Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Icon of the Angel of Silence

I recently completed this icon which is called "The Angel of Silence".  The full name should really be the "Icon of the Winged Christ of the Blessed Silence."

This is a fascinating icon because it is almost unknown and yet is such a powerful image.  It is Russian in origin.  I came across it by accident and decided I wanted to try to draw it.  Once I had drawn it, I tried to find out more about its origin, but the information is very limited.

What I did learn is that the icon is supposed to show Christ depicted as an angel based on Isaiah 9:5 where Isaiah refers to "The Messenger (Angelos) of Great Counsel".  He is the "Word in Eternity" and, the iconography is associated with the Creation and the Plan of Salvation, ordained from Eternity.  Other references from Isaiah are relevant:  42:2 "He shall not...cause his voice to be heard in the streets"; 53:7 "He was afflicted yet opened not his a sheep before the shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth."

As for the icon, itself, you see there are two four-pointed stars, one superimposed on the other, seen within Christ's halo; their eight points are said to symbolize Eternity and the whole of Creation (the octave is the symbol of completion).  Christ is clothed as a bishop (cf Hebrews 4:14 ...we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus Christ, Son of God...").

I tried playing with the colour balance again and this was the result.  I have got to stop doing this as it really doesn't add anything to the art work, but I do like the intense brightness of the colours!

Here is a picture of one of the actual icons.  This is the sort of image I used when creating my own icon.  You will notice that in this version, the winged Christ is holding a six-winged seraph in His hands.

This icon is known as the "Christ [of] the Blessed Silence", Russian, circa 1700.

Here is another version I found advertised on eBay.  This Russian icon, in beautiful antique bronze metal work, is selling for $175.  The seller is located in Estonia -- in case you are interested!

While searching for information, I came across this movie about the work of Paul Klee.  You can see why it was in my hit list as the title contains the words "angel" and "silence".  I would have just passed it by, but then I read the quote at the top of the illustration and I wanted to share it with you.  "Colour has taken possession of me.  Colour and I are one.  I am a painter."  Isn't that beautiful!

There is a lot of material on the Internet about Douma or Dumah, the Angel of Silence and Death.  Information on this angel is found in Jewish writings, including the Qabbalah and the Midrash.  Dumah means silence in Aramaic.

Supposedly, Dumah, the Angel of Silence, intercedes to keep souls on the right track.  He makes regular rounds of the graves, helping the dead retain their memories by asking them their names.  Dumah is the angel helping the souls in Sheol.

Another thing I came across during my research was the following: 
"Genesis is full of words, "and God said..." "and God said..." "and God said..."  Speech is a proven method of creating!  Silence was in the moment before God spoke.  Psalm 46:10 tells of a way to know God's essence: "Be still and know that I am God."  The Aramaic word for silence is Dumah, considered an angel of [silence and] death.  Silence is a quality that can both harm and heal.  Consider well how you speak and what you say and know that oftentimes it is wise to be still before you use the power of your voice." 

May the peace found in silence be with you all.

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