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"As a suitable Frontispiece the portraits are presented of five celebrated authors of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries : one a German — Sebastian Brandt ; three Italian — Andrew Alciat, Paolo Giovio, and Achilles Bocchius ; and one from Hungary — John Sambucus."--Shakespeare and the Emblem Writers (1869) by Henry Green

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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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. A well-known emblem is Nutrix ejus terra est (The Earth is his Nurse), the second emblem from the emblem book Atalanta Fugiens (1617).



Since the 15th century the terms of emblem (emblema; from ἔμβλημα, meaning "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, which ran to many editions, was presented by Francis Quarles in 1635. Each of the emblems consisted 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 that presented the symbols displayed in the accompanying passage.


  1. Serving as, or relating to a symbol, emblem or illustration of a type


Love emblem

A visible symbol of love such as: Cupid ; Cupid's bow (and arrows), Cupid's dart, a golden arrow , the myrtle , a pierced heart ; turtledove(s), etc

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 research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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