The History of Art And The Curious Lives of Famous Painters

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The Meaning of  Mythological Creatures in Gothic, Byzantine, Northern Renaissance and Italian Renaissance Painting

Christian iconography of the Renaissance period

Unicorns  symbolic of virtue and purity. The unicorn is one of the most famous of all the mythological creatures of antiquity. In Early Christian Art the unicorn symbolizes purity and chastity. It was one of the most highly regarded creatures in the heraldry of the Middle Ages.

The Bible make repeated mention of Unicorns. The horn of the unicorn is an emblem of Christ. 

In Gothic, Italian Renaissance and Northern Renaissance art, the dragon symbolises the supreme spirit of evil, a devilish serpent who must be conquered. Dragon are often depicted squirming under the foot a saint. The Dragon slain by St. George is a common allegory to express the triumph of the Christian hero over spirit of evil.  The Archangel Michael also slays a dragon.  

The Harpy is a winged creatures with the head and breasts of a woman, and the body and limbs of a vulture. It is  is a poetic creature of ancient origin. The Harpy was very ferocious, living in an atmosphere of uncleanness and polluting anything which they encountered.  In ancient times they were seen as agents of death and disease.

The gryphon or
griffin symbolizes to the union of the divine and human natures.
The griffin has the head, wings, and talons of an eagle, combined with the legs of a lion. It is usually depicted with protruding ears, indicating an keen sense of hearing, in addition to its other impressive traits.

The phœnix as a unique bird, consecrated to the sun, and known by its striking appearance and unusual colours. The phœnix was said to live for five hundred years and then become young again. From the pagans the early Christians adopted the pheonix as a
symbol, and reference to the resurrection and immortality. The pheonix became one of the earliest  emblems of the resurrection.

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




Virgin Mary



The Anchor

The Apostles



Sun and Moon



The Cross

Architectural Elements



The Saints









Household Object

Clothing and Accessories


Important Words, People, Phrases, Characteristics related to the Northern Renaissance Art Movement -  allegorical painting,  rebirth, invention of oil painting,   Hieronymus Bosch, Limbourg Brothers, Desiderius Erasmus,  Robert Campin, Jan Van Eyck, Jean Fouquet, Albrecht Dürer, Johannes Gutenberg, Johann Reuchlin, Martin Luther, rise of the merchant class, world landscape,  Low Countries, Protestant Reformation, Calvinisim, glazing, impasto, scriptorium, illuminator, invention of the printing press, woodcuts, engravings, Antwerp School, Guild of Saint Luke, commerce, Flemish School, Northern Europe, Flanders, Bruges, renewed interest in classical learning,  mythological scenes, genre painting, landscapes, portraits, moralizing overtones, human vices, lust, paradise, spirituality, piousness, living a simple life, reformHuman Reasoning,  tradesmen at work, idyllic scenes of peasantsplaying games, feasting,  linear perspective, \Heliocentric Theory, humour, satire,  spiritually significant, illuminated manuscriptidealized biblical themes, scriptorium, emotion, illuminator,  iconoclast, Age of Discovery, Virgin and Child, axonometric drawing, curiosity about the natural world,  realistic use of colours and lightOld Testament stories, Gospel parables, The Blackdeath,  Christian symbolism

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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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