Forgotten for almost a century, this art form has become very much a part of the Eastern European cultural identity after the fall of the Iron Curtain. The style itself developed during the Byzantine Empire and continued in an uninterrupted succession with the same technique and characteristics throughout the Middle Ages and well into the 19th century. In the late 1800's it began to loose popularity, being replaced by a more westernized style reminiscent of the renaissance and baroque paintings found in the west. Much of the old craft was lost or forgotten. In recent years, however, scholars rediscovered the artistic value of the ancient Icons. Coupled with a renewed sense of spiritual identity after the fall of communism, it caused a revival of Byzantine Icon painting throughout the world. Today many artists are painting icons in the traditional egg tempera and water-gilding techniques passed down through the generations, as they have regained popularity in Eastern Orthodox Churches.
These Icons are all painted in the traditional media made entirely by hand with natural pigments and materials. The support is made of poplar or birch wood covered with a traditional rabbit-skin gesso. The paints are mixed by hand from powdered pigments and an egg yolk solution. All gilding is done with gold leaf on a natural red clay bole. The final product is varnished with an oil mixture and allowed to cure for several months, creating a durable permanent surface with little or no shine.
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