I have a new article published in the Orthodox Arts Journal – From Cubism to the Romanesque (to the Orthodox icon?). It follows on from my previous piece about the attempt of Charlemagne and his court to attack the Seventh Ecumenical Council and the veneration of icons. In that article, drawing on the arguments of the Cubist painter, Albert Gleizes, I drew a distinction between ‘rhythmic’ art and figurative or imitative – representational art. For all its stylisation and ‘abstraction’ the icon is a representational art, it embodies a ‘likeness’ to the Person represented. The question then is what role if any an essentially rhythmic approach, such as was, or may have been, embodied in Romanesque art, can play.
A ‘rhythmic’ Christ in Glory surrounded by the Evangelists by Albert Gleizes.
A Romanesque Christ in Glory (St-Savin-sur Gartempe)
An article I have written has been published by the online Orthodox Arts Journal under the title The Seventh Ecumenical Council, the Council of Frankfurt and the Practice of Painting. The Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787 AD gave authoritative approval to the veneration of icons. The Council of Frankfurt (794 AD) was summoned by Charlemagne as part of his project of distancing the Western Church from the Roman Empire centred on Constantinople. Charlemagne wanted to condemn the practise of venerating icons but was inhibited by the Pope (Hadrian I). I am arguing that although this was all obviously political there was a real difference between the classical culture of Rome and the culture of the peoples gathered round Charlemagne who had never been part of the Empire, most notably the Celts (Irish and Welsh) and Anglo Saxons (in particular the Northumbrians who had been converted to Christianity from Ireland). The main texts arguing for the veneration of icons, by St John of Damascus and St Theodore the Studite, were unknown in the West, but if they had been known, I suggest that the ‘insular’ monks would not have understood them. The argument was based on the idea that the artist’s job was to produce a likeness of something in the natural world. The insular (Celtic/Anglo Saxon) idea was quite different. I characterise it as ‘rhythmic’ and try to give a summary account of it.