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The Symbolism of Clothing in Gothic and Renaissance Painting
 Narrative paintings, with their layer upon layer of vivid symbolism, provided instruction to the wealthy church goer as well as uneducated peasants seeking scriptural guidance. According to author Carleton Eldredge Noyes, "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.."Paintings throughout Western history have been used as guides in illuminating the divine mysteries of Gods Holy Word.  The clothing worn by people often denotes wealth, status, purity and much more.

Byzantine, Gothic and Early Renaissance paintings are rich in philosophical and Christian symbolism regarding clothing.

Red cloak, coat symbolizes love, power, church authority
, wealth, nobility, royalty. The devil, demons, and those suffering from melancholy and are also depicted wearing red.

Ermine stole or coat -  Often associated with the power, wealth aristocracy or royalty.

Blue robe, dress, cloak
symbolizes heaven, purity. Saint Peter and the Virgin Mary are often depicted wearing blue.

Gold robe, dress, cloak denotes royalty, purity, wealth,  religious,
purity saintly, holy, righteousness.

A figure holding or wearing dark beads with or without small cross attached. 
The beads are a rosary. The rosary is part of Catholic church and symbolizes the veneration of the Virgin Mary.

White dress, robe or cloak is associated with angels, Virgin mary, purity, innocence, religious, saintly, holy, righteousness.

Figure dressed in rags, old torn clothing symbolizes poverty, a hermit, rejection of worldly goods.

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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









Household Object

Clothing and Accessories


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Important Painters Born in the 13th Century
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Important Painters Born in the 19th Century


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