As the visual center of the body, the face dominates everything else. In his Notes of an icon painter, which we have already mentioned, Monk Gregory [Krug] writes:

Only a picture that has a face looking at us and a human face transfigured by divine grace has the right to be a holy icon.

And further on he states:

The eagle which holds the Gospel Book cannot be an icon or image of John the Evangelist, but only his symbol.

Let us note here that the ancient Greeks called a slave aprosopos, i.e., he who has no face. So by assuming the features of a human face, God restored to us a face in His own image, chained as we were like slaves without faces – aprosopos – because of sin.

If Christian art from the beginning of Christianity gave us figures with full frontal views, the same was not true later on, without speaking of today, when real faces simply tend to disappear or just turn up as caricatures.

This is exactly what the renowned art critic René Huyghe declares in his book: L’art et l’âme – Art and the soul:

As fast as the human face, above all in its nobility, has disappeared from contemporary art works, its opposite – the Beast – has substituted itself in a strange way, appearing frequently as if to witness to a tacit obsession of our times. (Paris: Flammation, 1980, p. 342)

Does not today’s art reflect a world in crisis, deprived of security and truth? Despite a profusion without precedent of media at his disposal, modern man experiences a growing difficulty to meet or encounter his neighbor, whose face he so often does not even notice.

Michel Quenot, The Icon: Window on the Kingdom(St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991 / Mowbray, 1992) 93.

I’ve been reading on icons for a talk I have to give. Will say more again, but this book is a very good introduction.

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