4th – 15th centuries
Byzantine Icon Painting – When the Religious Disagree
Byzantine icon painting can be divided into two periods in terms of painting techniques. While the early icons from the 8th century are mainly created using the encaustic technique, later paintings are created using the tempera technique, which is much easier to handle. The distinctive feature of encaustic painting is the beeswax mixed with pigments, which is heated and applied to a wooden surface. This process guarantees the long-lasting colors, which are still vibrant today. And yet only few encaustic icons have survived. The icon painters’ works were strongly condemned at the iconoclastic council of Hieria in 754. Although it cannot be proven, it is quite possible that the council’s decisions had devastating consequences for icon production in Byzantium and possibly even sealed the decline of the encaustic technique. The fact remains, however, that icons, which were produced in increasing numbers after the end of the iconoclastic crisis, were all painted in tempera thereafter.