Illustrated Dictionary of Symbols in Eastern and Western Art

By James Hall; Chris Puleston | Go to book overview

In ancient art water is represented by a variety of curvilinear motifs. The Minoans of Crete made much use of the SPIRAL, often together with fish and other marine creatures. See also FISH; FOUNTAIN; RIVER ; STAR (the Egyptian firmament); VASE; WAND.

Wind. Some ancient peoples regarded the wind as a god. He controlled the fate of seafarers in particular. The Greek Aeolus and Japanese Fujin kept the winds in a SACK. The Egyptian god of air, Shu, had power over the 'four winds of heaven' . 54 He was also known as the 'pleasant north wind', not so welcome to some Europeans. The Greeks recognized eight winds, all represented on the Horologe of Andronicus, or Tower of the Winds, in Athens (1st cent. BC). Those facing the cardinal points are Boreas (north), warmly clad and blowing a conch shell; Apeliotes (east) with flowers and fruit; Notes (south), pouring a shower of rain from an urn; Zephyrus (west) throwing flowers in the air from his lap. In Roman funerary art the winds may be personified as Tritons blowing conch shells to speed the soul on its way to the Isles of the Blessed. More often they are represented as a bust, or merely a head, with pursed lips, occasionally with a sort of horn issuing from the mouth [ii: Gallo-Roman, 1st cent. AD]. Wings may sprout from their temples to suggest speed. Bodiless heads with puffed cheeks, sometimes with horn or conch, recur in medieval and Renaissance art, especially in marine subjects. (See also MITHRAS.)


5. Human Body and Dress

Aegis. Goat-skin cloak or apron usually bearing a Gorgon's head and sometimes fringed with serpents. A symbol of protection, worn by the goddess ATHENA/MINERVA in classical Greek sculpture [iii: Pergamum, 2nd cent. BC]. According to Herodotus 1 the Greeks copied it from the everyday dress of Libyan women. A semi-circular aegis, a collar-like necklace, is the attribute of Bastet, Egyptian CAT goddess.

Angel (Gk. angelos, messenger). Winged messengers communicating between god and man are common to many religions. The winged deities and genii of Egypt were probably the prototypes of Mesopotamian winged human and animal figures, transmitted through military conquest and trade. They in turn probably inspired the winged gods of Greece and Rome, and Hebrew and Christian angels. Descriptions by O.T. prophets, such as Ezekiel's winged creatures, 2 which became Christian cherubim and seraphim [iv], must have been based on actual monuments, probably Babylonian. Roman funerary reliefs also had some influence on the appearance of angels in early Christian art. The nine choirs, the heavenly host surrounding the

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Illustrated Dictionary of Symbols in Eastern and Western Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Illustrated Dictionary of Symbols in Eastern and Western Art *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgements *
  • How to Use This Book *
  • About Symbols in Art ix
  • The Dictionary 1
  • 1 - Abstract Signs 1
  • 2 - Animals 8
  • 3 - Artefacts 54
  • 4 - Earth and Sky 98
  • 5 - Human Body and Dress 113
  • 6 - Plants 142
  • Collectives 163
  • Appendix - The Transcription of Chinese 216
  • Notes and References 217
  • Bibliography 222
  • Chronological Tables 225
  • Index 234
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