Iconography comes up with some provocative ideas that stimulate reflection. The subtle messaging in Iconography has small treasures that get forgotten. This is a narrative icon that was classically painted by a skilled crafts person, but I have not seen another like it. It is a Byzantine Icon, one lost image with a magnificent message. The icon stirs up what it means when we say icon painters create windows to the divine.
I do not know who painted this narrative icon and saddened by its extreme damage. But even more so that we have lost this image from the records of classic iconography. The orb Mary holds is an image of herself! She is the Holiest of all Holies because she is the vessel that contained Jesus, and birthed the Christ for all of us. But here, she also holds an orb containing her own image. Curious no?
According to Jill Correnti Strienbinger
“It is said that long ago Priestesses held mirrors, and it wasn’t about checking their makeup. There is information in the Old Testament about Jewish leaders selecting flat works in bronze from the women who stood outside the tent and melted the bronze into bowls.
For me, I believe the women outside the tent used the bronze mirrors ceremoniously; the tent opening representing the entrance to the holy of holiest. It seems the women ritually prepared priests (and probably earlier priestess) to enter a holy state of mind, or pure state of consciousness, before entering. So, to me, this icon represents Mary reflected in a clear state to conceive and birth of Christ, who is Jesus in physical form and the Christ’s presence in a pure or cleansed state of consciousness. I’m likening it to how we bring ourselves into the community with others. As in, we take the time to prepare ourselves, to cleanse and calibrate, before bringing ourselves into community, communion, with each other.”
The thing about the mirror reflection in Bronze is so interesting, thank you Jill, we van look up your feed in the link above. The mirror changed humanity because suddenly we could see a clear reflection of our real selves. The invention of the silvered-glass mirror is credited to German chemist Justus von Liebig in 1835. It catapulted humanity into a new conscious state to potentially remind us of who we are as an image of God. As in, the church teaches there is no where you can go that is not God or God created everything without limit. Seeing ourselves as included in this concept is transformative. We are inseparable from God, Ourselves and One another.
I love the concept Jill Strienbinger presented. The idea Mary Queen of Heaven is holding a mirror of herself, reflected as a divine image! The image highlights the idea that we can see ourselves and know we are reflections in the world.
We need ways to nurture and develop a clear state of mind/consciousness, now more than ever. The image brings into focus the best interpretation I have found. The ancient icon image suggests a concept way before it’s time. I encourage anyone to comment on any other ideas or conclusions we might come to.
Mary Jane Miller has been steeped in the byzantine style egg tempera icon painting tradition since 1980. It is not easy to be driven by something you can’t see, to become completely absorbed by a desire you’re afraid to follow or ignore. In her studio, painting, patience and prayer are the every day format. Iconographers live and work in a sort of double dimension where time and space are distorted, image and content change reality, and solitude speaks volumes. Miller and her spouse Valentin Gomez, are both self-taught iconographers and have been quietly working together for 25 years. Miller’s BOOKS