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Signs and Symbols in Art

The Meaning of Sacred Symbols in Paintings. Most prominently featured symbols and their meaning:

A snake in an apple tree, a beautiful white lamb, a colorful peacock,  a hovering white dove, a clever crow, a robin, a mirror—all are charmingly decorative to the average viewer but for painters of the Gothic, Early Renaissance and High Renaissance eras, symbols were part of a rich visual language. In a culture of restricted literacy symbolic imagery was vital in keeping sinners on the path to heaven.

Charles Baudelaire stated, "The whole visible universe is but a storehouse of images and signs to which the imagination will give a relative place and value; it is a sort of pasture which the imagination must digest and transform."  Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance Art are rich in philosophical and Christian symbolism.  Narrative paintings, with their layer upon layers of readily understood symbolic meaning, provided  instruction to the uneducated commoners that yearned for scriptural understanding.   Paintings were used as guides that helped  illuminate the divine mysteries of  Church doctrine.

The Meaning of Sacred Symbols in Paintings. Most prominently featured  symbols and their meaning:

The  Serpent

Good Shepherd




Adam and Eve



Mythological Creatures


Virgin Mary


The Anchor

The Apostles



The Cross

Architectural Elements



The Saints









The Four Evangelists

Household Object

Clothing and Accessories

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