image - symbol - metaphor
The term iconography; - the distinction, description and interpretation of elements and content embraced in the work of art, began to be widely used in the nineteenth century. The method existed much earlier, but it referred to religious works and occupied a small group of enthusiasts.
This search for symbolic meanings and allegories was developed into a size of the research theory by the German art historian Erwin Panofsky (1892 - 1968) during his profound explorations of Renaissance art. Places such as Warburg Institute (founded in Hamburg, now in London) or University of Princeton are in possession of rich iconographic catalogues containing a substantial photographic base of elements appearing in works of art throughout the history, and originating from legends, beliefs, superstitions, magic, or religion.
One of the most obvious examples of such elements is the white lily flower.
The scene of the Annunciation depicting Angel Gabriel bringing to Virgin Mary the news of her being chosen as a mother of the Son of God, for centuries has been subject matter of numerous artworks. In those earliest, still existing paintings, very often the meeting place of Gabriel and Mary is decorated with white lily flowers.
White lilys are symbol of purity and virginity but there were not the beliefs of Christians that gave the flowers their meaning. Already in the cultures of Minoan, ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire, white lily flowers were considered a symbol of grace, virginity and fertility. Painted in this particular scene they enhanced the mystery of the Immaculate Conception and served as an indication for those who did not recognize the characters nor the story.
Art is an endless field of hidden messages and hints; flowers, birds, trees and numerous objects… Hence our division into categories:
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