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Baroque Art Resources: Iconography/Symbolism

A guide to major sources of information for researching Baroque art and artists

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Guides to Iconography & Symbolism



Baroque Art: A Topical Dictionary 
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.
Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art
Dictionary of Symbols in Western Art
Symbols and Legends in Western Art 
These are exactly what they sound like, providing brief definitions for a wide range of subjects, themes, and concepts encountered in Western art. They supplement each other; so, don't pick only one!
Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography 
Iconographie de l'Art Chretien by Louis Reau
Iconography of Christian Art by Gertrud Schiller   
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's Lives of the Saints
Saints and Their Emblems 

Saints in Art 
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.
Old Testament Figures in Art
Gospel Figures in Art
Gods and Heroes in Art 
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.
Continuum Encyclopedia of Animal Symbolism in Art 
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.

Humanities Librarian

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Leanna Goodwater
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