The History of Art And The Curious Lives of Famous Painters

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The Symbolic Meaning of the Sun, Moon and Stars in Gothic, Byzantine, Northern Renaissance and Italian Renaissance Art

  Art-works exhibited in public, mostly in churches and courthouses, were a stern proclamation that everyone could readily understand. These paintings, with their layer upon layer of powerful symbolism, served as a important reminder to anyone harboring lustful thoughts or indulging in carnal pleasures. They warned the viewer that death was just around the corner and Satan was at the ready with his pitchfork. Paintings throughout Western history have been used as guides in illuminating the divine mysteries of Gods Holy Word.  Bread and wine are prominently featured in painting throughout Western art history.

In a culture of limited literacy symbolic imagery was vital in enlightening the masses. Most prominently featured Fruit in Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance Painting:

Crecent Moon is an emblem of the
Virgin Mary. The crecent moon was originally the emblem of Prosperine, an ancient Roman goddess. According to author Thomas Inman "Prosperine’s symbol of a crescent moon was adopted as one of those of the Virgin Mary, and Candlemas Day, 2nd February, takes the place of the Roman festival, the candles used to illustrate the text, “a light to lighten the Gentiles,” being the representatives of the torches carried in the processions which affected to search for the lost Prosperine."
Thomas Inman further states "Under Christianity, the Virgin Mary, who, as Queen of Heaven, stands on the crescent moon, is often  pictured beneath the mystic doorway, with (the God as) a male child in her arms.

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


Search for Artists by Century

Important Painters Born in the 13th Century
Important Painters Born in the 14th Century
Important Painters Born in the 15th Century
Important Painters Born in the 16th Century
Important Painters Born in the 17th Century
Important Painters Born in the 18th Century
Important Painters Born in the 19th Century


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ref. Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism With an Essay on Baal Worship, On The Assyrian Sacred "Grove," by  Thomas Inman and John Newton