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Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art Paperback – 25 Dec 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Westview Press; 2Rev Ed edition (25 Dec. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813343933
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813343938
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 66,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

"It is clearly written, well arranged, and can be read for its own sake as a compendium of the image-making faculty of Western man. I would recommend it strongly to anyone who wishes to increase his interest and pleasure in visiting a picture gallery or turning over the illustrations of a book of art."
--Kenneth Clark

"Of the several comparable dictionaries on the iconography of Western art . . . this one is by far the most satisfactory. ...This much richer fund of material as well as the tightly packed and well-written entries convey much information. In all, an impressively erudite yet thoroughly useable dictionary for which students and faculty alike should be grateful."
--"Choice"

"The volume is comprehensive to interested laymen, and should be quite useful for students and scholars. Entries pertain to persons, titles and pictures, and objects as attributes and symbols. Recurrent mythological, historical and religious themes are explored and allegorical, poetic, and saintly characters are also covered. Cross references and appropriate line drawings enhance the book's value. And because the entries are succinct and really absorbing, it's fun simply to browse through this dictionary. Highly recommended."
--"Library Journal"

It is clearly written, well arranged, and can be read for its own sake as a compendium of the image-making faculty of Western man. I would recommend it strongly to anyone who wishes to increase his interest and pleasure in visiting a picture gallery or turning over the illustrations of a book of art.
Kenneth Clark
Of the several comparable dictionaries on the iconography of Western art . . . this one is by far the most satisfactory. This much richer fund of material as well as the tightly packed and well-written entries convey much information. In all, an impressively erudite yet thoroughly useable dictionary for which students and faculty alike should be grateful.
"Choice"
The volume is comprehensive to interested laymen, and should be quite useful for students and scholars. Entries pertain to persons, titles and pictures, and objects as attributes and symbols. Recurrent mythological, historical and religious themes are explored and allegorical, poetic, and saintly characters are also covered. Cross references and appropriate line drawings enhance the book s value. And because the entries are succinct and really absorbing, it s fun simply to browse through this dictionary. Highly recommended.
"Library Journal""

From the Back Cover


The understanding and enjoyment of a work of art depends as much on the story it depicts as on the artist s execution of it. But what were once biblical or classical commonplaces are not so readily recognizable today. This book relates in a succinct and readable way the themes, sacred and secular, on which the repertoire of Western art is based. Combined here in a single volume are religious, classical, and historical themes, figures of moral allegory, and characters from romantic poetry that appeared throughout paintings and sculpture in Western art before and after the Renaissance. More than just a dictionary, this text places these subjects in their narrative, historical, or mythological context and uses extensive cross-referencing to enhance and clarify the meanings of these themes for the reader.
The definitive work by which others are compared, this volume has become an indispensable handbook for students and general appreciators alike. This wholly redesigned second edition includes a new insert of images chosen by the author, as well as a new preface and index to highlight the ideas, beliefs, and social and religious customs that form the background of much of this subject matter.
Praise for the previous edition
It is clearly written, well arranged, and can be read for its own sake as a compendium of the image-making faculty of Western man. I would recommend it strongly to anyone who wishes to increase his interest and pleasure in visiting a picture gallery or turning over the illustrations of a book of art.
Kenneth Clark
Of the several comparable dictionaries on the iconography of Western art . . . this one is by far the most satisfactory. This much richer fund of material as well as the tightly packed and well-written entries convey much information. In all, an impressively erudite yet thoroughly useable dictionary for which students and faculty alike should be grateful.
"Choice"
The volume is comprehensive to interested laymen, and should be quite useful for students and scholars. Entries pertain to persons, titles and pictures, and objects as attributes and symbols. Recurrent mythological, historical and religious themes are explored and allegorical, poetic, and saintly characters are also covered. Cross references and appropriate line drawings enhance the book s value. And because the entries are succinct and really absorbing, it s fun simply to browse through this dictionary. Highly recommended.
"Library Journal"

James Hall passed away in August 2007. A noted scholar and historian of art, he was the author of several works, including "The Illustrated Dictionary of Symbols in Eastern and Western Art" (Westview Press, 1996)."

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
For anyone interested in art, who often visits galleries, and is taken in by paintings of every century, but can mnot quite figure out the roles of figures, and symbolic gestures and positions. Then this dictionary will give you a clearer understanding of the world of art. Occasionally accompanied with black and white line drawings, the book contains an extremely large and wideranding number of symbols, from Gods and religious figures, such as Flora, and Job, to symbolic meanings of everyday objects, such as clocks and coins. The definitions have close attention to detail, with almost all definitions refering amongst themselves in a large network of characters, for example when refering to Icarus, who most of us know flew too close to the sun, may not have known he was the son of Athenian craftsman Daedalus. It also refers to the representations of the legend, with the God Helios, and how painters differed over meanings of the story. Overall this tidy little reference book contains superfluous information, but has contained it all extremely concisely, which makes this a must have for history of art students, or art enthusiastics.
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Format: Paperback
I found this essential for my studies and even enjoyed dipping into it for the fascinating little stories on Greek Gods and Christian Saints illustrated with neat line drawings.
If you are studying or are interested in Art History, particularly Renaissance Italian Art, this is a must-buy.
A concise and well-written tool.
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Having recently studied symbolism in painting, I have to say this is the standard work on the subject. That said, I think a new perspective is needed. It is what you could call 'sound' but there must be fresh thoughts on the subject. The revised edition is 35 years old, and the introduction by Kenneth Clark, guru of my youth, suggests museum status. It is as it says a dictionary, and has no colour illustrations. There are more recent books on the subject, with good illustrations, but their subject content is relatively naive. Someone needs to up-date or supercede this book, which faut de mieux is the best we have.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book will explain the things you wondered about in art, and did not know the answers. For example in one painting of Queen Elizabeth 1, why is she holding a sieve ?, answer a sign of her Chastity.
A handy reference to all the Saints,and Heroes of the mythical world.
Who were Saint Apollonia or Calypso, buy the book and you will find out, an excellent reference book
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book and had no idea it existed until I recently read an article which quoted it. It's challenging enough to understand most of the old master paintings and this will be a welcome assistant, particularly when visiting exhibitions.
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By A Customer on 17 Jan. 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was looking for a dictionary which would provide some assistance with the emblematic interpretation of art. I was expecting the book to help with the meaning of mussel shells, musical instruments, shoes, bird cages etc in painting. However, I'm afraid, it does not deal much with the emblems common to seventeenth century Dutch painting. But so long as you are not expecting the dictionary to help decipher these kind of 'emblem' symbols, it should probably be fairly useful.
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this book appears to receive very good reviews, however having owned it for only three hoursi think it will sit on my shelf unread. i wanted an easy reference for looking up imagery to use in paintings. From the title this appeared to be ideal, however it seems to only refer to religious subjects or only offers the title of a painting in which the symbol is used rather than actually telling you its meaning and why it was placed in the painting in the first place. An example is Falcon, ( i just had a another quick flick through to find one so i was wrong about it staying on the shelf...but it's back there now) described as a bird of prey ( really?!!) and then an example of a painting in which a falcon appears, but no idea as to what the falcon might actually symbolise, if anything at all. Or Crescent moon..simply "see moon". Is there really no meaning behind a crescent moon in a painting?!
so for me this book is sadly lacking and as a result too annoying, mayb less so if you have an interest in early religious art. if any one knows of a book that would suit my purpose its title would be very much appreciated.
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This book is a wonderful resource for any student of art history. To learn how symbols function, recur and morph across time and in the hands of different artists is an absolute pleasure. Hall's fluid, unfussy writing style makes this reference book eminently readable too.
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