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icon

An icon (from Greek εἰκών eikōn "image") is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, and certain Eastern Catholic churches. The most common subjects include Christ, Mary, saints and/or angels. Though especially associated with "portrait" style images concentrating on one or two main figures, the term also covers most religious images in a variety of artistic media produced by Eastern Christianity, including narrative scenes. Icons may also be cast in metal, carved in stone, embroidered on cloth, painted on wood, done in mosaic or fresco work, printed on paper or metal, etc. Comparable images from Western Christianity are generally not described as "icons", although "iconic" may be used to describe a static style of devotional image. Eastern Orthodox tradition holds that the creation of Christian images dates back to the very early days of Christianity, and there it has been a continuous tradition since then. Modern academic art history considers that, while images may have existed earlier, the tradition can only be traced back to the 3rd century, and the images that survive from Early Christian art were often very different from later ones. The icons of later centuries can be linked, often closely, to images from the 5th century onwards, though very few of these survive. There was enormous destruction of images during the Byzantine Iconoclasm of 726-842, although this did settle for good the question of the appropriateness of images. Since then icons have had a great continuity of style and subject; far greater than in the images of the Western church.
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