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Subjects & Symbols in Art   Tags: art, classics, iconography, images, religion  

Resources for searching for specific topics and names as depicted in artworks.
Last Updated: Jul 2, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

General Dictionaries & Encyclopedias Print Page

Basic Sources

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Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art - James Hall
Rev. ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1979. The best source for quick information about subjects, symbols, and attributes.

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Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art - Helene E. Roberts
2 vols. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1998. Alphabetically arranged essays on actions, situations, and concepts. Each essay is divided into sections on motifs and iconographic narratives.


Music in Art

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Music in Art - Alberto Ausoni. Trans. by Stephen Sartarelli
Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2009. An overview of the topic of music, musical instruments, and musical performance throughout the centuries, as depicted in Western works of art ranging from ancient sculpture to Renaissance paintings to modern art.

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Music in Art: Through the Ages - Tom Phillips
Munich; New York: Prestel, c1997. 50 short essays focus on a particular work of art or contrasts two or more approaches to a similar theme.


Symbols in Art

Illustrated Dictionary of Symbols in Eastern and Western Art - James Hall
New York: IconEditions, c1994. Objects are arranged into 6 sections by broad subject categories: abstract signs, animals, artefacts, earth and sky, human body and dress, and plants. A seventh section focuses on collective symbols that have multiple attributes and meanings.

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Symbols and Allegories in Art - Matilde Battistini
Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005. Divided thematically into 4 sections featuring symbols related to time, man, space (earth and sky), and allegories or moral lessons. Each entry contains a main reference image with the symbol or allegory and a summary of essential characteristics appears in the margin.

Dictionary of Symbols in Western Art - Sarah Carr-Gomm
New York: Facts on File, 1995. Entries on saints, mythological, biblical and religious characters and events, arranged in alphabetical order. Broader topics ranging from Adam and Eve to Zodiac are interspersed.

Hidden Symbols in Art - Sarah Carr-Gomm
New York : Rizzoli, 2001. Each chapter organized thematically, explains the significance meaning of key symbols and figures in Western art.

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Symbols of Power in Art - Paola Rapelli
Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011. Divided into 6 sections of symbols: antiquity; Middle Ages; Western emperors & Russian czars; ruling dynasties of the West; European aristocratic families; Napolean Bonaparte. Includes indexes of subjects, artists, & noble titles.

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How to Understand a Painting: Decoding Symbols in Art - Françoise Barbe-Gall
London: Frances Lincoln, c2010. Choosing 10 symbols from the natural world and 10 man-made, the author shows how these have been used and developed in art from the 15th-21st century.


Nature in Art

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Gardens in Art - Lucia Impelluso
Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007. Analyzes the elements of gardens and their symbolic meanings. Includes nearly 400 art works.

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Nature and Its Symbols - Lucia Impelluso
Los Angeles: J.P. Getty Museum, 2004. Includes chapters on plants, flowers, fruits, and animals of the earth, air, and water, as well as fantastical creatures such as centaurs, griffons, and dragons--all used as symbols in art.

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The Continuum Encyclopedia of Animal Symbolism in Art - Hope B. Werness
New York: Continuum, c2003. Entries on particular animals begin with brief zoological information, which includes the animal's scientific name and classification as well as its range, habitat, and behavior. General entries on cultural, chronological and geographical areas include cross-references to specific cultures discussed in greater detail.

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Fish in Art - Christine E. Jackson
London: Reaktion Books, 2012. Examines the diverse ways fishes have been presented by artists and what these images tell us about the catching, storage, preparation and cooking of fish over the centuries.

Art & Architecture Librarian

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Susan Craig
Contact Info
Phone: (785) 864-3020
Location: Art & Architecture Library



Medicine in Art

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Medicine in Art - Giorgio Bordin
ISBN: 1606060449
A visual history of the depiction of illness and healing in Western culture, ranging from Egyptian wall carvings to medieval manuscripts and from paintings and sculpture by the great masters of the Renaissance to 20th century artists.


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