The Hidden Symbolism of Insects in Western Painting

Byzantine, Gothic and Early Renaissance paintings are rich in philosophical and Christian symbolism regarding insects. Most prominently featured Insects in Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance Painting

Cicada - symbol of prayer, sanctuary and hope

Caterpillar - symbolize the life cycle, regeneration, rebirth

Fly - symbol of rot, wasting away, decay, death, melancholia

A fly hovering over a church official or nobleman indicates disfavor with the  king or corruption and dereliction of duty.

A fly hovering over a maiden or noblewoman suggests shamelessness or a woman given to lustful actions.

Wasp - indicates the presence of evil; of the devil, Satan's henchmen are close at hand, fallen angel, the apocalypse

Bee - symbol of martyrdom (the bee sacrifices his own life to save the hive)

A bee crawling on a piece of rotting fruit symbolizes corruption of the body or the onset of disease and death. Often depicted to remind the onlooker of their own mortality.

Dragonfly -symbol of free will

Ladybug - symbol of healing, restoration and divinity

Spider - when a web is placed near a person in a painting it symbolizes the person as one who plots destruction.

A spider web is symbolic of monarchy or church intrigue.

A spider shown scudding out of a web indicates a devilish activities are afoot.

A spider on an apple represents Satan hand in the temptation of Eve and the Fall of Man into sin filled wantonness.

A spider perched on a cup symbolizes matrimonial discord or infidelity. 

A spider sitting on a pillow indicated self-gratification and debauchery.

Beetle - symbol of salvation, immortality

Butterfly - symbolize the life cycle, regeneration, resurrection

Ant - symbol of destruction, homicide, defeat.

Maggot - - symbol of deterioration, mortality, decadent lifestyle, Satan, Armageddon

 Firefly - represents renewal, youth, hope, new beginnings, young love

 symbols in art





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