A Thousand Words
by Andrei Rublev
by Mary Elizabeth Podles
Some time in the early years of the fifteenth century, the painter Andrei Rublev produced this icon of the Trinity, possibly for the church of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, which he himself had entered at an early age. I say "produced" rather than painted, because to an Orthodox iconographer, it is the Holy Spirit who inspires any sacred image, and the painter who transcribes it with his hands. Thus, the iconographer would never sign a painting as being by Andrei Rublev, but rather by the hand of Rublev.
Ideally, too, an iconographer should be a man of prayer who leads a holy life; at least in Rublev's case, this happened to be true, and he is recognized by the Orthodox Church as a saint. But good intentions, alas, do not always produce good art. It is also extremely fortunate that Andrei Rublev was an exceptionally gifted painter. A few words about this, his most famous icon, might begin to demonstrate the depth of his talents.
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Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.
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