set by the Orthodox.

Now you can argue who gave them (the Orthodox) the authority to decide what is included and what is not. Even the Orthodox struggle with this and sometimes fail. I know that the Greek Archbishop of Australia (Jill, correct me if I'm wrong) commissioned an "Abortion" icon. It is not an icon at all, just a political statement that presents some really disturbing imagery. But to be honest, the Orthodox opinion only affects the Orthodox and holds us accountable.

I was taken aback when dicussions got so personal about imagery and felt that folks were trying to convince me that the church was wrong. Why did they care? It's not their church but they insisted on interpreting well known Orthodox theology to fit their agrument.

Do you have to Orthodox? No, it helps but only in the sense that you have access to Orhtodox teaching and if you are an educated Orthodox, you understand it's theology. It does not mean you agree with everything but as an iconographer it behooves you to follow the rules. Only if you want to be commissioned.

I find the Virgin dressed as a nun a kind of mixed metaphor and am not quite sure why it would exist. I don't know that much about the Catholic Church so perhaps there is meaning for which I am not aware.

I do not paint post schism saints. That means since the churches split, I don't recognise because my church does not recognise, Roman Catholic saints. I doubt the Catholic church by the same caveat, recognises St. Raphael of Brooklyn. It does not bother me. We are just different. That statement though will be perceived as elitist by some of our Protestant lurkers who no longer post. It is not it's just a fact of life.

The Orthodox Church cannot and does not for the most part, change. It is what it is.
Posted by Jill (Member # 355) on :
Hello Tom

Yes, the "abortion icon" is not an image suitable for veneration, and neither is the so-called "Mystical Icon of the Church", also known as "The Ark of Salvation". This latter image shows a ship at sea, in which are Christ, the Mother of God, and various saints and apostles. In the foreground, on the shore, are an assortment of characters and creatures, the so-called "enemies of Orthodoxy", who are attempting to alter the course of "the good ship Orthodoxy". This image, though very well-executed in the technical sense (the artistic skill and draughtsmanship is quite accomplished in the versions I have seen), nevertheless is simply a piece of political propaganda, dressed in the trappings of an icon. A dreadful and shameful debasement of iconography. I do have more on this if people are interested.

Hello John

On painting icons of St Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio was canonised by the RC church in 2002): An Orthodox iconographer should not paint him, as, as Tom said, he is not a saint recognised and venerated by the Orthodox Church.

Remember that part of the process in painting an icon is for the iconographer to prepare himself with prayer and fasting, and to pray to the saint or holy one as part of this preparation, as well as during the various stages of the painting of the icon. It would be quite problematic for an Orthodox person to pray to a saint for intercession in this regard who is not from within Orthodox tradition.

Many Orthodox iconographers do indeed paint icons commissioned by non-Orthodox individuals, but limit the subjects they are prepared to paint for them to Christ, the Mother of God, and to saints recognised as such by both churches, i.e. the pre-schism saints.
Posted by daniel (Member # 190) on :
Tom- Such depictions are common only for the Carmelites. I have never seen RC depictions of the Mother of God in any other order's habit, though they may exist.
Probably she is shown clad in the habit of Carmel because that order is especially devoted to her and under her protection.
The order, by the way, has many affinties to Eastern Christianity. The Order's patron is Elias the Prophet, and legend has the beginnings of the order in the hermits of Mt Carmel, dating back to the time of Elijah, whose numbers swelled when crusaders gave up the sword and sought solitude on the mountain in the Middle Ages.

And while most Orthodox do not honor post-schism saints of the other Communion, some do. Orthodox iconographer Phil Zimmerman, of the Antiochian Village, has painted St Therese of Liseaux, and he may have done others. And when Orthodox iconographer Dave Mastroberte and I swapped icons, he asked me to paint St Therese for him (he did St Anthony the Great for me).

And Byzantine Catholics certainly honor Orthodox saints; even controversial ones. St Gregory Palamas is on our calendar, and devotion to St Seraphim is widespread (I named a son after him).
Posted by John_Curran (Member # 5464) on :
Catholics believe, although they are not required to do so, that during the last Apparition of Mary at Fatima, in 1917, She appeared as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel; so in the RC tradition, Mary appeared in the habit of a Carmelite. Perhaps this is also the way She appeared when she gave the Scapular to St. Simon Stock?

Tom and Jill, thank you both for your continued attempts to enlighten! I am beginning to get an overall view of the big picture, which must needs be through the lens of my own background. I feel my approach to icon-writing must first be through what is approved by the Orthodox, before any ideas of that which is non-canonical, although one cannot rule that out.
Posted by Jill (Member # 355) on :
Catholics believe, although they are not required to do so, that during the last Apparition of Mary at Fatima, in 1917, She appeared as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel; so in the RC tradition, Mary appeared in the habit of a Carmelite.
The crucial words here are the ones I have rendered in bold. For an icon to be a true icon, it must reflect and express what is taught by the Church as a whole. As I understand it, the Roman Catholic church regards the Marian apparitions at Fatima and elsewhere as of use in personal piety, but not of doctrinal or dogmatic significance. Therefore, applying iconographic principles here (as distinct from painting a holy card or religious art), it would not be proper to paint an icon of the Mother of God as a Carmelite nun, if this vision has not been incorporated into the body of teaching of the RCC.

I would also mention the following: It is common for RC paintings of the Mother of God (such as Our Lady of Guadelupe) to show her surrounded by a mandorla (an almond- or oval-shaped blaze of light). In iconography, the mandorla represents the blaze of uncreated light, which can only be associated with the persons of the Holy Trinity. The best-known examples of such a mandorla in Orthodox iconography are in the icons of the Transfiguration, Christ in Majesty, the Resurrection, and the Dormition of the Mother of God. In all cases, the mandorla surrounds Christ, including in the Dormition icon. Even in icons of the Annunciation, the presence of the "Spirit of the Most High" overshadowing the Virgin is consistently shown as a beam of light directed to her, and not as a mandorla.

Why is this? The Mother of God is indeed more honourable and more glorious than the hosts on high, undeniably the most exalted of God's creation. The prayers, theotokia, akathists and canons to the Virgin are stuffed full of the highest praises and exaltations. Yet she was still entirely human and mortal, graced by Divinity, but not divine in and of herself. This perspective and balance is even maintained in the text of the Vigil of the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, surely the loveliest and most evocative of all her feasts. Therefore it is not proper to show a mandorla of uncreated light in icons of the Mother of God, as she does not generate this light.

I can think of two exceptions to this, but it becomes obvious that the context of the presence of the light is completely different: Both St Seraphim of Sarov and St Symeon the New Theologian are sometimes depicted in icons surrounded by uncreated light. Such icons are an illustration of a specific event in the lives of these saints, where they were graced by God with a brief "transfiguration". However, on looking at such icons, it is quite clear where this light is coming from. These saints are shown in three-quarter pose, with arms raised in supplication to an unseen God, or a small motif of Christ in an upper corner of the icon.

Food for thought.

And while most Orthodox do not honor post-schism saints of the other Communion, some do.
Not liturgically, they don't. Even praying to saints who are not recognised by the Orthodox Church is problematic. If particular individuals who are Orthodox paint "icons" of non-Orthodox saints, then that is a matter between them and their bishop or spiritual father. But I can assure you that such practice is very much an exception, and a problematic one, rather than the rule, for reasons I expressed in an earlier post.
Posted by daniel (Member # 190) on :
But Jill, surely you know that the image of O L of Guadalupe was not made by human hands. Sort of hard to argue with the Artist, no?
And no, Orthodox do not celebrate Roman saints liturgically. But many do have private devotion to them, as many Roman Catholics honor Orthodox saints. What is problematic with recognizing that other Christians are holy? Of course canonization is another matter.
Posted by Jill (Member # 355) on :
And no, Orthodox do not celebrate Roman saints liturgically. But many do have private devotion to them, as many Roman Catholics honor Orthodox saints. What is problematic with recognizing that other Christians are holy? Of course canonization is another matter.

The saints venerated by both the Orthodox Church and the RCC are only those of pre-Great Schism vintage. Would a Catholic (Roman or Byzantine) venerate such saints as, say, St Mark of Ephesus? St Kosmas of Aitolia? St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, to name but three?

Veneration of a saint isn't merely a matter of "being inspired" by his or her deeds, it is an acceptance and knowledge, through the recognition and glorification of the Church (an organic process, not a legalistic one), that that person has found special favour with God through his or her steadfast espousal and proclamation in word and in deed of the truths of the Faith.

To this day, the Orthodox liturgies contain a petition for the episcopate for God to "keep in health, safety, honour and length of days, and to rightly proclaim the word of Your truth". Please look again at my comments on the problem of an Orthodox iconographer painting an icon of a non-Orthodox saint.

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