Friday, December 03, 2010

The Creation of a New Icon - The Merciful Jesus

When writing about Aidan Hart's work last week I noticed the icon below. It represents an interesting postscript to the recent discussion of the portrayal of the Sacred Heart in the iconographic style. Aidan Hart was approached by someone who wished to commission a Sacred Heart image. As an Orthodox Christian he explained that he would be happier to paint an icon of Christ that communicated the themes of mercy and compassion but without making the heart visible. As he put it: 'My solution was to relate it to Christ's appearance to Thomas (hence the doors in the icon and Christ showing his wounded side). The wound summarizes Christ's compassion (sacred heart) for us in suffering and dying for us. The rays of light come from his whole person, although radiating from the direction of his heart.'

This is interesting to me in a number of ways. First it is a beautiful image that does indeed communicate to me a sense of mercy and compassion; second, the story of its origin gives us a sense of how a new iconographic image is created; and third, if there are any artists out there looking to paint a Divine Mercy or Sacred Heart image, this could be something that it could be based upon.

From a technical point of view, it is difficult to paint a robe that is all white and avoid creating something that is dull and lifeless. The interplay of different colours is one way in which the artist avoids this, and the scope for this is limited in an all white robe. Aidan has approached this by putting different dark colours on the ground and then painting the white form over it. The ground colours show through faintly and give it variety, life and interest.

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