- The use or study of images or symbols in visual arts.
- The visual images, symbols, or modes of representation collectively associated with a person, cult, or movement.
Above, “Matthew the Evangelist, the author of the first gospel account is symbolized by a winged man, or angel. Matthew's gospel starts with Jesus' genealogy from Abraham; it represents Jesus' Incarnation, and so Christ's human nature. This signifies that Christians should use their reason for salvation.” (Wikipedia) He is also frequently seen writing in a book. Matthew: the man.
Fol. 104v and 105r of the Egmond Gospels. The evangelist Luke and his symbol, ca. 900 AD, Koninklijke Bibliotheek Website, Franco-Saxon illuminator, Wikimedia Commons
Above, “Luke the Evangelist, the author of the third gospel account (and the Acts of the Apostles) is symbolized by a winged ox or bull – a figure of sacrifice, service and strength. Luke's account begins with the duties of Zacharias in the temple; it represents Jesus' sacrifice in His Passion and Crucifixion, as well as Christ being High priest (this also represents Mary's obedience). The ox signifies that Christians should be prepared to sacrifice themselves in following Christ.” (Wikipedia) Luke: the ox
Above, “John the Evangelist, the author of the fourth gospel account is symbolized by an eagle – a figure of the sky, and believed to be able to look straight into the sun. John starts with an eternal overview of Jesus the Logos and goes on to describe many things with a "higher" level than the other three (synoptic) gospels; it represents Jesus' Ascension, and Christ's divine nature. This represents that Christians should look on eternity without flinching as they journey towards their goal of union with God.” (Wikipedia) John: the eagle.
"[…] the usual accompaniment to Christ in Majesty when portrayed during the same period, reflecting the vision in Revelations. They were presented as one of the most common motifs found on church portals and apses, as well as many other locations. When surrounding Christ, the figure of the man is usually at top left – above Christ's right hand, with the lion above Christ's left arm. Underneath the man is the ox and underneath the lion is the eagle. This both reflects the medieval idea of the order of "nobility" of nature of the beasts (man, lion, ox, eagle) and the text of Ezekiel 1.10. […].” (Wikipedia)
Center of the ceiling of the "Velatio" cubicle: the Good Shepherd (also sheep and doves with olive branches in trees). Location: Catacomb of Priscilla, Italy, Rome. Date: Second half of the 3rd century, Wikimedia Commons
Above, "the title Lamb of God for Jesus appears only in the Gospel of John, with the initial proclamation: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" in John 1:29, the title reaffirmed the next day in John 1:36. The second use of the title Lamb of God takes place in the presence of the first two apostles of Jesus, who immediately follow him, address him as Rabbi with respect and later in the narrative bring others to meet him." (Wikipedia)
The Holy Spirit depicted as a dove, surrounded by angels, by Giaquinto, 1750s.Wikimedia Commons
Iconography has been around since the Paleolithic times. Unfortunately, those are studies the Thursday Art Group of 5 (TAG-5) visited prior to the start of this blog. One may not always know what all the symbols mean, but it is definitely an artistic language. The next time you visit a museum or church, start seeing at what you are looking at with different eyes―a new appreciation of what you see may appear―especially those religious sections that frequently get passed by quickly or you don't pay too much attention to! My thought is that to appreciate the art, one must know more about the art. One doesn't even have to like it. This is art appreciation.
P.S. As you may already have observed, there are just few actual images from the Carolingian period on this post. Since free and copyright free images are what I post, it can’t be perfect; the visual references seemed more important. Okay, I’m having my own pity party here people!