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The Hidden Symbolism  of Colors in Western Art   

 For painters of the Byzantine, Gothic and Early Renaissance periods, fruit was part of a rich visual language.  Art-works exhibited in public, mostly in churches and courthouses, were a stern proclamation that everyone could readily understand. William H. Hunt once wrote "When language was not transcendental enough to complete the meaning of a revelation, symbols were relied upon for heavenly teaching, and familiar images, chosen from the known, were made to mirror the unknown spiritual truth." Paintings, with their layer upon layer of vivid symbolism, served as a grim reminder to anyone harboring lustful thoughts or indulging in carnal pleasures.  They warned the viewer that death was just around the corner and Satan was at the ready with his pitchfork. Paintings throughout Western history have been used as guides in illuminating the divine mysteries of Gods Holy Word.  Byzantine, Gothic and Early Renaissance paintings are rich in philosophical and Christian symbolism regarding the Colors.


The symbolic interpretation of Colors used in  Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance Painting

Gold - used as a background color or in a halo symbolizes  purity, royalty and glory of life after death.  Gold is associated with wealth,  royalty and heavenly rewards and riches.

Blue -  symbolizes purity; The Virgin Mary; Virgin and Child; The Immaculate Conception.

Purple - symbolizes Christ in Majesty, In Byzantine Style painting Important Holy figures wear purple robes, outlined in red.

Red- a symbol of greediness and lust. Denotes sin; sins of mankind, original sin; temptation, Judas, Harrowing of Hell, The Fiery Furnace, Slaughter of the Innocents, Apocalypse. Red also denotes power and authority

Green -  symbolizes the Resurrection, the Ascension, Baptism.  Green also symbolizes  peace, spring, spiritual renewal, rebirth and new life

White - is a sign of innocence; Birth, Youth, Betrothal and Marriage; The Virgin Mary; Virgin and Child; The Immaculate Conception, The Holy Family and angels.

Grey/Black/Dark Brown - symbolic of the Entombment, Crosses, Crucifixes as well as darkness, misdeeds, death, witchery.

Yellow - symbolizes a remembrance of the spiritual world ; miracles, harmony, sustenance of the soul. Yellow also symbolizes spring, spiritual renewal, rebirth and new life.

Pink - symbolizes eternal innocence; The Virgin Mary; Virgin and Child; The Immaculate Conception

Orange -  a symbol of materialism and desire for worldly goods in favor of spiritual health. Denotes indulgence; carnal desires, original sin; corruption, Judas the betrayer of Christ.


The  Serpent

Good Shepherd

Boats

Adam and Eve

Key

Wheat

Mythological Creatures

Weapons

Virgin Mary

Christ

The Anchor

The Apostles

Satan

Chalice

The Cross

Architectural Elements

Fruit

Flowers

The Saints

Colors

Book

Birds

Angels

Insects

Fish

Spider

Animals

The Four Evangelists

Household Object

Clothing and Accessories

If you feel you have worthwhile information you would like to contribute we would love to hear from you. We collect essential biographical information and artist quotes from folks all over the globe and appreciate your participation. When submitting please, if possible, site the source and provide English translation. Email to millardmulch@gmail.com  

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Popular Questions About Art History


What impact did Calvinism have on Northern Renaissance art?

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How did the Inquisition impact European art history?

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What was the influence of the Medici Academy on Renaissance painters? 

How did the Bonfire of the Vanities impact 
Italian Renaissance"

What is Sfumato?

Who were the greatest painters of the Renaissance?

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If you feel you have worthwhile information you would like to contribute we would love to hear from you. We collect essential biographical information and artist quotes from folks all over the globe and appreciate your participation. When submitting please, if possible, site the source and provide English translation. Email to historyofpainter@gmail.com




  

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