Icon of the Theotokos Enthroned w/ Christ Child (Byzantine, 13th c.) – T97


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National Gallery, Washington D.C., USA


13th c.


This is a beautiful icon of the Virgin Mary enthroned with her Divine Son in her lap from the East Roman or Byzantine period of iconography.  One of the hallmarks of true iconography is the lack of normal perspective, or to be more exact, the inverse perspective, seen clearly in this icon.  If you look carefully, the throne and the footstool are wider at the back than at the front, which moves the eye unconsciously forward towards the viewer rather than backward towards a hidden point in the distance, as is seen in more naturalistic pictures.  This is because in any true perception of reality as seen in Eternity, acute self-awareness and self-discovery are always present.  We are a part of every icon we behold.

Icons are not just art, but the actual archetypes of material form according to St. Maximus the Confessor, showing the inner substance of things as they will be at the end of time and in Eternity.  If we are seeing an icon, then we are somehow a part of that vision, for better or for worse.  Let us pray that we see through the art to the vision beyond this world, and that with an open heart we will someday rejoice seeing them anew in the Kingdom of God.