The History of Art And The Curious Lives of Famous Painters

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The Symbolic Meaning of  Trees in Gothic, Byzantine, Northern Renaissance and Italian Renaissance Art

  And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” — Genesis 2:16-17

Trees  represent spiritual nourishment, triumph over temptation, sustenance, spiritual renewal, strength and fertility. For painters of the 
 Gothic, Italian Renaissance and Northern Renaissance eras, symbols were part of a rich visual language. In a culture of limited literacy symbolic imagery was necessary to keep believers on the path to heaven. The tree was an essential part of mediaeval Christian iconography.  According to author Carleton Eldredge Noyes "Why did the artist paint it, is the question which sums up the truth about art. The appreciator need simply ask, What is the beauty, what the idea, which the artist is striving to reveal by these symbols of color and form? He understands that the import of the work is the idea, and that the work itself is beautiful because it symbolizes a beautiful idea; its significance is spiritual. The function of art, then, is through the medium of concrete, material symbols to reveal to men whatever of beauty has been disclosed to the artist's more penetrating vision.."


Acacia Tree - Beauty, simplicity and clarity.

Algum Tree - Symbol of Christ's humanity.

Palm Tree or frond symbolizes of victory, spiritual renewal and wisdom. "ye shall take for you in the first day the fruit of a tree of honor, spathes of palm-trees, and a branch of a dense tree, and willows of the torrent; and ye shall be glad before Jehovah your God seven days - Lev. 23:40

Almond Tree - Symbol of Christ's resurrection.

Apple Tree - represents forbidden fruit. When shown in the Garden of Eden, the apple tree symbolizes sin and mans fall from grace. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” — Genesis 2:16-17

Lebanese Cedar is a symbol of Christ.

Chestnut Tree  - symbolizes chastity and purity.

Oak Tree - represents Christ and strength.

Pomegranate Tree - symbolizes eternal life and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Christ child is often depicted holding a pomegranate.

Madonna of the Pomegranate, c.1487 by Sandro Botticelli

Olive Tree - symbolizes for peace or peace offering.

Fig Tree is a symbol of lust and depravity. The fig also symbolises fertility.

A single tree standing alsone symbolizes the Tree of Live. "And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life
was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." - Genesis 2:9





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

The  Serpent

Good Shepherd

Boats

Adam and Eve

Key

Wheat




Weapons

Virgin Mary

Christ

Trees

The Anchor

The Apostles

Satan

symbols

Sun and Moon

Chalice

Bell

The Cross

Architectural Elements

Fruit

Flowers

The Saints

Colors

Book

Birds

Angels

Insects

Fish

Spider

Animals

Household Object

Clothing and Accessories


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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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ref. ANCIENT PAGAN AND MODERN CHRISTIAN SYMBOLISM By Thomas Inman, M.D.
A Manual of the Historical Development of Art Pre-Historic--Ancient--Classic--Early Christian; with Special Reference to Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, and Ornamentation by G. G. (Gustavus George) Zerffi