Orthodox Iconography from Apostle Luke to Alyona Knyazova

The course will describe the making and spiritual underpinnings of icons, images as text ubiquitous in Orthodox Christian churches and homes.

After that overview, we examine figurative icons starting with Ptolomeic Fayoum sarcophagus paintings in Egypt and transitioning quickly to early Greek and Russians icons. We will then examine the most common types of Russian icons.

Because most icons have some text on them, we will also include a brief survey of the ninth century Old Church Slavonic language (also called Old Bulgarian or Old Macedonian) used on the icons and show how paleography can help us date icons.

We will also cover non-Russian icons including Arabic, Albanian, Coptic, and Armenian ones. In the process, our discussion will include a travelogue thru the Balkans in particular.

The last session will be an optional field trip to the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, which has the largest collection of icons in the US and some of rarest icons including a row from a 16th c. Pskov iconostasis, a pair of royal doors, and a set of miniature mineyas from the Stroganov School with a dog head St. Christopher.

Note: The Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton will be closed to all but course participants that day (April 22) and admission will be free.

Course Recordings:

Class 1 - April 1

Class 2 - April 8

Class 3 - April 15

Class 4 - April 22


Group Leader: RAOUL SMITH
Meets on: Thursdays 10:00 am to noon
Starting: 4/1/2021
Sessions: 4
Class Size: 30
Teaching Style: Lecture with questions
Weekly Preparation: None
Group Leader Biography:

Raoul Smith is a tenured professor at Northwestern University, holding a joint appointment in Linguistics and Slavic languages and Literatures. A Research Fellow at the Museum of Russian Icons, Dr. Smith established The Center for Icon Studies, founded and edited The Journal of Icon Studies, and organized and chaired its first international conference. (Full CV: https://raoulsmith1.academia.edu.)