Monday 24 May 2010


The Concise Oxford Dictionary describes iconography as an ‘illustration of subject by drawings or figures; book whose essence is pictures; treatise [literature] on pictures or statuary; study of portraits, especially of an individual’.

Iconography is a pictorial illustration of a subject or collected representations illustrating a subject. It can be a set of specified or traditional symbolic forms associated with the subject or theme of a stylised work of art.

Biddingtons (2005) state that iconography is the study of symbols depicted in a work of art. These symbols derive from a readily recognisable, common currency of cultural or religious experience.

Woodrow (1999) explains that iconography’s original meaning as the study of icons, panel pictures of Christ or a Saint, but by the seventeenth century, iconography was used in a secular context as a noun to describe a collection of portraits

Religious Iconography

The Orthodox Christians grace their Churches with Holy Icons. Iconography (i.e. the painting of the Holy pictures) does not have as its aim to reproduce a saint or an incident from the Holy Gospel or the lives of the saints, but rather to express them symbolically, to impart to them a spiritual character.

In Byzantine Iconography the saint is not represented as he is in actual life, that is naturalistically, but as he is now in the heavenly kingdom, as he is in the eternity. This is called Liturgical art. Western painters paint with their eyes; the Byzantine painters paint with their heart and soul. (Iconography:2003)