Subjects & Symbols in Art: Christian Iconography

Resources for searching for specific topics and names as depicted in artworks.


Iconography refers to the study of subjects and themes in works of art. It is the discovery of symbolic and allegorical meanings in a work of art. Iconography involves the collection, classification and analysis of data, from which the theme or subject of a work of art is deduced. The researcher must be aware of the historical context of the work in question, and an ‘iconographic fallacy’ can occur when, for example, plainly medieval concepts are incorporated into 17th-century paintings, or when religious and secular genres become intertwined. 


Angels & Demons in Art

Christian Iconography

Kirschbaum, Engelbert. Lexikon der Christlichen Ikonographie. 8 vols. Rom: Herder, 1968-76. The first four volumes deal with general iconographic terms with the other four volumes cover saints in alphabetical order. Besides the actual iconography of a motif, the article notes the most important sources and a brief biography. Illustrations reflect major types of each subject. In German.

Réau, Louis. Iconographie de l’Art Chrétien. 3 vols. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1955–59. v.1 has articles on sources and the evolution of Christian iconography; on animal, human and liturgical symbolism; and on iconography of saints; v.2 concerns the iconography of the Old and New Testaments; v.3 concerns the iconography of the saints. In French.

Schiller, Gertrud. Ikonographie der Christlichen Kunst. 5 vols. Gütersloh: Gutersloher Verlagshaus G. Mohn, 1966–80. v.1=Christ’s incarnation, childhood, baptism, temptation, transfiguration, works, and miracles; v. 2= the Passion of Christ; v.3-5 concern the resurrection and ascension, the church and Mary. In German. An English translation by Janet Seligman (Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1971) of v.1-2 only.

Saints in Art

Christian Icongraphy Online

Christian Iconography Originally created at Augusta State Univ. in Georgia, this resource allows a search by saint's name or by topic and links to an image (or images) and description of the story behind the image.

Old Testament in Art

New Testament in Art