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

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Full text of "Iconologia, or, Moral emblems"

The Iconologia overo Descrittione Dell’imagini Universali cavate dall’Antichità et da altri luoghi (1593) by Cesare Ripa (c. 1560 - c. 1622) is a highly influential emblem book based on Egyptian, Greek and Roman emblematical representations. The book was used by orators, artists and poets to give substance to qualities such as virtues, vices, passions, arts and sciences. The concepts were arranged in a Renaissance way, the alphabetical order. For each there was a verbal description of the allegorical figure proposed by Ripa to embody the concept, giving the type and color of its clothing and its varied symbolic paraphernalias, along with the reasons why these were chosen, reasons often supported by references to literature (largely classical).

The first edition of his Iconologia was published in in 1593 and dedicated to Anton Maria Salviati. A second edition was published in Rome in 1603 this time with 684 concepts and 151 woodcuts, dedicated to Lorenzo Salviati. The book was extremely influential in the 17th and 18th centuries and was quoted extensively in various art forms. In particular, it influenced the painter Pietro da Cortona and his followers. Also Dutch painters like Gerard de Lairesse, Willem van Mieris based work on Ripa's emblems. Vermeer used the information on the muse Clio for his The Art of Painting. A large part of Vondel's work cannot be understood without this allogorical source, and ornamentation of the Amsterdam townhall by Artus Quellinus, a sculptor, is totally dependent on Ripa.

The baroque painter Antonio Cavallucci drew from the book the inspiration for his painting Origin of Music. In 1779 the British architect Georg Richardson, published in London his Iconology; or a Collection of Emblematical Figures; containing four hundred and twenty-four remarkable subjects, moral and instructive; in which are displayed the beauty of Virtue and deformity of Vice. The drawings were by William Hamilton . In 1819 Filippo Pitrucci, a London based artist, published his version of Iconologia.


Full text (Italian)


Incipit di Iconologia


Le Imagini fatte per significare una diversa cosa da quella, che si vede con l'occhio non hanno altra più certa né più universale regola, che l'imitazione delle memorie, che si trovano ne' Libri, nelle Medaglie e ne' Marmi intagliate per industria de' Latini & Greci, ò di quei più antichi, che furono inventori di questo arteficio. Però communemente pare, che chi si affatica fuori di questa imitatione erri, ò per ignoranza, ò per troppo presumere, le quali due macchie sono molto abhorrite da quelli, che attendono con le proprie fatiche all'acquisto di qualche lode.

Full text (English)


Full text in Dutch

Cesare Ripa's Iconologia of Uytbeeldinghen des Verstants


Een yder acht Quintijntjen schoon,
Doch ick stelt op een ander toon:
Maer datse is gestreckt en blanck,
Van schoon gelaet en fier van ganck,
Voorwaer hier in geen schoonheyt leyt,
Maer schoonheyt is bevalligheyt.
Dirck Pietersz. Pers, Cesare Ripa's Iconologia of Uytbeeldinghen des Verstants
Zy heeft beval, noch sout, noch aert,
Dies acht ick haer geen boone waert:
Maer Lifabet dat geestigh dier,
Die rooft der vrouwen schoonste cier

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