The icon is used as an aid to worship in churches of the Byzantine tradition, and are also kept in the houses of believers. The icons found in Lemko churches (and homes and recently, museum collections) for the most part belong to the Galician school of iconography. Today there are thousands of Lemko icon on display in Polish museums. Foremost among these are the collections in Nowy Sacz, Przemysl, Krakow, Sanok (over 600 icons) and Lancut (over 800 icons). Many of the icons discussed in this section are pictured in appendix VI.
Migrants to the region who were already Byzantine Christians brought icons from elsewhere which influenced later iconography.95 There can now be said to exist a distinct Lemko style of icon painting, though some scholars minimize the differences between Lemko and other Galician icons.96 The Galician school was influenced by early contacts with Byzantium, Bulgaria, Kiev, and Novgorod.97 In the 15th and 16th centuries, Serbian and Bulgarian influence predominated. After the Union of Brest, canonical iconography declined as a pronounced Latin influence entered the area. Iconography became realistic and fleshy on the model of western religious art. By the 1700s, what remained of canonical iconography had become "folk" with many stylized and ornamental elements and incorporating certain themes of western religious art.98
The bulk of icons in the Lemko Region probably originated in one of three workshops: Peremyshl, Rybotychi (south of Peremyshl, since the 17th century) and Nowy Sacz. Before the Union of Brest, the Peremyshl workshop had a long period of contact with Greece and the monastic center of Mount Athos; thus the Peremyshl icons are closest to the Byzantine prototypes. A smaller number of icons may have been painted by local artists in or near the villages where they are found.
A distinguishing trait of Lemko icons is their subjects. The most popular subjects are the saints Paraskeva, Nicholas, Demetrius, Basil the Great, Barbara, and Kosmas and Damian, as well as the Crucifixion and the Last Judgment.99 Many of these icons are of archaic saints (e.g., Paraskeva, Kosmas and Damian), are of rare subjects (such as Saint Symeon the Stylite from the church of that name in Kostarowce/Kostarivci, Sanok county), or follow ancient prototypes (especially the Saint Nicholas and Virgin and Child icons).100 Another characteristic of Lemko icons is an extreme diversity of styles, from restrained simplicity to monumental compositions deriving from the monumental art current in Rus' lands from the 11th to the 13th centuries. They also have certain similarities. They exhibit a distinct emotional character, expressiveness, and bright decorative coloring.
In Lemko icons are often seen red and green backgrounds, as in the murals of Kiev's Saint Sophia Cathedral and the Church of Saint Cyril. The Kievan style is pronounced especially in the church in Vanivka, in the mural of the Nativity of the Mother of God and the Deesis (The Supplication) from the icon screen. The Kievan influence is also reflected in Lemko icons by the frequently-appearing Kievan saints Vladimir, Olga, Boris, and Gleb.101
The "classic" Lemko icon representing the Galician school is the "Virgin of Florynka" today in the Sanok museum. It depicts the Virgin Mary enthroned, holding the child Jesus, surrounded by an elliptical mandorla with four red triangles at the corners. This icon is unique because it is typically the adult Christ enthroned surrounded by the mandorla who is represented in this way.102
In the villages of Nowy Sacz and Grybow counties can be found some of the best examples of the Lemko folk icon. These and other icons from Lemko workshops favor light, fresh colors, especially red.103 Some of these are: Saint Michael the Archangel, the Virgin Hodigitria, and the Crucifixion from the church in Szczawnik/Shchavynk (Nowy Sacz county); Saint Michael the Archangel (Stawisza/Stavysha, Grybow county); Saint Demetrius Leluchow/Leljuchiv, Nowy Sacz county); Christ the Ruler of All - Pantocrator and the Annunciation of the Mother of God (Jastrzebij/Astrjbyk, Grybow county).104
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