The Mystical Language of Icons and over 2 million other books are available for Amazon Kindle . Learn more
Buy Used
+ £2.80 UK delivery
Used: Like New | Details
Sold by Wordery
Condition: Used: Like New
Comment: This fine as new copy should be with you within 7-8 working days via Royal Mail.
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

The Mystical Language of Icons Paperback – 10 Apr 2009

See all 5 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; 2 edition (10 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080286497X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802864970
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.8 x 0.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,805,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, and more.

Product Description


'An essential book for anyone wishing to have a succinct explanation of the depth and meaning in icons.' Orthodox Herald --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

SOLRUNN NES is a renowned art historian, lecturer and writer. Her icons can be seen in Aylesford Priory and in numerous churches throughout Europe and she has exhibited frequently in England, Ireland and throughout the world. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
Browse and search another edition of this book.
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt
Search inside this book:

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
See all 3 customer reviews
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This beautifully produced book is deceptively simple in its description of the icons included. Re-reading really repays the attention, and the more time you spend with the images themselves, the more there is to find. Solrunn Nes has taken both Russian and Greek traditions to find her own interpretation of the style in which the icons can be shown, and the result is pure and clean. All the images in the book are her work, and all are true to the old traditions and images. It is wonderful to see how a modern icon writer can remain so true to the integrity of each representation, yet bring her own artistic judgement and creativity to enlarge it for a 21st century sensibility. The book itself is a small masterpiece, each icon beautifully described, its essence quietly shown in words. Highly recommended!
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
By KTS on 15 Aug. 2014
Format: Hardcover
Useful information
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
8 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Peter James on 10 Feb. 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book with great photos of the icons. The icons are modern paintings.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 29 reviews
52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
A straightforward and breathtakingly illustrated guide to Christian iconography throughout history 11 Sept. 2005
By Midwest Book Review - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Mystical Language of Icons is a straightforward and breathtakingly illustrated guide to Christian iconography throughout history. Full color photographs of iconographic artworks on almost every page are enhanced with an in-depth text that describes the history, meaning, and purpose of Christian icons; the techniques that religious painters used to create these works; specific nuances of individual motifs, gestures, and colors; Christian hymns, poems and prayers appropriate to individual artworks; and much more. Written by one of Europe's most well-known iconographers, The Mystical Language of Icons is a serious-minded text yet highly accessible to lay readers, historians, and anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of iconography as a form of Christian worship, expression and communication.
59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful, Engaging, Spiritually Engaging 9 Sept. 2005
By K.H. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Iconographer, Solrunn Nes, has put together a lavishly beautiful and engaging book about Christina Icons largely in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. She discusses the painting (or writing) of icons, and one comes away with great respect for the spiritual engagement an iconographer must encounter to produce such a mystical piece of wok for the faithful.

She perfectly reminds the faithful, and educates the non-orthodox that an "icon is never complete in itself. It can never stand alone as an autonomous work of art, but refers to the spiritual dimensions." (p. 12) A brief history is provided. It is accurate, but not academic, which serves this books ministry well.

The book also presents some wonderful icons and their motifs. She shows mostly Greek and Russian icons, but also discuses theological ideas in relation to icons and Church teachings.

This is just a wonderful book which all Christians can benefit and every Orthodox believer should have at hand.
99 of 111 people found the following review helpful
God's Word in Color 13 April 2005
By Addison H. Hart - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In a time when what usually passes for religious art in the West is deplorable, it is always a sign of hope to come across the relative few who genuinely represent the tradition and (not to overstate the case in the least) the universal and authoritative canon of authentic Christian theological aesthetics. As regards the iconographic arts in particular, the essence of that canon is best expressed in the words of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (A.D. 787), which stated:

The making of icons was not the creation of the painters, but an accepted institution and tradition within the universal Church. . . . The idea and tradition came from the fathers, not from the painters. Only the art belongs to the painter, whereas the form without doubt comes from the fathers, who founded the Church. (quoted in Nes, p. 13)

In other words, the common classical heritage of Christian art is embedded in an objective tradition, one which is conventional, canonical, dogmatic, didactic, and liturgical. The antithesis of true Christian iconography in the Church is therefore that which presumes to abandon the objective for the subjective, tradition based on God's revelation for social propaganda, dogma for mere sentiment, the canon for self-expression.

Drop into just about any Christian book or gift shop and one is likely to see prominently displayed "Precious Moments" angels, or those many ghastly "Jesus" pictures that I've come to think of (depending on which of the various scenes is depicted) as "Happy Jesus," "Malibu Jesus," and (when he is shown helping children play baseball, etc.) "Jesus the Friendly Ghost."

If one continues looking around, he might descry cards or books of the skillfully rendered "icons" of either Robert Lentz ("Bridge-Building Icons") or William Hart McNichols. Lentz and McNichols have adapted the Eastern iconographic style to serve their own religious sociopolitical agenda. As such, though technically impressive, their icons do not serve as vehicles of the tradition, but as propaganda and individual expression. For example, Lentz has produced such "icons" as those of "Hagios" Harvey Milk, and Christ as an AIDS victim. (Personally speaking, if pressed at gunpoint to make the choice, I would choose "Happy Jesus" for my bedroom wall over one of these slick propaganda-icons, which constitute a far graver offense.)

Solrunn Nes, whom I was privileged to meet at the last Orientale Lumen Conference in June 2001, is the author of a beautiful antidote to such stuff. Highly regarded as an iconographer of considerable skill in Europe (her work can be found in many places, including Aylesford Priory in England and Takvam Chapel in Arna), and especially in her native Norway where she is a lecturer at the University of Bergen, Miss Nes has produced a fine guide to iconography in her recently published The Mystical Language of Icons. The book is lavishly illustrated in full color throughout with Miss Nes's own icons, each in the style of one of the various schools with which she is most conversant. All are striking and luminous, and fully in accord with the objective canonical tradition. Her work reveals how one committed prayerfully to the latter can nonetheless produce art of obvious creativity.

Miss Nes provides us with an informative introduction, the fruit of her many years of research and travel to the great centers and monasteries of Orthodoxy, detailing for the reader the technique of icon painting (or "writing," as some would say), and showing the steps with photographs. She cursorily provides the historical and theological background of Orthodox iconography, the range of motifs, and important insights into the use of form, perspective, attribute, and symbol.

The "meat" of the book, though, is page after page of her fine icons-those of Christ and the Theotokos, the feasts of the church year, the saints, and so forth-along with explanatory notes of the "mystical language" contained in each piece. As such, this book is both a crash course in the way the faith of the Fathers is conveyed through the art of the prayerful canonical painter, and a book for slow and absorbing devotional meditation.

Above all, Solrunn Nes, herself a Western European and convert to Roman Catholicism, nonetheless possesses a profound knowledge and love of Eastern Christianity, and can be recognized as a true representative of the tradition expressed preeminently at Nicea II. Two quotations from her book's introduction serve to show why this is so, and why she is an authentic iconographer (and why, incidentally, Lentz and McNichols are not):

The icon is a holy object, the form being merely a receptacle for the content. And the content is determined by the Holy Scriptures and the Traditions of the Church. That is why the work process is marked more by discipline than by [individualistic] inspiration. (p. 12)

. . . [T]he icon's motif is based on a historic event through which God has manifested himself. . . . However, in so far as the motif has a current interest over and above the historic event, a style is used which underlines its universality and timelessness. As an expression of divine revelation the icon is subject to neither the laws of nature nor the reason of man. The icon is thus no illusion of the physical, visible world, but a vision of the spiritual, invisible world. (p. 21)

Well, you won't get that with "Malibu Jesus" or "Saint Harvey Milk," but you will surely see it in Solrunn Nes. This book is unreservedly recommended.

Addison H. Hart is a contributing editor of *Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity*, in which this review first appeared.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Informative and Inspirational 23 Dec. 2006
By Robert K. Warski - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read "The Language of Icons" with the intention of learning more about the mode of religious art most characteristic of Eastern Christianity. The book far exceeded my expectations. I learned more about icons than I ever would have hoped. The reproductions of representative icons were beautiful and luminous. Moreover, the text was deeply spiritual and inspiring. The reader is drawn to meditate on the Christian message that the icons symbolize. There are books that are informative and books that are inspiring. This book manages to be both.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The Mystical Language of Icons 30 Mar. 2007
By Philip Brennan - Published on
Format: Hardcover
An excellent book for those interested in iconography.Set at a level for both the experianced writer, who wants to refresh their knowledge and yet also for the novice who would like to investigate this area.The explanations of the icons are wonderful,while the prayers from the eastern orthodox church illustrate the deep comtemplative spirit of this media.
Were these reviews helpful? Let us know