Divine Beauty Without Colors

St. Gregory of Nyssa contrasts any human graphic artist with God who Gregory says creatively made humans in His own image.  God is thus the first artist and iconographer.  In making us humans in His image and likeness, God does not rely on colors to reveal Himself.  Rather, God imbues each human with virtues, these are his paint colors by which He makes visible His image in each of us.

“It is true, indeed, that the Divine beauty is not adorned with any shape or endowment of form, by any beauty of color, but is contemplated as excellence in unspeakable bliss.

As then painters transfer human forms to their pictures by the means of certain colors, laying on their copy the proper and corresponding tints, so that the beauty of the original may be accurately transferred to the likeness,

so I would have you understand that our Maker also, painting the portrait to resemble His own beauty, by the addition of virtues, as it were with colors, shows in us His own sovereignty:

and manifold and varied are the tints, so to say, by which His true form is portrayed: not red, or white , or the blending of these, whatever it may be called,

nor a touch of black that paints the eyebrow and the eye, and shades, by some combination, the depressions in the figure, and all such arts which the hands of painters contrive,

but instead of these, purity, freedom from passion, blessedness, alienation from all evil, and all those attributes of the like kind which help to form in men the likeness of God: with such hues as these did the Maker of His own image mark our nature.”

(On the Making of Man, Kindle Location 187-195)

It is virtues which God uses as the hues to paint us in His image.  Paint colors are of no value in this process, since God is invisible, and His beauty and goodness cannot be portrayed in colors.  Instead, His image can be conveyed in humans through the goodness found in each of us.  Each virtue we exhibit in our life turns out to be one more color in the picture of God’s image.

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One thought on “Divine Beauty Without Colors

  1. Wonderful article about St. Gregory of Nyssa and the artist palette.
    It made me think about “Joseph and the Coat of MANY COLORS”. Could MANY COLORS here mean virtues? His brothers were jealous of little Joseph. Did Joseph become his father’s favorite because of his VIRTUES? and the coat?

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