Monday, December 28, 2009

Westminster Cathedral's Holy Family: heretical?

I find this "icon" executed in mosaic in the apse of a side chapel of Westminster quite troubling. It certainly isn't Orthodox according to the canons of iconography, neither as a Catholic do I think it is quite orthodox theologically.
I don't understand why coloured haloes are given.
  • Why is St Joseph given the colour of fecundity -and of the Holy Spirit- when he is merely the chaste foster father?
  • Why does the chaste St Joseph hold the Virgin in an embrace?
  • Why is he larger than the Virgin?
  • Why does he lay his left hand on Christ as if he is conferring something?
  • Why does he look out of the picture with the same majesty as Christ as if he is sharing in his imperium in some manner?

I have a feeling Orthodox readers might actually find this family portrait ,executed in a pastiche of a pseudo byzantine style, heretical. There is no sense of the Theotokos being "full of grace", the parity or even superiority given Joseph is worrying, so is this images placement over an altar.
As highly honoured as he is, St Joseph is not an equal of either the Son or of the Mother of God. St Joseph is a man like us in all things, including sin, he did not have the beatific vision before him always.
I would have less of a problem with this as a pious sentimental western oil painting but as something meant to be an icon, I scurry past it whenever I am in the cathedral, trying to avoid eye contact with it. Where is she looking?


Physiocrat said...

Does it need censoring with a hammer or a scrapy fork, and what would the Historic Buildings Commission have to say if that happened?

Joe mc said...

Father, what is so unchaste about St Joseph's embrace of Our Lady? I have an icon of Our Lady and St Elizabeth embracing at the Visitation. Also, could you read the hand on Our Lord's shoulder as referring to Lk 2:51? The image is about his guardianship of the Holy Family, isn't it? Are there any genuine Orthodox icons of the Holy Family?

pelerin said...

As I happen to know an artist responsable for one of the most recent mosaics in the cathedral, I was curious to find out whether he had done this one too as his last one has been criticised for different reasons.

On googling the mosaics I found a site with many photographs of the mosaics and details of their artists and was pleased to find that it was by a different artist - in fact two were responsable.

I don't think I have seen this particular mosaic and I see that it is one of the newer ones. It is certainly very disconcerting to look at and even more so to find out that the meanings normally associated with icons are not there.

Looking across on my wall at 'Our Lady of Perpetual Succour' Our Lady is looking out towards us whereas in the cathedral mosaic shown her glance is way off the scene tending to make us ask, as Fr Ray suggests, what is she looking at and why? And her face looks almost menacing. All very strange and makes one wonder whether perhaps the artists were perhaps neither Catholic nor Orthodox. Of course they do not have to be, but if not they should at least have the knowledge of the various symbols, colours and signs used by icon painters.

Fr Joseph OP said...

I thought icons are supposed to have the names of the saints by them e.g. ICXC for Christ and so on. They are not present so does that eliminate them as being icons?

Dymphna said...

I guess St. Jospeh is taller because he's a man. Touching a woman isn't unchaste and maybe the artist liked green for Joseph's halo. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Anonymous said...

Would there not be gentleness and love in the Holy Family? Joseph as a man would ordinarily be bigger than Mary; which does nothing to her status as Theotokos. and besides, were in the West. Our art has half-nudes in Sistine Chapel by none other than Michaelangelo. I think it's being over-read Father. Respectfully,
John, Boston, Mass.

alban said...

Father, Some ago I was gifted an icon of the Holy Family by a dear friend who was, at that time, an Eastern Orthodox metropolitan (may his memory be eternal).

The icon was painted by a monk and depicts both Mary and Joseph looking directly at the viewer. Joseph is also taller than Mary just as in the mosaic at Westminster. It is unclear as to whether or not Joseph is embracing Mary, but his right shoulder is edged behind that of the Virgin, perhaps indictating protection which would be quite normal in a husband.

I certainly do not believe that an Othodox hierarch would have given me an icon depicting heresy. Perhaps you are over-analysing and seeing mischief where none exists.

May these 12 days find you and your people richly blessed.

alban said...

Oh, I just checked and realised that I neglected to mention that, in the icon, Joseph also touches Christ, who is being held in the arms of His Mother. As is traditional, the 'characters' are identified in the haloes: all three are gold with that of Christ having some added decoration.

So, the Westminster mosaic contains no heresy, Father; just and expression of familial love.

Volpius Leonius said...

Two women embracing is not the same as a man and woman embracing Joe.

It is frankly pretending to be an Icon but it is not, Icons are to be read this is just a rather amateur looking painting, if you try an read it using traditional symbolism as Father points out you find all kinds of erroneous things.

The painter it seems knows nothing about Iconography, which begs the question are the people running Westminster Cathedral this ignorant and superficial?

This kind of thing makes a mockery of something the Eastern Rites and the Orthodox consider sacred.

Something like any of these would have been much better:

Icon 1

Icon 2

The Bones said...

The Blessed Virgin is neither contemplating Our Lord or entreating the Catholic towards devotion. Neither is she 'showing us' her Son. She is distant, looking even confused, awkward, not maternal.

St Joseph looks strong and fatherly, as if he is 'the daddy'. I agree with Father Ray, its awful. They look like an 'ordinary family', not the Holy Family.

The Bones said...

Look at Christ's hand also on the right. His blessing is distant, aimless and even goes towards His Blessed Mother. Rubbish 'icon'.

The Bones said...

Our Lady and Our Lord are contained in the embrace of St Joseph. It's wrong.

gemoftheocean said...

She's looking at a spider on the floor, hoping St. Joe would get of the dime and grab a baseball or cricket bat and kill the thing, like a good husband should.

[And yes, I find this icon irritating, particularly bug eyed Mary.]

A Hart said...

I agree with you Father, the is something deeply worrying about this image. It certainly is not an icon, there is no precedent for an icon in this form, though I could well understand a "Metropolitan" getting rid of something that resembled this.
The aureals obviously should be golden not multi-coloured.
This is hotch potch of a classical icon of Our Lady obviously with child, with Joseph photo-shopped in by someone who knows nothing of iconography.

An icon is theological statement, hence inverse perspective. You are right to draw attention to the proportion of the figures, theologically Joseph is less than Mary, not greater as here.
Similarly the touching suggests a carnal relationship, better if Joseph touched her with his cloak or sheltered her with it. Better his left hand were supporting the child under his foot or at least buttock, the gesture here suggests claiming paternity or conferring blessing

It is clear and evident to anyone acquainted with iconography that the heresy here is that the mosacist has St Joseph pictured as Jesus' father.

gemoftheocean said...

I hardly think this shows St. Joseph "embracing" the BVM. I think Dymphna is right on this point sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Besides, if that right hand WASN'T on the BVM's shoulder, the really nasty minded could think he was grabbing at her rear end.

Get a grip people. Brothers and sisters show NONsexual affection for each other with kissing on the cheek, etc. This isn't St. Joseph showing sexual feeling for her -- it's about PROTECTION a man would show for his family.

Honi soit qui mal y pense. It's possible to show tender affection without a sexual thought in sight.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Gem, But not in an icon!!!

Fr Ray Blake said...

A. Hart are you Aidan Hart, the icon painter?

gemoftheocean said...

Fr. R. : You dignify it too much by calling it an "icon." ;-D

[Kitschy, wannabe Icon, perhaps. It succeeds in the same way of convincing people as a three-dollar bill with Obama's face on it! Although, there is a sucker born every minute, who would be convinced of either as currency.]

Patricius said...

Leaving aside all the pedantic stuff that the icon enthusiasts love to push like "correct" colours for haloes, one simply has only to look at the image to realise that the artist is floundering with material beyond his capabilities. The image seems a barely digested melange of sources- a Roman family group clipaeus and later Byzantine (painted)icons among them. In attempting to give the figures an appropriate gravitas the artist has simply succeeded in making them appear rather cross. On the other hand, while it is easy to criticise such an image, we do not know what sort of brief the artist was given.
Devotion to the Holy Family is a comparatively late development and this probably explains why there are few, if any, depictions of the Holy Family outside of a narrative context before the later middle ages. I should be very interested to hear of any successful examples predating, say, Murillo's in the National Gallery.

Fr Ronan Kilgannon said...

I am wondering why it is considered to be an ikon? It looks to me to be a mosaic portrait of the Holy Family. And I am wondering it it would look different if viewed from below. Aren't haloes always coloured - at least in white or gold? The angels in our church stained glass have coloured haloes and coloured wings. If being chaste means that it is forbidden to hug a woman chastely then call me unchaste. I fail to find anything heretical in the representation. How many wines did Fr Blake have on Christmas day?

laicus said...

I thoroughly agree that one should pounce on heresy wherever it exists. But it's not at all clear to me that it exists here.

"Why is he (St Joseph) larger than the Virgin?"

With respect, why shouldn't he be? On every single icon picturing the Virgin and Child, Our Lady is shown larger than the Child. Because that was how it was - to one's human sight - at Bethlehem, on the Flight to Egypt, and in the early years of the Hidden Life. And, as between Our Lady and St Joseph, he must have been taller and bigger than she. At least, it would be surprising if that was not in fact so.

"Why does the chaste St Joseph hold the Virgin in an embrace?"

St Joseph was the divinely-appointed protector of Mary and the Child. As the English version of an Italian carol beautifully puts it: "St Joseph too was by [in the stable]/ To tend the Child;/ To guard Him, and protect/ His mother mild." In this picture, what is St Joseph doing? He is symbolically guarding, protecting, both the Child and the Child's mother. One of his hands rests upon the Infant; his other hand rests, chastely, on the shoulder of Mary his wife. The whole composition says "A family" - the Holy Family.

"Why does he lay his left hand on Christ as if he is conferring something?"

What he is symbolically conferring, on both Child and mother, is his faithful protection.

"Why does he look out of the picture with the same majesty as Christ as if he is sharing in His imperium in some manner?"

The artist has given St Joseph a strong and beautiful face, and that he must have had. The words after "picture" in the above quotation surely assume that no other conventions than those of the Orthodox icons can have been intended. It seems to me that both St Joseph and Our Lady are maybe looking out at the dangers they see themselves facing. From her expression, Our Lady, eyes drawn to something on her left, is likely seeing the dangers - the immediate or more distant dangers - to her dear Child whom Herod's executioners have wanted to kill. The gesture of the Child towards His mother is surely the "This is your mother" that later was said, to St John and to us, from the Cross.

"Why is St John given the colour of fecundity - and of the Holy Spirit - when he is merely the chaste foster father?"

Well, if "green equals fecundity" is the symbolism of the icons, and if the artist, being an icon painter, was therefore aware of that point (which I in my admitted ignorance certainly wasn't), then I agree that it's surprising he didn't avoid the possible wrong interpretation. If it was a positively intended interpretation (which I cannot think it was), and if onlookers, other than your learned self, Father Ray, are likely to get that wrong message, then the picture ought forthwith to be obliterated from where it now is! But surely the artist simply wanted a pleasing arrangement of colours? Blue is the traditional colour for Our Lady, and as a colour for St Joseph's halo green fits in harmoniously.

As a general comment: Why should the conventional symbolism of Orthodox icons, however theologically orthodox and time-hallowed in itself, be the inflexible artistic standard for the (in themselves, no less theologically orthodox) pictures in our churches? Even pictures that broadly resemble icons?

Crux Fidelis said...

As art it's rubbish but I wouldn't get all het up about it.

BTW Isn't the quotation "A woman is only a woman but a cigar is a good smoke."? George Bernard Shaw (I think).

Mariana said...

Ghastly mosaic, NOT according to orthodox rules, and the colours are totally unacceptable. I have a correct version of this icon right here by my computer. St. Joseph does have his right hand on the right shoulder of the Blessed Virgin, and his right hand below the left hand of Jesus, also his head inclined toward the Virgin, but in a protective way. It is in fact a charming icon, correctly done.

Victor S E Moubarak said...

Fr Ronan Kilgannon says what I'm thinking: "I fail to find anything heretical in the representation. How many wines did Fr Blake have on Christmas day?"

I don't care whether it is an icon a mosaic or whatever. I like it.

I think it is a photo taken with a Polaroid and the reason the Virgin Mary is looking sideways is because of the flash from the camera.

Michael Petek said...

I suspect my previous post wasn't posted because it might have been considered too long on account of my fanatical attachment to attention to detail. Here it is again with brevity.

"Why does the chaste St Joseph hold the Virgin in an embrace?"

Because she's his wife. Even today, an orthodox Jew will abstain from physical contact with his bride-to-be until joined in marriage.

"Why does he lay his left hand on Christ as if he is conferring something?"

Because Joseph gave Jesus everything a father gives his child save physical generation. This included a name and an inheritance, including in Joseph's case the regal office of David which Joseph held before the Nativity as an incorporeal hereditament.

"Why does he look out of the picture with the same majesty as Christ as if he is sharing in His imperium in some manner?"

Firstly, because both inherited the royal majesty of David.

Secondly because Joseph was in paternal authority over his minor Son, and a father has no authority save from God.

Thirdly, because Joseph had in Jewish law an at least arguable claim to the Regency in relation to the King. The reason: by the law of Moses a man stood to inherit from his childless son.

"Why is St John given the colour of fecundity - and of the Holy Spirit - when he is merely the chaste foster father?"

Because he is conformed to the Holy Spirit as the spouse of Mary. As to the manner of fatherhood, Joseph is in the eyes of Jewish law presumed to be the natural father (even though not so in fact), because he was married to Mary at the time of the Nativity and because he became legally barred from denying paternity once he had given Jesus His name.

There is in Jewish law no such thing as foster-fatherhood or adoption which could have any effects under the law of inheritance.

So far as precedence is concerned, Mary and Joseph are equal in the order of being and nature,and Jesus infinitely superior as God, and eminent as Man.

In the order of grace, Jesus is infinitely superior to Mary, who is in turn superior to Joseph.

The order of regal honour is:

Pre-Nativity: Joseph as Prince and Head of the Royal House, then Mary as Princess Consort.

Post-Nativity: Jesus the King and Head of the Royal House, then Mary as what we would call a Queen Mother, but what the Jews called Great Lady (Heb: Gevirah).
Then Joseph as Prince.

The order of domestic precedence is: Joseph as father, Mary as Mother, Jesus as Child.

Such are the paradoxes which attend any royal family.

georgem said...

You have to wonder what level of knowledge of ikons or anything else exists at the cathedral.
During Midnight Mass (shown on BBC TV)the Archbishop blessed non-communicants by laying his whole hand on their heads, followed by a squeeze on the arm before dipping in for the next Host. Did he forget he had purified his fingers?
Sorry this is off-topic but I found this just as disturbing.

Zephyrinus said...

Dear Crux Fidelis. Try Rudyard Kipling. Regards.

Terry Nelson said...

Father your observations and critique are absolutely correct. That said - it is not an icon but a modern Western neo-Byzantine style mosaic, a decided departure from Orthodox canons. That said, Western liturgical artists/iconographers - especially Latin rite or Protestant, are not bound by Orthodox canons - unless of course they claim to be painting - writing if you insist - icons. Since there is no real Orthodox prototype for this image - it remains an original work of decorative, albeit liturgical art.

As such, it may be credited as communicating the contemporary teaching of the Church as regards the family, as well as the importance of the father. While it appears there is some introduction of the subjective error that the Blessed Virgin and the virginal St. Joseph had some sort of romantic love - that may not have been the designer's intent.

The otherwise sentimental gesture of St. Joseph with his arm around Our Lady, as well as his hand upon the shoulder of Christ seems to attempt to express the traditional veneration by the Church for St. Joseph as Protector of the Holy Family and of the Church.

I have to agree with Dymphna - a cigar is just a cigar.

Now if we were Orthodox and this was in an Orthodox church - it would be an issue.

Physiocrat said...

This reminds me of the van Meegeren affair. He was the notorious forger of Vermeer who did his deeds in the 1920s. I went to a talk on the subject once, and the audience were astonished that his forgeries ever convinced anyone. The people in the pictures had 1920s faces! Of course, at the time, this would not have been so readily noticed.

The faces in this mosaic are all contemporary! But the medium is antique. I have no idea if it is heretical or not but it is a horrible pastiche and one wonders how it got approved by the Historic Buildings people.

This raises yet again the whole issue about the use of art in churches. There is something to be said for a period of restraint through fossilisation, in which the only art permitted were icons painted according to the strict orthodox rules. There is some truly horrible stuff around from the past fifty years, and nothing is more dated than last season's fashion. Perhaps it is a western weakness.

Norah said...

Surely it is possible to discuss father's post intelligently without launching ad hominums at him?

"Play the ball, not the man."

Pablo the Mexican said...

I think it is a heretical picture.... hands off the Holy Mother. This picture makes the Holy Family look like refugees from Somalia.

And a good Padre is entitled to all the good wine he likes.

A cigar is a cigar but it takes a man to have a smoke. Especially in the Southwest United States where I live.


Crux Fidelis said...

1920s faces? Contemporary faces? So the human physiognomy changes from generation to generation? I presume this is some kind of souped up evolution. ;¬)

Anagnostis said...

Pablo - as opposed to refugees from Palestine? Would you prefer them to look like Italian bourgeoisie, or mid-Western farmers?

I agree though - it's not an icon, it's a cartoon. Placed as it is in a cathedral, it seems to epitomise the whole tragedy of 20th century Roman Catholic liturgical "reform". Might appeals to its pseudo-traditional, pseudo-Byzantine stylistic assumptions represent a "heremeneutic of continuity"?

Mariana said...

I've been thinking all night of whom St. Joseph in this awful icon reminded me of - of course it's the alien in Men in Black whose head grows back : ) !

Michael Petek said...

No, no, no, Pablo! Not heretical! Not heretical at all! Consider the following:

First Lateran Council: "If anyone does not, according to the holy Fathers, confess truly and properly that holy Mary, ever virgin and immaculate, is Mother of God, since in this latter age she conceived in true reality without human seed from the Holy Spirit, God the Word Himself, who before the ages was begotten of God the Father, and gave birth to Him without injury, her virginity remaining equally inviolate after the birth, let him be condemned."

A woman who has just given birth is called a yoledet in Hebrew and is treated as a niddah (menstruant) by reason of post-partum bleeding. She is considered unclean for seven days following the birth of a boy, (Leviticus 12:1-8), and during that time her husband is by tradition forbidden any physical contact with her.

Mary being a virgin in partu lost no blood and therefore could not have been ritually unclean in any way.

gemoftheocean said...

But Pablo, what's wrong with refugees from Somalia? Especially if they are being persecuted by the Muslims? They're the ones who had sense to leave everything, and GET OUT while they could -- just as the Holy Family were "refugees" in Egypt for a time!

Pablo the Mexican said...

Dear Padre,

It doesn't take much to get your crew up in the air, does it?

Simply based on the fact a Padre runs past an image that creeps him out, an operation, in true Ranger Fashion, is warranted.

An image of "Rosa d’abril, Morena de la serra..." the Virgin of Montserrat could miraculously appear,replacing the mosaic? Hey, it happened in Genazzano, Italy with Our Lady of Good Counsel.(see ).

I mentioned Somalis instead of Illegal Mexican Immigrants (mojados), because I did not want to be accused by the Liberals of being racist.

Saint Joseph respected our mother. He would not have put hands on our mother for any reason.


gemoftheocean said...

Pablo, could there be NO tenderness amongst the holy family? What is St. Joseph, the hired hand?

I hope Mary got the occasional kiss on the cheek from Joseph after she cooked his favorite meal now and then!

Is everything "sexual" with Latins?

You CAN kiss someone without wanting to copulate with them, believe it or not.

Pablo the Mexican said...

Dear Miss Gem of the Ocean,


To answer one of your questions, yes, Saint Joseph was the hired hand. God assigned him to care for Jesus and Mary. This did not include things normal couples would do, such as holding each other or enjoying caresses. Saint Joseph was a he-man. He is the example for all us men in the Stewardship of our families, of which we shall be held accountable by God.

Mary is God’s Dove, Miss Ocean. Nobody lays hands on her.

I am not a Latin. I am a Mexican. Yes, sex is defined in my family; my brothers are boys, my sisters are girls. My wife was a woman, I was the man, my mommy, God rest her soul, was a girl, my dad was a boy.

Miss Ocean, we Mexicans kiss; starting with kissing the right hand of our Priests because that is the hand with which they hold the Blessed Sacrament. We kiss our mothers that gave us life and nourishment at their breast; we kiss our grandparents who impart to us the Faith, and Christ’s love for us.

“..You CAN kiss someone without wanting to copulate with them, believe it or not...”

Those thoughts have never crossed my mind.

I agree with the Padre, the mosaic "she is no bueno."


Edward P. Walton said...

Is not the Icon constructed to be seen from a distance?

Michael Petek said...

Pablo, in Judaism a man and his wife are required to have a physical relationship.

We know only two things from Revelation. First that Mary was a virgin before, during and after the birth of Jesus. Second that Joseph was told, "Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife."

While we're on the subject of physical contact, why are either of the Holy Couple in physical contact with Jesus?

He is after all a sacred Monarch. You don't touch the King.

laicus said...


In defence of St Joseph's face: It has individuality, aliveness - which not every pious pictorial representation of him does.

As for our artistic perceptions, yours and mine, you give it a minus and I give it a plus. But then (as the chair-bound chap with his foot up said) chacun a son gout.

Terry Nelson said...

Wow Father - this thread got a bit frayed, huh? LOL!

gemoftheocean said...

Pablo, that's a new one on me. I think of ALL Mexicans as "Latin." i.e. "Latin America."

I still don't know why you would think Mary and Joseph would have NO tenderness between them! You sight many familia kissings that do not involve sex -- why would it be different between them. While I do not for a moment believe that after the angel's reassurance to him that Mary was to have a son not by him, there is still room for them to show tenderness to the other. Mary to Joseph for the way he looked after the family and worked hard for them, and him to her and Jesus to form a real family.I think the relashonship was at least the sort of brother-sister affection that would be shown between a loving brother and sister. Jesus was shown examples by BOTH his parents.

For all the due and honor given Mary, by grace of her singularly special instance of her own Immaculate Conception, do you not think that God would also be looking out for someone most extraordinary to be the foster father for his only begotten son?

Joseph would have had some imperfections, but I have to believe that God chose Him especially.

The easterns have a tradition that Joseph was a widower - and we don't know if that's true or not - and we do not know if it was an arranged marriage or not - but both of them had to come from very holy families.

So, not, I don't believe for an instance that St. Joseph was just "the hired help."

God wouldnt' do that to someone.

Michael Petek said...

Good comment, gemoftheocean, but let's look at this one more closely.

I was at Mass at St Mary Magdalene's this morning to hear Father comment that the Solemnity of the Mother of God used to be the Feast of the Circumcision.

It isn't quite correct to say that Joseph was the foster father of Jesus, because there is in Jewish law no such thing, nor any such thing as adoption, so as to filiate a child to a man for any purpose.

Joseph was the lawful husband of the natural mother of Jesus. Jesus is a Jew because His Mother is, and He is a son of Israel from birth irrespective of subsequent circumcision.

Joseph was a Prince of the House of David, with the faculty to transmit the regal office to his male child only.

Jewish law presumes that a man is the natural father of his wife's child, unless there is proof of the contrary or unless the man disclaims paternity.

The putative father is legally barred from disclaiming paternity as soon as he acts paternally toward the child, as Joseph did when naming Jesus and presenting Him for circumcision.

So, although Joseph is not the father of Jesus in fact, he is treated as such in the eyes of the law, so that the law of inheritance can be executed in favour of Jesus, in respect of Joseph's personal property and of the Crown.

Pablo the Mexican said...

Dear Miss Gem of the Ocean,

Lets ask the good Padre to weigh in.

Please remember to say a Hail Mary for him.

May God our Lord in His infinite and supreme goodness be pleased to give us His abundant grace, that we may know His most holy will, and entirely fulfill it.


gemoftheocean said...

Michael, I quite agree that in th4e law of thee time you are right, but we Catholics simply refer to Joseph as being "foster father" in our modern light of such a relationship.

Pablo, of course I pray for Father. All the time.

I would ask you to consider the case of the boy Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem. Upon discovery in Beeroth (the first stop the caravan north would have made for the evening, some 8 or so miles north of the city, would it not have been natural for both Mary and Joseph to be diswrought? The scripture says as much. Would it not be natural for St. Joseph to take the BVM in his arms to comfort her? I hardly think she would have gotten a slight punch on the arm with "Carry on, old bean, chin up, stiff upper lip, girl, he'll be bound to turn up soon!"

Imagine how frantic they'd have been going back AGAINST the traffic coming at them streaming out of the city after the week long celebration? Although doubtless Joseph was worried to death himself, would he not have been a strong should for Mary to cry on?

Anonymous said...

I am glad you mentioned this in your blog. I am disturbed by this icon, as it lacks the historical references to traditional iconography in many ways. An icon is not supposed to show a "natural pose" but be a "door into heaven". This means that the saints and Christ are to be shown as they are, unless the icon shows a traditional event, such as the Birth of Our Lord, or the Crucifixion. The positioning of Joseph and Mary is very disturbing for those of us who have studied iconography. The colors, the stances, the embrace, are all wrong and show a deep misunderstanding of the relationships in the Holy Family. Have we all become so touchy-feely that we cannot see the error of relationship here?

gemoftheocean said...

Marie, I can quite agree that this is one train wreck of an "icon" - but I don't think it's "touchy feely" to believe that the BVM treated St. Joseph as the "hired hand."

If Jesus cried for Lazarus, how much more would He have cried for the man who helped raise Him?

Oh, and as to someone else who queried the "modern faces." -- Yes, quite right -- stylistically the features of an icon are to be narrow and then and rather UNreal -- in this situation to subconciously draw the thoughts "upward" to heaven.

And icons, classically are to be rather uniform in construction so as to NOT put the personality of the artist into them. Also the artist was always to pray before each time he worked on the icon.

Saberdzneti said...

As a Greek (thus, orthodox Christian) I can, beyond any doubt, assure you that this is a GENUINELY HERETICAL and BLASPHEMOUS icon!

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