The Icon as the Revelation of Eternity in Time

Giuseppe Di Giacomo


The essay proposes a notion of “icon” understood, according to the paradigm born of the Second Council of Nicaea (787 AD), as a visible image of the invisible qua invisible. In this light, the distinctive feature of the icon-image is its ability to manifest the paradoxical identity-difference relationship that links visible and invisible, and, consequently, representable and unrepresentable, immanence and transcendence, eternity and time. By offering itself as the privileged place for the presentation of an absence and of a “withdrawal” (the withdrawal of the invisible from the visible through the visible), the icon is distinguished in the first place by its apophatic and kenotic character. In this sense, the salient trait of the icon is its constitutive disquiet: it is founded on the “relational economy” of the image, which implies the need of an incessant articulation of the relation between visible and invisible. We can thus see in the icon the paradigm itself of “great art”: indeed, like the icon, great art is always primarily characterised by its disquiet, that is its ability to make transcendence appear in immanence, the Other of the visible appear in the visible.


icon; visible-invisible; incarnation; apophatic character; art

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