The iconography encompasses everything related to description of pictures, paintings, monuments, statues and portraits. The term is related to the set of images (especially those that are old) and at descriptive report or exposition about these.
The iconography, therefore, can be defined as the discipline which focuses on the study of the origin and the elaboration of images and their symbolic and / or allegorical relationships. It is a branch that began to be cultivated in the XIX century on London (England) and then expanded to other European countries.
It should be noted that the notion of iconography is associated with the concept of iconology, which is the part of semiology and symbology that is responsible for analyzing the visual names of the art. Iconology, say its experts, studies how values and virtues are represented by figures of people.
The difference between the two terms is subtle: while iconography emphasizes the description of images, iconology proposes a broader study with classifications and comparisons.
The main areas covered by iconography are Christian character mythology, the classical mythology and the Civil-inspired representations. Within Christianity, the Trento council that was developed in the century XVI promulgated the “Decree on images” that stipulated the features and functions of Catholic images.
This document distinguishes between dogmatic images (those that defend Catholic dogmas against Protestants through Christ, the Virgin mary, the apostles, Saint Peter Y Saint Paul) and devotional images (which are intended to venerate the rest of the saints).
Usefulness of iconography
Through the investigations carried out in iconography, it is possible to know the value artistic of a work taking into account its time; In other words, it encompasses the works in a socio-cultural and historical context. This study is divided into two parts: one diachronic (which studies the background and the development process of the work) and another synchronous (which analyzes the socio-cultural aspects that have influenced the author).
A fundamental figure in iconography was Erwin Panofsky, a renowned 19th century art historian who knew how to differentiate between the work of art and the document that allowed it to contextualize it, that is, the study of the agents that could have influenced creation.
The christian themes They are one of the most famous fields of iconography; in the year 1570 there was already a marked interest in this type of art; in fact, in that year “On Holy Paintings and Images” was published, a work in the form of an essay describing the fundamental aspects that a painting must have to belong to this genre.
Later, with the discovery of the catacombs, interest grew and 1000 years later the first hagiographies (history of saints) were published where they took up the works of a Christian nature and the context in which they had arisen.
The personifications is another of the themes that are distinguished in the iconography, through which many historical questions of characters that have somehow transformed the course of human history. The “Iconology of Ripa” was one of the most influential publications in this field; It was a manual that analyzed the concept of the abstract and that served as a guide for the artists of the time.
Finally, the emblems were other images studied. It was a kind of figures symbolic in which figurative language was used. They were closer to hieroglyphs than to abstract paintings with particular attributes. These types of works became very important during the Golden Age, where artists relied on emblematic works as the motif for their paintings and other works of art.