an icon isn't (or at least isn't only) a representation or depiction of something or merely a symbol for it, but rather a window or "portal" (to use a currently popularised word) - and even those two descriptions are inadequate. The icon actually embodies some of what portrays. In religious terms, this is one of the major differences between eastern icons and western statues. The statue of a saint is generally just a representation of the saint or whatever (however holy it may be). The icon, by contrast, has a direct connection (as it were) with what or who it portrays.. When viewing the icon, you are - in a real if limited sense - actually seeing who is portrayed.
Originally Posted by Sparky
Like all apologies. not a 100% fit, but pretty close to the point being made.
(and don't bother doing a Wiki check on "icons" - the intro to their piece is about as incorrect as you can get - which is why i always approach the Wikipedia with caution. I find at least 1 in 2 of the entries I know something about in detail to have numerous mistakes)