Renaissance art introduced secular artistic innovations into the traditional Christian iconography such as 3D perspective, natural light, shadow and perhaps most significantly its sensual over tone. A lot of Western religious art from the Renaissance period is almost indistinguishable from the secular art of the time other than by its religious theme.
While the appropriation of pagan elements into early Christian art was traditionally regarded as a ‘Christianisation’ of pagan art (e.g. the traditional pagan motif of the shepherd and his flock was easily propagated by Christians to express Christ the Good Shepherd), Orthodox art historians regard the appropriation of secular artistic elements during the Renaissance as a ‘paganisation of Christian art’, an ‘obscuration’ of the traditional transcendental nature of the Byzantine icon that was achieved in particular through the dissimulation of carnal elements that were later emphasized by Renaissance painters such as Raphael (see Quenot quote below). The traditional reversal of ways of seeing in the traditional icon, e.g. reverse perspective, and the subjection of the iconographer to artistic canons are generally understood by Orthodox theologians of the icon as a challenge to the fallen world in much the same way that the preaching of the Gospel (e.g. the Beatitudes) point in a direction opposite to the ways of the fallen world.
How can one defend the revolutionary upheaval in Catholic art during the Renaissance and the decline in the presence of the icon in Catholic churches? Leonid Ouspensky in The Theology of the Icon even describes the Renaissance as ‘blasphemous’, contradicting the 7th Ecumenical Council that precisely defined the exact role of the icon.
I would be very grateful for some help please!!
My thesis touches upon the aforementioned and I have not found any comprehensive defense of Renaissance art with reference to Orthodox criticism.
Michael Quenot in The icon: Window on the Kingdom (1996, p. 78) argues that the ‘crooked heads, cross-eyes, twisted bodies and bulging bosoms (in Renaissance art), express more the disintegrated state of modern man than his thirst for a reality beyond the material world’.