Where Do Icons Come From?

Jesus made the first icon by pressing His face to a cloth, sometimes known as Veronica’s Veil. Veronica’s name means “true icon” (S407). It is also called “the image not-made-by-hands.” All icons of Him are patterned after this image. (J80) Saint Luke was the first iconographer or icon painter. He painted the Virgin Mary from life. Some of his icons are still here so we can see what she looked like too. (T22) Therefore, from the beginning, the icons are patterned after those that they depict, and have an actual historic basis.

There are icon pattern books that tell the iconographer how to paint different people and scenes so that they keep a direct continuity with the entire history of icon painting. For example, among the Apostles Saint Peter (S299) is always shown with short white hair and a short white beard, while Saint Paul (S298) is always shown with longer dark hair and beard, and with a receding hairline, because this is how they really looked in life. Saint Andrew (S105), however, is always shown with his hair and beard somewhat disheveled, which was a distinguishing characteristic of him. The icons show this historic actual dimension, but they are, in fact, more than just earthly portraits.

All of the icons then have two dimensions, one earthly after the form which each person appeared in this world, and one Heavenly in the deliberate abstraction added to the image to show us more than just realism. (J16) God was both Man and God. When He was on earth He was always more than just what people could see outwardly. Some people found that He was God incarnate even while He was here. All the icons include this spiritual dimension that brings us right back to God Incarnate, Jesus Christ, Who is the express image of God the Father. And we are all made in His Image. (F130) Let us look deeply into the icons to see this dimension too!