Where so-called art experts have degraded icons to mere “art”, the icon has become an object of trade.  As intriguing “mysteries of the Eastern world” with somber figures in dark surroundings and mystically shining gold, the icon has become a sought-after collector’s item, opening wide the doors for money-hungry forgers.  Trade in icons is booming and prices rise and fall with the number of woodworms and the amount of “patina”.  Not only art experts, but also artists themselves are participating in this nonsense involving the noble icon, and are successfully producing artistic “genuine old icons”.  Shady circles in Russia are involved in the business, enabling snobs the world over to hang certified icons above their fireplaces. 

Printed icon blackened with a burner.

Following are some examples of some particularly popular fakes:

Tin covering with cheap, small pictures behind.

Postcard covered with onion lacquer.

Icon printed on old wooden board

Picture of Christ by an artist

  Transfer picture of Christ with brass casing - looks particularly valuable

  Icon print on old wooden board.

  Old icon not cleaned - expensive?

The same icon cleaned - worthless?

Visitors to the Icon Centre often ask how one can recognise a genuine icon.  To such a question there is but one correct answer: only the icon we receive not through art but from holy, Christian tradition and which has been consecrated for service to the Church is genuine.  Unfortunately, the people of today, living as they are within the confines of rationalism, are baffled by this reply.
Holiness, Christianity and tradition have become foreign words, which have either lost their meaning or have a distorted meaning. 
The question of whether an icon is genuine or not is more than a hundred years old.  At that time, the icon was discovered by aestheticians, initially as an art object, later as an object of trade.  Because trade is usually associated with greed, forgeries are encouraged.  Fake icons have meanwhile become so rampant and perfect that the non-professional become lost.  Even the “expert” has trouble differentiating. 
Art connoisseurs and rich snobs drive the prices at auctions in London, Paris or New York so high that trading can only be done behind closed doors.
With the divine, man’s eternal longing for holiness, for mysticism, man’s hunger and thirst for happiness, fulfillment and possessions along with the powerlessness, lack of knowledge and naivete of many people lucrative business is carried out and manipulations carried out.  Often there is the desire to be able to “buy” some of this Holiness to appease one’s conscience and because it represents tradition.  And so pictures of the Saints are produced and replicated and to these are attached “Certificates of Authenticity” - with growing demand.  Thus the icon is debased and misused!   
Originally, icons were only allowed to be painted by order, presented as a gift or passed on within the family – from generation to generation – but never sold or traded in.  The icon is the property of the personage represented!  Such practices as described here will cause one to remember with wistfulness the long distance in time (700 years) which lies between these products of worldly painters and the original pictures by iconographers, which are not of this world.  Iconographers  such as Alexej Saweljew was!
A. Saweljew has said. “The icon is not produced for man! Trade in icons is theft!  There are no old, dark icons!
 Trade with icons is a theft! There are no dark, old icons! The icon is always the light of love, happiness and truth!  The snob cares not whether an icon is a fake or stolen, the icon has only to be expensive….and worth something!”

  On to “Icon? Art?”