This book provides basic information about the topics that were popular subjects in painting, sculpture, and the decorative arts in Italy and northern Europe during the 17th century. It is a good place to start when trying to understand the story that is represented in a work of Baroque art.
The first of these books discusses both secular and religious iconography by broad themes or activities (e.g., envy or expulsion). The other two books are classics in the field of Christian iconography. Reau is in French, but even if your French is not that good, it is still worth consulting it. All three books deal with the variations and evolution of major iconographic themes. Bibliographical references and numerous illustrations are also provided.
Butler is the standard, authoritative, classic source of biographical information on the principal saints. The basic arrangement is by feast day. The others describe how individual saints have been represented in works of art and can be very helpful in understanding the scenes in which they are depicted.
Retelling the stories of figures from the Bible and classical mythology, these books are illustrated with full-color reproductions of art works from the Renaissance and later, to illustrate how these stories have frequently been represented in the visual arts.
If you are looking for information on animals and their symbolism in art, this book is for you. It is especially noteworthy for its comparative approach, discussing the representations and meanings of animals in diverse world cultures and in different time periods.