Theology of Colours and Body
”Built as it was on early Christian and Hellenistic foundations, medieval Byzantine and Russian art thus embraced principles of form, proportion, symbolism and colour that go back to the great treasure houses of ancient knowledge. This knowledge was the essential source of energy of Christian culture and provided the wealth of thought and beauty that nourished the living tradition of icon painting for over a thousand years.
This knowledge postulated certain universal principles about God, or the Absolute, about the world and Creation, and about man. It was complemented by a body of philosophical and religious teaching which was at first communicated orally and later expressed in books and in various forms of religious art, including architecture and painting. At the highest level, the art of imagery-iconography-is a vehicle for philosophical and theological ideas. It is in this sense that icons have been defined as ”theology in colours”.
Beauty in icons has to be seen in this perspective. Medieval artists had no conception of beauty for its own sake, which is a Romantic idea dating from the early nineteenth century. For them, as for the artists of Antiquity, beauty was an attribute of the Good, which was Plato’s name for one of the highest realms of the universe.”