Following a recent visit to the studio, near Bassano del Grappa, of master 0f the art of iconographry, Anna Maria Tondello, we mulled over the degree to which even art collectors understand whether they have acquired real art or a faithful art but ‘incompetent’ copy.

Nothing could be more true in the creation of the art of iconography. The Tondello sisters have studied over many years the sacred meanings and details of every one of the many steps and processes in the creation of art of iconography and faithfully reproduce these in every work.

We recently visited both Istanbul and Athens and sought out the religious shopping sectors in search of the characteristics that Anna Maria detailed for real work. We were surprised that works that we would have considered to be faithful art of iconography lacked even the basic palette on which the eventual painting could be produced.

We were reminded of an earlier visit to Turkey when driving to see a large Roman theatre we came across a roadside stall promoting in all honesty ‘Real Fake Watches’. This brought home to us four possible levels of ‘luxury’ products. The products made under contract to the brand name using authorised components and sold by the brand name outlets are ‘Real Real’. Then there are ‘Fake Real’, ‘Real Fake’ and ‘Fake Fake’. All these variations occur in fashion and fashion accessories. Yet in the world of sacred art, it seems that there is a different category, the one where ignorance of what is real causes the creation of something that, at best, is not ‘true’ traditional art of iconography.

It takes over 10 years to become a master of the art of iconography!

Anna Maria tells of the origin of the techniques of iconography found in the tombs of the Egyptian pharaohs. Every aspect of the preparation was essential for the sarcophagus and relics to survive the thousands of years in the tomb. The techniques of iconography are the same as those of the wood sarcophagus. The knowledge of wood preparation and painting crossed the Mediterranean and arrived in Turkey and Greece where they started to be used in sacred art.

The same patient care and devotion exists in true iconography so that a work of art produced by the Tondello sisters will last hundreds of years without degradation of shape, form, colour or lustre.

Visitors to the studio of Anna Maria are shown the steps in creation with examples at each stage, from selection of the raw timber to the finished work of art, completed some months later. Energitismo is planning an exhibition of the art of iconography by the Tondello sisters to be held in Veneto, at which the key steps in creation will be presented, to enable the viewer and collector to understand what to look for in real iconography and what is true value.

Watch ‘Events’ in the Energitismo Journal.

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