19th Century, Nativity. Tempera, gold leaf, 64 x 43.1 x 5.5 cm. Gift of Dr. John Foreman, 2007. Malcove Collection M2002.017. Courtesy Art Museum University of Toronto.
In Golden Light features a selection of painted religious icons dating back as far as the 17th century, but the icon tradition is much more ancient, dating back to Byzantium. These representations of Christ, the Saints and incidents from the Gospels are supposed to originate with eye-witnesses, and even be based on autopsy. The veneration in which these images were held sparked a controversy about the propriety – or even possibility – of representing the Divine, and about the place of art in the Church. This controversy rocked the Byzantine Empire for over a century, and its conclusion was an achievement of intellectual and social consensus which established the revered position of icons in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, not only as works of art, but also as vehicles for conveying the teaching of the Church.
In an illustrated lecture, MacEwan University professor Dr. Benjamin Garstad will outline these developments, providing the fascinating historical background to the icons featured in In Golden Light.
Dr. Benjamin Garstad studied Classics and Early Christian Literature at the University of Calgary and the University of St Andrews, where he earned his Ph.D. in 2000. He subsequently taught at the University of Calgary and Brooklyn College and was a visiting scholar at Columbia University. In 2006 he joined the faculty of Grant MacEwan College, now MacEwan University, where he is Professor of Classics. His research is chiefly concerned with early Byzantine literature and the Byzantine chronicle tradition.