Iconostasis..........................Illustrated Architecture Dictionary
A representation of Christ, the Virgin Mary, or a saint, especially one painted in oil on a wooden panel, depicted in a traditional Byzantine style and venerated in the Eastern Church.
Excerpts from[The Christ Pantocrator Eleimon icon depicts] a special perfection: spiritual contemplation accompanied by inner and outer harmony, and an ideal balance between the Divine and the human elements in the image of the Savior. The combination of absolute outer calm and concentrated prayerful depth was the ideal of the Byzantine religious consciousness....
"A History of Icon Painting: Sources, Traditions, Present Day," by Lilia Evseyeva, et. al. Translated by Kate Cook. Moscow 2005
The icon [St. Theodore Stratilates] reveals the face of a dweller in paradise, not of an earthly person. Iconography does not ignore a saint's individual features and external distinguishing marks (sex, age, hairstyle, shape of beard, headwear, etc.). But the saint is also depicted as transfigured, remote from earthly passions. He already belongs to a different world and looks down on us from there....
... icons never portray emotions or passions. The face is the main feature in the icon: it testifies to the saint's identity. The hands are also important. Hence the great significance attached to the gesture in icons: blessing or praying, hands raised to heaven, pressed to the bosom, or lifted to the ear of one listening to the Lord, etc.
The eyes are of special importance. In early icons they were painted stretched wide open, as it were. The well-known expression that the eyes are the window of the soul applies perfectly to the icon... The accent on the eyes creates the impression that rather than you looking at the icon, the icon is looking at you.
A great deal has been written about reverse perspective, the structure of the icon's space in which there is no single point on the horizon where all lines meet, and in which objects get larger rather than smaller, as they recede into the distance. The name for this device, reverse perspective, arose by analogy with direct perspective, the basis of the realistic picture. In an icon the only point at which lines intersect, geometrical and semantic, is the one where the worshiper stands: the icon's space opens up round him, as it were, drawing him into the icon's world, and this explains why all the objects seem to unfurl round him.
The icon represents light and not darkness. The figures do not cast shadows. There is no night, only eternal day... Saints are also depicted from the viewpoint of eternity. The inmates of heaven are free of blemishes, both physical and emotional; they are inspired. yet this movement away from matter to spirit never leads to the disappearance of the bodily element to the icon...
Excerpts from Alexander Boguslawski, Understanding Icons (October 2010)
The purpose and the ideal of Byzantine icon painting was the expression of the category of holiness, which was not made to appeal to the senses by being physically beautiful. In Christian Orthodox art, the beautiful is not determined by the natural form of the objects, but by its sublime content,
When we look at icons, we are struck by their apparent simplicity, by their overemphasized flatness, unreal colors, lack of perspective, and strange proportions.
We are conditioned by the art of the Renaissance to appreciate the architectural details rendered in mathematical linear perspective, to admire the beauty of the human body, the lush landscapes stretching far towards the horizon, and the still lives with lights, shadows, and three-dimensional shapes so real that we can almost pick a glass from a table or an apple from a platter... Unfortunately, we cannot use this kind of analysis on icon painting because, in contrast to the art of the Renaissance, icon painting is not illusionist, that is, it does not try to convince the viewer that the world depicted on the panel is real, but, on the contrary, tries to make sure by all the means it possesses, that the represented is unreal, ideal, dematerialized.
Icon painting deliberately disregards the principle of natural perspective in order to avoid at any cost the illusion of three-dimensionality. Instead, it gives the impression of complete flatness and the lack of perspective.
The faces of the saints have large, almond-shaped eyes, enlarged ears, long thin noses, and small mouths.
Since icon painting is not realistic, it shows no natural source of light and does not represent shadows.
Icon painting has the ability to represent several moments of the same action (story) on one panel. In the scene of the Nativity we can see not only the birth itself, but also the arrival of the Magi, the shepherds spreading the good news, Joseph being tempted by the devil, and even the servant women washing the baby. Some scholars call this the "continuous style."