The Eikonikon Lexicon

The Eikonikon Lexicon

As a service to its readership, the Eikonikon website provides a comprehensive lexicon, currently only available in the Dutch language. You can find the link under the heading ‘general’ on the Eikonikon homepage.

The Eikonikon Lexicon was written and illustrated by Robert de Caluwé, an orthodox priest and icon painter in his own right. With his extensive background brought to offer, de Caluwé’s work is unsurpassed in thoroughness and depth of information.

In the foreword, Robert de Caluwé explains how he learned iconic painting from Pimen Sofronof, when he served as an interpreter in Rome in 1934. In a claim made by Vladimir V. Krasilin, Pimen Sofronof and Pimen Frolof are the only two individuals who have preserved the elegance, meticulousness and clarity associated with the ancient technique of Russian icon painting. It is for this reason that de Caluwé chose to dedicate the lexicon, in humble gratitude, to these highly accomplished masters.

The lexicon is a practical guide for people who want to deepen their knowledge of icons and iconology. Containing a wealth of iconographic information, it was written for the benefit of those who practice the art. But it is much more than that. The lexicon extends it scope to provide important insight into orthodox liturgy by describing the parameters and attributes which de Caluwé, as a liturgist of the Eastern Religious Service, knew intimately. A lexicon’s function, by definition, is to be brief and to the point, disregarding any superfluous information. For going deeper into individual entries, de Caluwé provided references and resources for further research and enquiry.

The following is an example of the wide-ranging inclusiveness and meticulousness of the lexicon. De Caluwé included information – with precise attention to the terminology of the time – as well as quotes from the Lentulus letter taken from the Moscovian Reijse by Nicolaas Witsen. Witsen was a Dutch statesman in the Golden Age and among his many achievements, was also an expert in Russian affairs. One of earliest ‘explorers’ to the region, in 1690 Witsen published the first map of Siberia.

Robert de Caluwé completed his masterpiece in Visingsö, an island in Lake Vättern in Sweden where he lived. The first edition of the Lexicon appeared in Helsinki in 1988 at Painomies Oy. From 1991 it was sent as an apart supplement with Eikonikon magazine. These accompanying sheets of paper had been created by meticulously cutting and pasting de Caluwé’s information together. Since 2002, as a gratis service to the readership, it can be downloaded as a PDF from the Eikonikon website.

Unfortunately due to conversion to digitization, the Greek and ‘Old Church Slavonic’ (a language used in ecclesiastical manuscripts) have been dropped from the online edition. Eikonikon is exploring the possibility of adding these texts and, thus, restoring the original, illustrious work of Robert de Caluwé.  In this way, the wealth of information in this masterpiece will, once again, be made available to wider audience.

(Author: Peter van den Hoven, iconographer and artist)