On Poor Iconography

The Council of the Hundred Chapters (Stoglav) Moscow, 1551

Let those who up to now have painted icons without having learned to, who paint fancifully, without either practice or conformity to the image, have their works taken away from them and sold to simple and ignorant people in the villages for next to nothing: the painters of these icons will be obliged to learn from good masters.

Whoever, by the grace of God, starts painting according to the image and the likeness, let him paint. Let the one from whom God has withheld such a gift abandon painting altogether, so that the name of God may not be blasphemed by such paintings. If anyone breaks this ruling, let him be punished by the Tsar and brought to judgment. If some people answer you this way, “This trade provides us with a living; it is our daily bread,’ do not be swayed by this objection because it is their ignorance that is speaking, and they do not feel guilty of any sin. Everyone cannot paint icons: God has given men various trades and professions, other than icon-painting. These other livelihoods are capable of feeding them and assuring their subsistence. The image of God must not be given to those who disfigure it and dishonor it.

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