MY ITALIAN WOOD PLAQUES
When I was in Italy I fell in love with the religious icons that we would see in churches and museums. These were flat-dimensional paintings on wood, depicting scenes of veneration for sacred subjects. Color played an important part: Gold represented the radiance of Heaven, Red was divine life, Blue the color of human life and White was the essence of God.
Backgrounds were much the same...a mountain scene would indicate that the painting was outdoors, while buildings and walls meant that the event took place inside.
There has always been controversy over the use of icons since it seemed to conflict with the idea of “graven images”. I don’t know much about this aspect except that I’ve read that icons are very symbolic and the flatness of the paintings seemed to emphasize holiness and the divine, whereas three dimensional statuary was seen as sensual and glorifying the human aspect of the flesh.
Icons are used in different ways in different religions...some are kissed, some carried in processions and most are displayed in churches, religious schools & homes. As a non-church-affiliated person I saw them as religious art with the purpose to educate and inspire.
On my journey through Italy I thought about purchasing a few icons but the ones I saw were very commercialized and had none of the charm & the authenticity of the ones in the churches. I decided to compromise and see if I could still retain the flavor of the icons that I loved.
One day in Venice, while visiting the Gallerie dell’ Accademia di Venezia, I came across a large selection of religious prints for sale. It was just what I was looking for and I bought 5 of them. They rolled up perfectly into a slim tube and I was able to bring them home safely in my luggage.
I gave up the idea of simulating icons and settled for wooden plaques instead. I figured the sizes and had my son, Matthew, cut the boards...giving me at least an inch beyond the print’s circumference. Then I custom designed the edging and painted it. After it was thoroughly dry I used rubber cement to adhere the prints to the board. I then gave the entire piece three coats of a finishing varnish.
Now I have Mary and St. Francis, as well as my other plaques, on display. I know they are not icons but they never fail to remind me of those golden days that I spent in my beloved Italy.