The Beginning...the Gesso

                                                                   Rabbit Skin Glue

                                                                   Powered Marble

                                                       The Above Two Combined=Gesso

                                            Painted Board  with picture of icon to be copied.


The Iconographer's Prayer

The writing of an icon is a contemplative practice.  As an icon is used as a tool for worship, the process by which it is created is ritualistic. As such, before an icon is written, the artist prays and recalls the rules of writing an icon. They are as follows:

Prayer Before Writing an Icon

Glory to Thee O God, Glory to Thee.

O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth,
Who art everywhere present and fillest all things,
Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life,
come and abide in us,
and cleanse us from every impurity,
and save our souls,
O Good One.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal,
have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal,
have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal,
have mercy on us.

Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

All-Holy Trinity, have mercy on us.
Lord, cleanse us of our sins.
Master, pardon our iniquities.
Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities, for Thy Name's sake.

Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy.

Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Amen.

O Divine Lord of all that exists, You have illuminated the Apostle and Evangelist Luke with Your Most Holy Spirit, thereby enabling him to represent the Most Holy Mother, the one who held You in her arms and said: The Grace of Him Who has been born of me is spread throughout the world. Enlighten and direct our souls, our hearts, and our spirits. Guide the hands of your unworthy servant so that we may worthily and perfectly portray Your Icon, that of Your Holy Mother, and of all the saints, for the glory, joy, and adornment of Your Holy Church.

Forigve our sins and the sins of those who will venerate these icons, and who, standing devoutly before them, give homage to those they represent. Protect them from all evil and instruct them with good counsel. This we ask through the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Apostle Luke, and all the saints, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

Rules for the Icon Painter

1. Before starting work, make the sign of the Cross; Pray in silence, & pardon your enemies.
2. Work with care on every detail of your ikon, as if you were working in front of the Lord Himself.
3. During work, pray in order to strengthen yourself physically and spiritually; avoid above all useless words and keep silence.
4. Pray in particular to the Saint whose face you are painting. Keep your mind from distractions, and the Saint will be close to you.
5. When you have to choose a color, stretch out your hands interiorly to the Lord & ask his counsel.
6. Do not be jealous of your neighbor's work; his success is your success too.
7. When your ikon is finished, thank God that His Mercy granted you the grace to paint the Holy Images.
8. Have your ikon blessed by putting it on the altar. Be the first to pray before it, before giving it to others
9. Never forget: The joy of spreading ikons in the world. the joy of the work of ikon-painting The joy of giving the Saint the possibility to shine through his ikon. The joy of being in union with the Saint whose face you are painting. (Unknown Origin)

The Writing of Icon

I have chosen to complete the art track assignment for research project assignment.  I intend to recreate a the late Byzantine icon of Archangel Gabriel which is housed at the St. Catherine Monastery in Sinai, Egypt. (below) 

The catalogue of the icons at St. Catherine's  gives the following as a description of this icon:
  "One of the masterpieces of Byzantine art, this icon shows the archangel Gabriel as a youth of extreme beauty. His graceful posture and harmonious gestures, along with the calmness of his face, are evocative of classical art.According to the eleventh-century writer Michael Psellos, a fillet such as that around the curly hair signified the purity, chastity and incorruptibility of the angels. Gabriel's function as a messenger is indicated by the walking staff he holds in his left hand, while makes a gesture of adoration and supplication with his right hand. This icon is undoubtedly part of larger group, probably forming a Deesis. It was not unusual for angels to part of Deesis ensembles. The Sinai Gabriel would have been paired with an icon of the archangel Michael, which is also located today in the bema of the basilica at the Monastery of Saint Catherine.The dating of the icon is problematic. It is very likely that the icon was painted in Sinai, but this cannot be confirmed. In any case, the high quality of the work indicates a greatly skilled and talented artist, trained in a major artistic center."(

I must mention here that a Deesis, or Deisis, is an icon depicting  Christ in Majesty or Christ Pantokrator, enthroned.  He is shown carrying a book, the liturgy, with Mary and St. John the Baptist at his side. Often other saints and angels are included, all facing towards Christ  their hands raised in supplication. This icon was likely part of a group of icons forming a Deesis.

It is my intention that whenever possible I will use traditional methods and material in the writing of my icon.  An interesting note here is that is icon is "written" not "painted" and that one viewing an icon is said to "read" it.  The terminology reinforces the the rules that icon writer must follow.  An artist doesn't write an icon with a personal creative effort.  Rather a set of rules, expectations, are followed.  Everything included in an icon has meaning, and as such the icon is read, the viewer reading the images and understanding their symbolic meaning.

I will use The 'Painter's Manual' of Dionysius of Fourna as well as the Trinity Cathedral's Iconography Institute as sources for the physical recreation of the icon.  Other research sources I am using are Constantine Cavarnos' Guide to Byzantine Iconography; Kurt Weitzman's contributions in The Icon, and    Likeness and Presence by Hans Belting.

I will update this blog as I move through the process, sharing what I have learned along the way and will include photos of my work in progress. Note that blog entries will be viewed from most newest to oldest.

Amended Bibliography

The 'Painter's Manual' of Dionysius of Fourna. Translated by Paul Hetherington. London: The Sagittarius Press, 1974.

Belting,Hans . Likeness and Presence a History of the Image before the Era of Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

Cavarnos,Constantine. Guide to Byzantine Iconography. II, Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 2001.

Cavarnos,Constantine. Orthodox Iconography. Belmont: The Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1977.

Cormac,Robin. Icons. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007.