Thursday, June 26, 2008

* Russian religious icons seem very still compared to much Western European religious art.

In an Italian Madonna and Child, the child might by reaching toward the mother, and it might feel like the motion would continue in the next moment. A painting of a moment in the middle of a Bible story implies motion right before and right after the painting.

Mother and Child and saints in the Russian icons seem to be exactly as they are and not moving to another position.

James H. Billington points out that in the setting it was created for, the icon was always lit by flickering candles. It was made to be part of prayer.

So the flickering light, the flickering of human concentration--that's the movement, directed toward something that's still, there.

--learning from "The Spirit of Russian Art," an essay by James H. Billington in "The Horizon Book of the Arts of Russian" edited by Thomas Froncek.