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Icons Bibliography

Icons Bibliography

An Annotated Bibliography for Books and Videos on Icons

– This bibliography was prepared by Dr. Virginia M. Kimball for The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute in 2007.


Baggley, John. Doors of Perception: Icons and Their Spiritual Significance. Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1995. ISBN 0-88141-071-3.

This book by Father Baggley has become a classic in the study of icons for readers who want to investigate their meaning. He covers historical background, biblical language relating to the imagery and its interpretation, the spirituality of the icon painter, and the visual language that icons offer. As an Anglican priest, he serves to help those in western Christianity understand the icon. His interpretation for beginners is that the "icon is a door," a portal to the spiritual world. There are some moderate color prints but the book is crammed with information for the reader to appreciate the ages-long tradition of icons.

_____________. Festival Icons for the Christian Year. Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2000. ISBN 0-88141-201-5.

Father Baggley is an Anglican priest in Oxford, England. His previous work on icons has become a classic title for those who want to study icons. In this book, he demonstrates how the beauty of icons can enrich the world of western Christianity. He connects some of the major iconographic traditions with major feasts of the liturgical year. He also connects these festal icons with liturgical texts. This book includes a collection of nice color plates, a helpful glossary, and a list of books for further reading.

Beckwith, John. Early Christian and Byzantine Art: The Pelican History of Art. New York: Penguin Books, 1979.

John Beckwith was a scholar of medieval and Byzantine art, and this work was one of the first substantial studies in English of the historical background of iconography. It reads like an academic art history book but is filled with detailed information concerning the history of various iconographic periods. In its many illustrations (black and white), the reader can see many frescoes, icons, mosaics and paintings of early Christian art, each with careful commentary.

Belting, Hans. Likeness and Presence, A History of the Image Before the Era of Art. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994. ISBN 0-226-04214-6.

Hans Belting is professor of art history at the School for New Media at Karlruhe, Germany. This book is a deeply scholarly book that gives a rich presentation on early Christian art and the importance of iconography to the development of Christian symbols. The author traces the long history of sacred image and its changing role--from the primal use of holy signs to the later use in original art work in European culture. Not only does it examine classic icon images but also it explores why such holy images are so important.

Cavarnos, Constantine. Guide to Byzantine Iconography. Vol. 1. Boston, Massachusetts: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1993. ISBN 0-943405-05-X.

Dr. Cavarnos offers a traditional, eastern description and history of iconography. He is the director of the Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies and maintains close connections with the most conservative traditions of Orthodoxy. In this book, he begins with an introduction explaining features of iconography and architecture and technical ways that icons are classified. In Part One, he demonstrates how many traditional icons are placed in ancient churches and their meaning in that location. In Part Two, he describes wall painting and mosaic icons. In an appendix, he comments on the famous writing by St. John the Damascene on the defense of iconography and the veneration of icons. This book includes a helpful bibliography and index of iconographic themes.

Cormack, Robin. Byzantine Art. Oxford History of Art. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-19-284211-0.

In this work, Cormack demonstrates how Byzantine art evolved, overturning the myth that Byzantine art remained constant from Constantinople, a locale often considered the artistic center of Byzantium. Cormack traces iconography from its beginning until the end of Byzantium under the rule of the Ottoman Turks in 1453. This book has color prints interspersed in the texts and offers extensive notes, timelines, and glossary, bibliography for further reading, a list of museums and websites, and a detailed index.

_____________. Painting the Soul: Icons, Death Masks, and Shrouds. London, England: Reaktion Books Ltd., 1997. ISBN 1-86189-00-1-X.

This book is nicely illustrated, including some lovely color plates and includes some less-well-known works of art. The author, who is a professor in the History of Art at the University of London, considers the history of iconography as it relates to understanding European art and culture. He considers how the icon underwent its final development and transformation in the transition to the art of the Renaissance.

Ebertshauer, Caroline H. Mary, Art, Culture, and Religion Through the Ages. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1998. ISBN 0-8245-1760-1.

This large book contains scores of color reproductions of art pieces and iconography that span the ages, East and West. The book is divided into cultural categories beginning with art that reproduced "Mary's Life," and then includes "Mary in Literature," "Mary and Freedom," "Mary in Music," "Mary: Dogmas, Cult, Customs," and "Mary in Art," ... although the entire edition is illustrated amply with Marian art. Some of the world's most well-known art pieces of the Virgin Mary are included; but the book also serves to show the iconographic and early Christian pieces that formed elements seen in later European art.

Evans, Helen C., Ed. Byzantium, Faith and Power (1261-1557). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004.

This is a museum bulletin of an exhibit on Byzantine art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The book is available from the Museum store and most major booksellers. It includes scholarly articles on a number of topics relevant to the late Byzantine period. This book contains magnificent reproductions of the objects in this exhibit, a collection gathered together from monasteries, museums, and churches throughout the world and perhaps never seen again in one place. It also includes a very technical and useful glossary of terms.

Evans, Helen C., and William D. Wixom, Editors. The Glory of Byzantium, Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era (843-1261). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997.

This is a museum bulletin of an exhibit on Byzantine art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The book is available from the Museum store. It includes a number of scholarly articles on a number of topics relevant to the early Byzantine period. This book contains magnificent reproductions of the objects in this exhibit, a collection gathered together from monasteries, museums, and churches throughout the world and perhaps never seen again in one place. It also includes a very technical and useful glossary of terms. Like the museum bulletin of the "Faith and Power Exhibit," this book is large and contains color reproductions.

Evdokimov, Paul. The Art of the Icon: a Theology of Beauty. Redondo Beach, California: Oakwood Publications, 1990. ISBN 0-9618545-4-5.

Father Paul Evdokimov is an archon of Orthodox theology and not only describes the beauty of the iconographic tradition but also engages the reader and introduces beauty itself as spiritual experience. Father Evdokimov was born in Russian in 1901, and pursued the meaning of evil in the writings of Dostoevsky as his first scholarly study. In 1953, he began teaching at St. Sergius and at the Institute for Ecumenical Studies in 1967. He was active in the World Council of Churches and served as an Orthodox observer at Vatican II. In this book he considers 'beauty' as a spiritual reality. He relates beauty to sacred time and space and then shows how this illumines the meaning of iconography, especially its relationship to apophaticism. In the concluding section of his book, he treats individual and well-known icons and the transcendent experience of beauty they offer for Christian life.

Hallick, Mary Paloumpis. The Story of Icons. Brookline, Massachusetts: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2001. ISBN 1-885652-42-9.

This book, meant for younger readers, is an opportunity for newcomers to icons to encounter iconography in simple terms but also to have a resource for teaching children about them. The author, Dr. Mary Hallick, was a middle-school teacher and principal of an elementary school. She became interested in religious education of Orthodox children and became a part of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Department of Religious Education which developed the Living Our Orthodox Faith textbook series. Although written for use in Christian education, the book is quite ample in its explanation of Christian symbols, the first icons, the historical iconoclasm period ("the Fight for Icons"), and an explanation of "what is an icon." Part Two presents fourteen classic icons and their meaning. The book has fine color plates and a useful glossary.

Jensen, Robin Margaret. Understanding Early Christian Art. London, England: Routledge, 2000. ISBN 0-415-20455-0.

Robin Jensen, a professor of the history of Christianity at Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Centre, Massachusetts, specializes in the history and character of the early church. She envisions the manner in which Christianity told its story through texts and images, and discusses their interrelationship.

Kalokyris, Constantine D. The Essence of Orthodox Iconography. Brookline, Massachusetts: Holy Cross School of Theology, Hellenic College, 1971.

This is a little gem of a book written by an Orthodox theologian from Greece, a professor of Christian and Byzantine Archaeology at the University of Thessalonika. It was translated by Father Peter A. Chamberas, an American Orthodox theologian at Holy Cross School of Theology in Brookline, MA. This very theological and scholarly book clearly explicates eastern theological understanding of iconography from its earliest roots and how themes were eventually replicated in western religious art, often with a transformation in meaning. The plates in this book are presented in black-and-white, but refer to classic examples of icons in the gradual historical development of styles.

Lowden, John. Early Christian and Byzantine Art. London, England: Phaidon Press Limited, 1997. ISBN 0-7148-3168-9.

John Lowden is considered an international authority on medieval and Byzantine texts. In this book he presents the historical and textual background of the iconographic tradition which explains how early Christian and Byzantine art and architecture was made. The book includes important color prints of sites where iconographic traditions were born. There is a useful glossary and charts of the historical timeline of early Christian imagery.

Mango, Cyril. The Art of the Byzantine Empire 312-1453, Sources and Documents. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, in association with the Medieval Academy of America, 1986. ISBN 0-8020-6627-5.

Writing as a professor of Byzantine Archaeology at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library in Washington, D.C., Dr. Mango presents a study of Byzantine art as it developed closely with liturgical and patristic texts. He examines in detail the sources and documents that testify to the typologies in the Byzantine iconographic tradition. The book offers a detailed and lengthy bibliography covering authors and anonymous works in the Greek, Latin and Western, Far Eastern and Slavic traditions.

Mann, C. Griffith, volume editor. Sacred Arts and City Life, The Glory of Medieval Novgorod. Baltimore: State Russian Museum, Trustees of the Walters Art Gallery, and Palace Editions, 2005. ISBN 0-911886-59-1.

This book is a large-sized museum bulletin of the collection of Novrogod icons that were on exhibit at the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, Maryland in 2005-2006. Many of the most-well-known icons come from the period of icon painting as it existed in Russia in the late Byzantine period. This book includes a number of scholarly articles and magnificent color reproductions that give the context and cultural milieu of Novrogod iconography.

Martin, Linette. Sacred Doorways, A Beginner's Guide to Icons. Brewster, Massachusetts: Paraclete Press, 2002. ISBN 1-55725-307-2.

Linette Martin, a lifelong Anglican, approached the study of Byzantine art at Oxford University. This book gives insight on icons for people of all faith traditions who now have become intrigued by the beauty and mystery of icons. Martin explores icons as a "visual language" that can be accessible to all. There is a small collection of color plates of moderate quality in this publication. Some of the details in Martin's explanations might be challenged by Byzantine scholars, but the book serves as an important ecumenical link. The book is published by Paraclete Press which dedicates its titles to spirituality having ecumenical importance.

Muzj, Maria Giovanna. Transfiguration, Introduction to the Contemplation of Icons. Boston, Massachusetts: St. Paul Books and Media, 1987. ISBN 0-8198-7350-0.

This clear and nicely illustrated book presents the study of icons as "instruments of grace." The author, Maria Giovanna Muzj, is a scholar of literature and theology. She teaches at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and wrote this book in Italian in 1987. It was later translated by Kenneth Whitehead. Muzj offers an approach that offers an introduction to contemplation with icons. She proceeds icon by icon, and explains many of the symbolic elements.

Nelson, Robert S., and Kristen M. Collins, Editors. Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai. Los Angeles, California: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2006. ISBN 978-0-89236-856-3.

The Getty Museum in Los Angeles, with the sponsorship of Getty Trust Publications, published this museum bulletin for the exhibit of the same name open from November 2006 to March 2007. Robert Nelson is a professor of the history of art at Yale University; and Kristen Collins is the assistant curator at the Getty Museum. Readers of this book commend the publication for its presentation of icons from the exhibit, expressly loaned from Mt. Sinai for this exhibit. They say that this book is great "if you couldn't be there!" The book includes scholarly articles on the Sinai icons, their history and importance.

Nes, Solrunn. The Mystical Language of Icons. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004. ISBN 0-8028-2916-3.

This is an interesting book because it is written by a woman who actually is an iconographer. The book is illustrated with her own icons painted in the traditional way. She explores in depth many of the well-known icons enriched with a discussion of references to scripture, early Christian writings, and liturgical texts of the East. In addition, the book presents the techniques of painting icons, step-by-step with photographs.

Nouwen, Henri, J.M. Behold the Beauty of the Lord, Praying with Icons. Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1987. ISBN 0-87793-356-1.

Father Henri Nouwen, a Roman Catholic priest, has taken four well-known icons and built personal meditations around them. He invites readers to reflect on the icon of the Holy Trinity by Rublev and enter the "House of Love." He then describes the icon of the Virgin of Vladimir and suggests a way to experience "belonging to God." In the third icon, he reflects on the icon of the Savior of Zvenigorod, suggesting a path to "seeing Christ." And, lastly, he meditates on the traditional icon of the descent of the Holy Spirit, seeing how God is "liberating the world." The book includes four excellent reproductions of these four icons, so that the reader may actually see them and pray with them in this spiritual exercise.

Onasch, Konrad, and Annemarie Schnieper. Icons, the Fascination and the Reality. New York: Riverside Book Company, Inc., 1995. ISBN 1-878351-53-2.

Konrad Onasch was professor at Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg, Germany and became Head of Orthodox Studies and Dean of the Faculty of Christian Archeology and Ecclesiastical Art there. Annemarie Schnieper is an art historian and journalist. This book was translated by Daniel G. Conklin. It includes scores of excellent color plates, sometimes four or five per page. Many of the reproductions are less well-known to the Western world (for example, Mary at the Well.) The commentary is scholarly and detailed. The book groups the studies according to themes and various materials from which icons have been made over the ages.

Ouspensky, Leonid and Vladimir Lossky. The Meaning of Icons. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1989. ISBN 0-913836-99-0.

Any library or collection of books on icons must include this title. This book is referenced continually, and recognized as a scholarly source for information on icons. A number of museums and private collectors, as well as monasteries and churches around the world made icons available for this study. The book includes articles explaining the history, use, and technique of iconography and then carefully presents a number of icon types with scholarly commentary. Both authors are Orthodox scholars and theologians; but their work is now used by Christians in all denominations studying icons.

Ouspensky, Leonid. Theology of the Icon. Vol. I. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1978. ISBN 0-88141-122-1.

Leonid Ouspensky is recognized as an influential iconographer and scholar on iconography. This is the first of his two-volume study which presents the foundations of Church symbolism, origins of the Christian image, early history of particular icon traditions, the character of various iconographic eras, and the history of iconoclasm which elicited a strong defense and serious consideration of icons and veneration.

_____________. Theology of the Icon. Vol. II. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1992. ISBN 0-88141-123-X.

In Ouspensky's second volume on the theology of the icon, he considers the period that immediately followed iconoclasm, the relationship of icons to hesychasm and humanism and the Paleologan Renaissance of iconography, the flowering of Russian art and its iconographic elements, and the later periods of Russian religious painting. He ends with a consideration of the icon in the modern world.

Parravicini, Giovanna, Ed. Mary, Mother of God, Her Life in Icons and Scripture. Ligouri, Missouri: Liguori Publications, 2004. ISBN 0-7648-1211-4.

In this edition, Peter Heinegg has translated Italian author Parravicini's work which represents Roman Catholic scholarship in the study of iconography of the Theotokos. The book includes fine color plates throughout the pages with commentary that includes numerous biblical references and excerpts from patristic writings. The introduction is written by Father Stefano de Fiores, a Marian scholar from the Marianum in Rome. Father De Fiores tells readers that icons complement biblical readings and patristic writings in showing that Mary is "the creature who is tota pulchra: she is the speculum sine macula; she is the "woman clothed with the sun," (Rev 12:1) in whom the purest rays of human beauty meet with the sovereign but accessible rays of supernatural beauty." For Roman Catholics, this book is surprising in showing how ancient eastern tradition deepens Catholic faith.

Pearson, Peter. A Brush with God, An Icon Workbook. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Morehouse Publishing, 2005. ISBN 0-8192-2203-8.

Peter Pearson is a well-known American iconographer who leads workshops and seminars on icons. He is a former Benedictine monk and now serves as a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. This book represents a kind of workshop for learning about the work of an iconographer and the technique of icon painting. In his introduction to the book, Rev. Andrew D. Ciferni, O.Praem. tells readers this is "instructive reading for anyone drawn to icons."

Sendler, S.J., Egon. The Icon, Image of the Invisible, Elements of Theology, Aesthetics, and Technique. Torrance, California: Oakwood Publications, 1988. ISBN 0-879038-07-02.

Father Sendler takes a rather technical approach to explaining iconography. In this book, he includes a detailed history of the iconographic tradition, a consideration of theological elements and the use of icons in defense against heresy, the cultural milieu of Byzantine iconography as a language, an exploration of the icon as types and image as sign. He then launches into a detailed study of aesthetic elements including geometric relationships within the icons, artistic characteristics of iconographic painting, theories of inverse perspective used, and the meaning of color and light. In the third part, the author gives an extended description of the mechanics and particular techniques of icon painting. This book also includes color plates and detailed bibliography of other books on icons.

Tradigo, Alfredo. and Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Los Angeles: Getty Trust Publications, J. Paul Getty Museum, 2006. ISBN-10 0892368454, ISBN-13 978-0892368457.

This is an appealing book filled with hundreds of iconographic images with a minimum but adequate amount of commentary to explain them. Tradigo is art director and art critic for Famiglia Cristiana Magazine, founded by Blessed James Alberione in 1960 (now with over a million subscribers), and has spent thirty years researching iconography. The publishing of this book coincided with the exhibit of icons from Mt. Sinai at the Getty Museum in 2006-2007.

Vassilaki, Maria, editor. Images of the Mother of God, Perceptions of the Theotokos in Byzantium. Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2005. ISBN 0754636038.

This scholarly book offers a number of articles by authorities on Byzantium in order to portray how the Theotokos was perceived in the Byzantine world. It includes a number of topics such as art history, archaeology, philology, and social anthropology. It also serves as a new and rich resource for scholars of Western Europe and the Middle Ages providing many points of comparison. The book is richly filled with both black-and-white and color plates.

DVD and VHS video recordings

Contemplating Icons, An Introduction to Icons and Prayer. Produced by St. Paul MultiMedia Productions, UK, 1989. VHS.

This video is fifty minutes long and includes five parts: icons of Christ; icons of the Mother of God; icons of saints and the prophets; the iconostasis (icon screen); and icons used in liturgical events. It serves as a good introduction to classic icons and their spiritual value. The video is narrated by a museum director.

Icons, the Eyes of God. Produced by Sanpaolo Films and distributed by St. Paul Video, Boston, MA, 1988. VHS.

This video is only twenty-three minutes long, but gives a good idea of the spiritual nature of icons in the lives of the faithful. It starts with a glimpse of icon and icon painting in Macedonia (southern Yugoslavia), samples of terracotta icons of the first century, colorful examples from the Middle Ages, and frescoes that can be seen to form a connection with Giotto's style in Italy that was to follow.

Picturing Mary, A World Icon--an Inspiration to Artists, narrated by Jane Seymour. Produced by Thirteen/WNET, New York, and The Edge Facilities Ltd. in association with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2006, Educational Broadcasting Corporation. Distributed by Questar, Inc., Chicago, IL.

This fifty-seven minute video production has been hailed as one of the best videos to demonstrate Christian art in its beginnings and in its glory. Examples of Marian art is sampled from eight countries, including Africa. There is some material on the Byzantine and iconographic art from ancient times. This video is useful to show how iconographic themes and symbols continued into western art.

The Return of The Icon. Produced by Great Takes Television Ltd., UK, 2005. DVD

This video explains the history of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God which, according to ancient legend and tradition, was painted by the Apostle Luke. The video gives the history of the icon and tells the story of its extraordinary journey into exile through war-torn Russian and Eastern Europe to safety in the United States. The video presents the historical event when the icon was returned to the monastery in Tikhvin in the summer of 2004 commemorating a remarkable step in ecumenical understanding.

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