A good piece of solid wood has to be matured and carved to obtain the ideal support for the sacred Image.
This material is the same material of the Ark of Covenant, that was made of precious wood and covered in pure gold (Es 25, 10-11). Wood is also the material that has been touched by the Body of Christ on the Cross and it keeps the memory of Him on Earth after the Ascension.
The wood of the Icon reminds us of the most sacred relic.
A layer of white linen cloth is applied on the wood using organic glue. Linen textiles appear to be some of the oldest in the world; their history goes back many thousands of years and they were used in ancient civilizations including Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. Linen is mentioned in the Bible.
This cloth reminds us of the cloth that Jesus was wrapped when He died and the cloth where his first images were impressed during his life, the Veil of Veronica and the Veil of Edessa.
The linen surface is then covered with many layers of levkas, that is a mixture of whiting (gesso) and organic glue. The smooth and white gessoed surface where the Icon will be painted requires many days of work and different recipes, that vary from Schools, traditional and local materials.
The whiting powder is extracted from quarries, especially in France and Italy. The white is the colour of purity but it has also a role in the final effect of the painting.
Because many parts of the icon are painted leaving a transparency, the white of the gesso comes from behind the colours giving them their own light. This in addition to the way that the lights are painted on the figures, gives to the Icon what is called the Taboric Light.
Before painting with colours, backgrounds and halos are usually gilded with gold or silver, using the traditional bole-gilding technique or using special glues to apply genuine gold or silver leaves. The gold itself symbolises the divine light and Heaven.
The traditional pigments (pure colour powder) are mostly found in nature and can be originated from vegetal, minerals or animals. The most used is a natural ochra, a clay earth pigment which is a mixture of ferric oxide and varying amounts of clay and sand. It ranges in colour from yellow to deep orange, red or brown.
Every pigment is mixed with egg yolk, water and wine. This type of tempera was already used before Christianity. Egg symbolises Easter, the new life and water and wine are the blood and water of Jesus.