Philosopher: David Killoren (Coastal Carolina University)
Artwork: Icon of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey), Byzantine, about AD 1400. Egg tempera on gold leaf on a wooden panel.
100 Words: Byzantine icons were simultaneously treasured and commonplace, kind of like baseball cards. Also like baseball cards—or high school yearbook portraits—the figures in icons often stare unsettlingly right back at you. Such is the case here. But this icon is special: it’s an anti-iconoclastic icon. It exhorts us to look at images. It venerates veneration. To some modern observers, this icon-about-icons exhibits a kind of postmodern irony. But it probably didn’t seem that way in its natural habitat, in Constantinople, around 1400 A.D.. when the empire had collapsed, the city was doomed, and icons were thought to represent salvation.