Iconofile: Icons and Sacred Art



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Iconofile: Icons and Sacred Art Iconofile: Icons and Sacred Art
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Iconofile Imagebase Project

Iconofile Imagebase

Image Collection of Sacred Art

The Iconofile Imagebase Project

To whom does this appeal?

Brief history of the Imagebase development

Cooperation between Iconofile and Yaroslavl State University

License Agreements Signed

Financing the project

How you can help


Iconofile is an international initiative whose goal is to increase the understanding of icons and at the same time preserve icons -- especially religious and sacred art of Byzantine influence -- which are part of the cultural heritage of all humanity.

Icon of the Mother of God of Tolga
The Icon of the Mother of God of Tolga in the Yaroslavl Art Museum is one of the many hundreds of icons that will be among the first images in the Iconofile Imagebase

The Iconofile Imagebase Project

An important aspect of Iconofile's mission is to create a depository of images of sacred art--not just portable wood icons, but frescoes, relief carvings, sculptures, embroidered icons. In fact, for this reason Iconofile was formed; to create an online database of images to give them the widest possible accessibility to people all over the world.

The Iconofile Imagebase, to be accessible through this web site, will be a depository of icon images, their text description from different sources with an analysis of subject and iconographic traditions. Publishing the Imagebase on an Internet web site will ensure rapid searches using text and visual indexes.

This will not be a simple gallery of icon images, as is found already on many web sites. Each image of an icon in the Iconofile Imagebase will be a high-resolution, high quality digital image scanned from film originals made directly from the icon painting or work of art. Iconofile is going to great lengths to ensure accuracy of color and reproduction, so that the images will have the maximum value to individuals who will access the database. Besides the most well-known images of icons, Iconofile is seeking images that are not typically found in published sources.

The Iconofile Imagebase will not consist of images alone. Each icon in the database will be represented by its image, a text description of its origin, depicted saints or religious subjects, provenance, techniques and analysis. The database will include a wide spectrum of sacred objects -- portable wood icon panels, frescoes, sculptures, fiber and embroidered icons -- created in the traditions of the Orthodox Church in Russia, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ukraine and other Eastern Christian countries. If the Imagebase project is successful, this scope will be enlarged to include sacred art from other sources.

The goal of this project is lofty, and perhaps idealistic for a single organization, because it includes the analysis of hundreds, if not thousands of icons, and not only from an historical or aesthetical viewpoint, but also a theological one.

To whom does this appeal?

The audience for the Iconofile Imagebase project are icon painters, specialists in iconography, students of art history, scientific researchers, conservators, restorers, collectors, icon patrons, clergy and religious laypeople. The Iconofile web site will become an information portal for people who are interested in icons and iconography. The project initially will be bilingual, i.e. Russian and English, but in the future may be translated into other European languages.

Meeting in Yaroslavl, Russia
First meeting of participants at Yaroslavl State University, Russia. Pictured left to right: Anna Mazaletskaya, George O'Hanlon, Dmitry Morozov
Meeting in Yaroslavl, Russia
Third annual meeting of participants in Iconofile Imagebase Project at the Yaroslavl State University, Russia
Meeting in Yaroslavl, Russia
Fourth annual meeting of participants in Iconofile Imagebase Project at the Yaroslavl Museum and Historic Reserve, Russia

Brief history of the Imagebase development

In June 2001, the first roundtable discussion of the project was held in Yaroslavl, Russia attended by the directors of four provincial Russian museums, Yaroslavl State University directors and other experts, and Iconofile project coordinator, George O’Hanlon.

As of today, here is a list of organizations participating in the Iconofile project:

  • Center for New Information Technologies, Yaroslavl State University (Russia)

  • Yaroslavl Art Museum (Russia)

  • Yaroslavl Museum -- Preserve of History, Architecture and Art (Russia)

  • Rybinsk Museum -- Preserve of History, Architecture and Art (Russia)

  • Iconofile, Inc. (USA)

Cooperation between Iconofile and Yaroslavl State University

On August 6, 2002, a meeting was held with the executive director of Iconofile, George O'Hanlon, and executive staff of the Yaroslalv State University; Dmitry Morozov and Anna Mazaletskaya. At the meeting it was decided to begin building a prototype database of images from images of icons in the Yaroslavl State University collection. Work began immediately on the prototype of the Imagebase. A proposal for a new CD-ROM was discussed that would feature the technique of painting icons.

In August 2003, Iconofile Executive Director, George O’Hanlon and Secretary, Tatiana Zaytseva, met with the directors of the museums named above and the director of the Art Museum of Pskov to initiate a license agreement and scope of relationship with each museum. We have provided the museums with drafts and are now negotiating the agreements to begin the work.

During the summer of 2004, we held a meeting to negotiate the license agreements for the icon images with the museums.

Presently, work on the software for the Iconofile Imagebase is at the first milestone (one third of its completion).

License Agreements Signed

On December 5, 2004, Iconofile, Inc., the Yaroslavl Art Museum and the Yaroslavl Museum -- Preserve of History, Architecture and Art signed license agreements giving Iconofile exclusive image rights to the sacred art objects in their collection.

Financing the project

The need for funds to realize the objectives of the project continues. We established a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, Iconofile, Inc., to raise funds for this project through these basic means:

  • Solicit donations and contributions from individuals and organizations.

  • Seek grants to help fund the project.

  • Generate revenue by means of electronic commerce through the Iconofile web site: The Iconofile store offers icon-painting supplies and materials, multimedia CD-ROMs and books.

How you can help

Iconofile is seeking contributions to help us accomplish the following immediate tasks:

  • Complete the development of the Imagebase software by contract through the Center for Information Technologies at the Yaroslavl State University, which is the application that will contain the images of sacred art (Cost: $10,000);
  • Purchase a high-resolution digital camera and lighting equipment to begin the work of digitizing images of the icons (Cost: $50,000); and
  • Contract with experts in the field of art history, restoration and art criticism to prepare informational text to be included in the Imagebase (Cost: $20,000).

Our goal is to raise $80,000 over the next year so that we can add 4,000 high-resolution images of icons, wall paintings and liturgical object to the Imagebase. If you would like to make a donation to this project, please send it to Iconofile, Inc. in care of the Iconofile Imagebase, or you can donate directly through our web site using your credit card. If you are a grant writer and can provide assistance to write grants for this project, please contact me by private message.

Iconofile is also seeking the assistance of museums and curators, collectors and historians who can contribute their expertise and, if they have icons in their collections, allow Iconofile to include their icons in the Imagebase.

If you are interested in the Iconofile Imagebase, or if you have questions, please post your suggestions in this Forum, or send a message directly to us.

Contact Iconofile for more information

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