I have long been something of an anomaly in my interest in Russian, Greek, and other icons. Even the most cursory look at the topic on the Internet will reveal that the vast majority of those drawn to this subject are Eastern Orthodox or Eastern (or Western) Catholic Christians, and that they are drawn to icons for reasons of religious belief.

I, however, came to icons through my work as a museum researcher many years ago. My approach to them has always, therefore, been objective. Whereas the “true believers” of this or that segment of Eastern Orthodoxy see icons through the distorting lens of official dogma, I see icons from an historical perspective, as cultural and art objects that have evolved over time, but which nonetheless maintain a link that takes us all the way back to the image veneration of pre-Christian Greco-Roman civilization.

In this blog I hope to discuss varying aspects of traditional Russian, Greek, and Balkan iconography, as well as the development of early Christian art, and how icons eventually arose out of it, as well as their later  history. There will no doubt be side trips into this or that topic related to icons, and quite honestly I shall feel free to throw in anything I wish to talk about that can be remotely related to the stated subject matter of the site.  My purpose, essentially, is to inform those who want to better understand the origin and nature of icons, including their inscriptions, traditions, and history — in short, what icons signified to the people who made them and what their iconography means.

Given my museum background, a primary emphasis of this site will be on teaching people to “read” an icon, meaning how to interpret its iconography and translate its common inscriptions.  This is essential to the understanding of icons.

Those who read this site from the beginning postings onward will find that it virtually serves as a free course in the iconography and interpretation of icons.  As such, it should prove invaluable for everyone from the serious amateur in icons to museum professionals.

So I repeat, This is not a “religious” blog of any kind. Instead, it advocates an art historical approach to icons, which is something quite different.


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