Christian Icons in Byzantine Egypt
In Byzantine Egypt, Christian concepts and ideals became steadily integrated into the daily lives of its citizens. Evidence supporting this includes a number of encaustic panel paintings unearthed, depicting early Christian symbols and imagery.
In Medieval times however, encaustic reliefs were typically associated with portable objects. Since Christian missionaries were constantly traveling, they required smaller objects to convey their message to the public. These objects came to be known as icons – the word itself literally meaning “image.” Some of the earliest examples of Christian icons were encaustic reliefs. Although encaustic panel paintings were easily portable, they often became damaged in hot weather. Soaring temperatures could easily melt the wax and destroy the image on the wooden panel.
Angel Images on Byzantine Artifacts
Representations of angels in early Christian art can be traced back to 325 A.D., when they officially were deemed dogma by the Council of Nicaea. Archangels gained popularity in the Eastern Roman Empire, but were not received the same by the West. During the Middle Ages, theologians began to organize a classification system – diving angels into separate categories according to rank. Some of these categories include: Seraphim, Cherubim, Archangels and Angels. Angels became a popular motif on wooden encaustic panel icons. They were easily recognizable; therefore deeming them a powerful Christian image.
The appearance of angels is entirely conventional. Angels are thought to be spiritual beings, only consisting of matter. In art however, they are usually portrayed as human beings. In order to differentiate them from humans, angels were often depicted in movement. Othertimes, they were shown wearing armor.
Their facial features allude to unearthly origins. Angels are always depicted young and handsome. Although angels are typically referred to as male, their sex and gender have been debated throughout the history of the church. In some texts, they are stated to be androgyous in nature.