Emblem  

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Iconologia  (1593) by Cesare Ripa was an emblem book highly influential on Baroque imagery
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Iconologia (1593) by Cesare Ripa was an emblem book highly influential on Baroque imagery

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

An emblem is an abstract or representational pictorial image that represents a concept, like a moral truth, or an allegory, or a person, like a king or saint.

Emblems in history

Since the 15th century the terms of emblem (emblema; from ἔμβλημα "embossed ornament") and emblematura belong to the termini technici of architecture. They mean an iconic painted, drawn, or sculptural representation of a concept affixed to houses and belong — like the inscriptions — to the architectural ornaments (ornamenta). Since the publication of De Re Aedificatoria (1452, Ten Books of Architecture), by Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472), patterned after the De architectura by the Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius, emblema are related to Egyptian hieroglyphics and are considered as being the lost universal language.

Therefore the emblems belong to the Renaissance knowledge of antiquity which comprises not only Greek and Roman antiquity but also Egyptian antiquity as proven by the numerous obelisks built in 16th and 17th century Rome.

The 1531 publication in Augsburg of the first emblem book, the Emblemata of the Italian jurist Andrea Alciato launched a fascination with emblems that lasted two centuries and touched most of the countries of western Europe. "Emblem" in this sense refers to a didactic or moralizing combination of picture and text intended to draw the reader into a self-reflective examination of his or her own life. Complicated associations of emblems could transmit information to the culturally-informed viewer, a characteristic of the 16th century artistic movement called Mannerism.

A popular collection of emblems was presented by Francis Quarles, in 1635. Each of the 'Emblems' consists of a paraphrase from a passage of Scripture, expressed in ornate and metaphorical language, followed by passages from the Christian Fathers, and concluding with an epigram of four lines. These were accompanied by an emblem which presented the symbols displayed in the accompanying passage.

Quarles' collection of Emblems was immensely popular, and held a wide audience, and ran to many editions. However, the critics of the 17th and 18th centuries did not look so kindly on Quarles. Sir John Suckling in his Sessions of the Poets disrespectfully alluded to him as he "that makes God speak so big in's poetry." Alexander Pope in the Dunciad spoke of the Emblems, "Where the pictures for the page atone And Quarles is saved by beauties not his own."

Other terminology

A totem is specifically an animal emblem that expresses the spirit of a clan. Heraldry knows its emblems as charges. The lion passant serves as the emblem of England, the lion rampant as the emblem of Scotland.

An icon consists of an image (originally a religious image), that has become standardized by convention. A logo is an impersonal, secular icon, usually of a corporate entity.


See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Emblem" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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