Art and religion have always been inextricably linked. Although the concepts of belief and faith may seem abstract to many, both played an important role in shaping the process of artistic creation. Take, for example, the Orthodox icons that are kept in art museums around the world. Many of them were created centuries ago and they are still valuable in religious, artistic, historical and cultural terms.
At a glance, there is little or no room for this type of conventional or traditional art in the contemporary world. However, the reality is not what it seems. With each passing year, religious art in all its shapes and sizes becomes more and more popular and admired. To prove it, you can look at Sotheby’s and Christie’s auctions of Russian religious objects and icons. The numbers are impressive.
But what is it that makes sacred art so precious and so sought after? There are several things you need to know to understand the real value of this phenomenon.
5 things that make religious art valuable
1. Importance for religion
Whether it is a painting or a sculpture, sacred art is one of the integral attributes of religion. In other words, each work of art should be seen as a symbol representing the essence of the religion to which it is related. For example, one can hardly confuse Christian art and Buddhist art because each type is singular and unique in itself.
If you take elements of performance art, such as dance or music, you can easily discern the impact of religious and cultural traditions, beliefs and practices on the process itself. This is why religious art is vital for the existence and development of religion.
2. Religious context
Context is everything when it comes to religious art. Why, for example, are there sacred icons? Some will say that they are simply part of the interior decoration of the Orthodox Church, while for others they are an essential part of active liturgical worship, which helps to establish a connection with God. Although both answers are correct, you have to see the context of the art to get the big picture.
Icons serve as a certain medium uniting Earth to Heaven, a sort of door or window to the sacred. Many Christians use them to pray to God, which you can witness when you visit Orthodox churches. In other words, sacred art often has not only decorative but also practical value.
3. Moral message
It is not surprising that religion is closely linked to morality. Usually, Christian paintings and icons feature different scenes from the Old and New Testaments. As you may know, holy books are made up of stories and apologues that writers use to highlight certain issues or conflicts and then find the solution for them. Ultimately, there is a moral to the story. By giving these stories a visual representation, icon painters and artists are exposing the moral message of religion.
4. Memory receptacle
Talking about history without talking about religion is almost impossible. The fact is that society and religion have always been inseparable. Therefore, archaeologists and historians generally turn to ancient literature to find more details about events, figures, artefacts, and life in different countries.
It should also be mentioned that the majority of the artists were religious themselves, so they made a great contribution to the dissemination of art in their time. Thanks to many paintings and architectural pieces, contemporaries can extract a lot of relevant and useful information to capture precise data.
5. Grand aesthetic
No one would say that sacred art is simply aesthetic and beautiful. It goes beyond churches, mosques and temples. Many people decorate their homes with all kinds of religious art and antiques. It is explained by the aesthetic power that such works of art hold. They fill the space with a unique atmosphere that can connect the mind with the Holy Spirit. In addition, people use religious art for the purpose of meditation.
No matter how secular the society is, the importance of religious art is undeniable. Not only is it important for religions, but it is also valuable for historians and ordinary people. After all, ancient craftsmanship has always been an indispensable part of cultural growth and development.