The icon as an image of the invisibile


‘For four years now the town of Seriate (in the province of Bergamo) has witnessed a spiritual and artistic experience which has involved people fascinated by the richness of Eastern-Christian cultural traditions and willing to grasp their deep content of faith. Under the guidance of Father Igor Sendler, the pupils have alternated periods of theoretical studies and practical learning, in a shared life based on prayer. They have been initiated to a world dominated by a superabundant richness and to the patient task of passing through the human in order to make it shine with the glory of God. The exhibition is the expression of this work. But what is an icon? “If you want to know who you are, do not look at what you have been, but at the icon which God had in mind when He created you.» (Evagrio the monk). The icon (from the Greek word eikón, which means “image”) is not the mere representation of a sacred subject, but a true “sacramenta-l”, that is a sign of the divine presence, “an occasion for a personal encounter, in the grace of the Spirit, with He whom the icon itself represents”. In the Old Testament, God had forbidden men to create an image of Himself, but then came Jesus Christ amongst men, as the “image of the invisible God ” (Colossians 1,15). After the incarnation, God is not inaccessible to the human gaze, but is a real person, Jesus Christ, man-God, and can therefore be represented (…). Byzantine art moves from a vision of the earthly world, transfigured by faith, and tends above all to manifest the divine world instead. Only the tradition of the Church can, with her authoritative teaching, guarantee the truth of such a transformation by means of the artistic language. And the artist, in accepting his dependence upon the history and the life of the people of God, of which he is part, is aware of having received both a gift and a vocation: that of announcing the glory of God through the humble work of his hands. The Eastern Church has always considered the painters of icons as carriers of a particular ecclesiastic mission. Once upon a time these artists were mainly monks, but in any case, their place was halfway between the servants of the sanctuary and simple lay people: they were required great patience, predisposition and excellent technical skills. Still today ascesis and virtue are required of the iconographer, in order to fulfil his role as an interpreter of the revelation of God. The Spirit will, in this way, speak through him. The painter creates the icon, builds it, being attentive to the teaching of the Church. Material structure, colours, gold background, etc., were predestined to an aesthetic, clarified and formulated by faith. We said predestined to an aesthetic, not constrained to a given pattern: this is fundamental in the comprehension of an icon. Not a hierarchy in contrast with the people, but a communion of faith that would formulate the ambits and the modalities of this art, meant to picture the divine. The canons of construction were not necessarily imposed schemes, but expedients, means that had to be re-invented every time, in the light of the conviction of the aim (…). It is important to underline that the building of icons is not a solitary chant. The production of icons is characterised by a sort of team work. Even when he is working on his own, the painter of icons is part of a group of people working together; more often though the works are subdivided and many hands take part; the most expert hand does the crucial details, the less expert hands are in charge of the details which are not crucial for the artistic result.’


21 Agosto 1982 - 29 Agosto 1982


Exhibitions Meeting Exhibitions