In Russian Orthodox branch of Christianity, there is a tradition of iconography that has descended from Byzantium in the early Middle Ages and came into its own in the work of Russian masters in 15-16th Centuries. Unlike the religious art of Western Europe, icon painting in Russia did not experience a period of Renaissance that lead to increasing concern with realism, focusing instead on symbolic and spiritual aspects of representation. Icon painting thus developed into a rather unique tradition, a set of its own forms/styles, and a form of worship for those who practiced it. Unfortunately, by 17th Century European influence thoroughly pervaded this art practice and diluted its distinguishing features, doing away with many meaningful aspects of the craft.

With the fall of Soviet Union and resurgence of sprituality in Russia, there has been a new interest in reviving icon painting as a living art. In 2003 I've had a chance to take some lessons at a school in New York City where instructors (and some students) have a serious interest in the history and practice of iconography. So far, I've been able to complete one icon at the Prosopon School and attend a theory retreat in upstate NY.

Prosopon School of Iconology

Andrei Rublev
This cinematic masterpiece by A. Tarkovsky is a great primer on Russian history and iconography.
My very first icon: Archangel Michael. The students at Prosopon school all begin to work with this image taken from the Holy Trinity motif.
The photos below are are taken at a winter retreat with this Russian icon guru, surrounded here by students.
Icon of Holy Trinity (modeled on Rublev's classic) in progress.
Some teaching aids.
Colors and painting materials.
A corner of the icon painter's studio.
This scene is very Russian :)
Here is another bit of Russian trivia: this item of footwear is called "valenki" and even yours truly has been known to strut them around in winter-time ;)
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