All until the appearance of avant-garde art of the 20th century, the Western fine art was dominated by centric perspective. The central, so-called “objective” perspective is characteristic to photography, film, and even this programme you are watching.

Perspective on icons and frescoes is quite different. They call it reverse, or Byzantine perspective. It is an expanding perspective – meaning that the lines that come from the viewer are not converging toward an imaginary remote point, but are expanding, diverging away from the viewer. Before an icon, man is not the master and the virtual owner of the world, but a participant in God’s creation.

Cracking of the illusion is also helped by polycentricity of icons and frescoes. Multiple centres aid us to comprehend the faces or objects from multiple angles all at once, and not satisfy ourselves with the illusion of one static and passive, monocular, “Cyclopic” point of view.

Icons also depict several chronological phases of the same event. An event is observed from the perspective of the end of time when the division between the past, present and future ceases to exist. Therefore one and the same character may appear on an icon or a fresco even numerous times.

There is no shading in icons, whereas the contrast between shade and light is one of the most important expressive instruments in the Western art. Icons encompass everything, but they are also permeated from inward by the uncreated light of God.

Icons show the man and the world already reshaped in the eschaton, in the events at the end of history, when God will be all and will end all, and nothing will be out of God and His light.

It is a generally known fact that in the early Christian Church language of symbols was especially prevalent. This symbolism is explained, first of all, by the necessity to express through art the truth that cannot be directly represented, expounded. On the other hand, concealment, for some time, of the fundamental Christian mysteries from those who are preparing for baptism (the catechumens), was established by the Holy Fathers, and inspired by the Scriptures. Heathens are not exposed to the mystery of teachings of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, nor are the catechumens clearly spoken to on the mysteries, rather a lot of things are talked about ostensibly, in the form of stories, so that the faithful who know would understand, and those who do not know – eschew harm.

Language of the icon is in fact the language of the Orthodox Church, which reminds man that he is the icon of God and that only by living the holy sacramental life he shall enter into a living communion (theosis) with his Prototype – God the Maker.

The icon testifies to the existence of God
with love, not evidence.

Faithful capturing of the ancient prototypes is not merely “copying”, because iconographer is indeed allowed to freely and creatively express oneself.

That is why we stress that, even though the question is of replicating, so to say duplication of ancient models, yet we will not find even two identical icons, because the similarity that is noticed when watching them only highlights the complete originality and individuality of each one.

According to Orthodox teaching, the icon becomes an icon only after the Church recognises the genuineness of the painted figure to the ancient archetype, or in other words, when the Church writes in the name to the character on the icon. The right of this appellation, that is, the determination of the self-identity of the likeness painted on an icon belongs only to the Church.

All in all, just as the inner content of the holy icons is fathomable only to iconographers touched by divine inspiration, so too it is available only to spiritualized iconodules.

The goal of the Orthodox Christian culture is to bring to and accomplish in man, and the world around man, as much divine as possible; in other words: to incarnate God in man and the world.

We can safely say that the “culture on earth is an icon of the Kingdom of Heaven”. In icons, the characters of the Saints are represented from “the point of view of eternity” and they do not depict the images of mortal, fallen and earthly man, but rather the images of spiritually reshaped, deified, holy, redeemed and heavenly man – the new Adam. These images are those in which the light of Christ has shone. The Orthodox iconography iconically represents (depicts) the spiritually transfigured world and elevates and introduces Christian man into that world in order for man to become an co-inhabitant of that world. This is an unending and eternal world – the Kingdom of Heaven.