The iconographic canon is a set of rules and norms that regulate the writing of icons. It basically contains a concept of image and symbol and fixes those features of the iconographic image that separate the divine, upper world from the earthly (lower) world.
The iconographic canon is realized in the so-called erminia (from the Greek explanation, guidance, description) or in the Russian version-originals. They consist of several parts:
• facial originals – these are drawings (outlines) in which the main composition of the icon is fixed, with the corresponding color characteristics;
• Interpretive originals – give a verbal description of the iconographic types and how the various saints are painted.
As Orthodoxy became the official religion, Byzantine priests and theologians gradually established rules for the veneration of icons, which explained in detail how to treat them, what could and should not be depicted.
The decrees of the Seventh Ecumenical Council against the Iconoclasts can be considered the prototype of the iconographic original. Iconoclasts oppose the veneration of icons. They considered sacred images to be idols, and their worship to be idolatry, relying on Old Testament commandments and the fact that the divine nature is inconceivable. The possibility of such an interpretation arises, because there was no uniform rule for the treatment of icons, and in the masses they were surrounded by superstitious worship. For example, they added some of the paint to the icon in the wine for communion and others. This raises the need for a complete teaching of the Church about the icon.
The Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council gathered the church experience from the first times and formulated the dogma of icon worship for all times and peoples who profess the Orthodox faith. on a par with Him. The dogma of icon-worship emphasizes that the veneration and worship of the icon does not refer to the material, not to the wood and the paint, but to the one depicted on it, therefore it does not have the character of idolatry.
It was explained that icon-worship was possible because of the incarnation of Jesus Christ in human form. To the extent that He Himself appeared to mankind, His portrayal is also possible.
An important testimony is the non-manufactured image of the Savior – the imprint of His face on the towel (tablecloth), so the first icon painter became Jesus Christ himself.
The Holy Fathers emphasized the importance of the image as a perception and influence on man. In addition, for illiterate people, icons served as the Gospel. Priests were tasked with explaining to the flock the true way of worshiping icons.
What Gospel expresses through word, the icon must express through image..
The decrees also say that in the future, in order to prevent the incorrect perception of the icons, the holy fathers of the Church will compose the composition of the icons, and the artists will perform the technical part. In this sense, the role of the holy fathers in the future was played by the iconic original or erminia.
The earliest fragments preserved to this day from a Greek icon-painting original are from 993.
Later, along with the adoption of Christianity, the first icons were obtained, and liturgical books were translated from Greek. Among them was translated the icon-painting original, which became a necessary accessory for every icon-painter.