Analysis through Iconology
This kind of analysis usually is most useful for narrative works and art before the Modern period. Non-objective art or art with arbitrary subjects (such as DADA) don’t work as well with this kind of analysis because narratives and conventional symbols are not a part of these works. Here you will look for a particular element that occurs in the object (an object, action, gesture, pose) and explain either:
when that same element occurs in other objects through history and how this objects representation of it is unique, or
what that element means generally in art or to art historiansin other words, the traditional association an art historian might make between that depiction and some other thing.
The following video provides an example of Iconological analysis. The video speaks to the meaning of the gestures, iconography, meaning of certain types of depiction, and other narrative imagery and symbolism related to those narrative elements.
For example, there have been thousands of paintings of Hercules choosing between Virtue and Vice. Lets say you are assigned one of these paintings (e.g., Annibale Carraccis version), and you are asked to find out what is unique about it. You would go look at other versions, like Paolo Veroneses, and compare how they both show Hercules making his choice. You do not have to focus on the actual making of the object here, but instead on the way the subject is represented: Carracci has Virtue and Vice in Ancient clothing, but Veronese shows them in contemporary Venetian costumes. Then, you might have to say what that means: Carracci spent a lot of time in Rome looking at Ancient art, so he was interested in using Ancient art works as models in his paintings, but Veronese was showing off one of the main industries of Venice (textiles)or, Veronese wanted his patrons to think about how they might fit into the scenario instead of keeping the story in the past.
If you are confused, read Erwin Panofskys essays on iconology and iconography, in which he defines these terms more extensively. Be warned that Panofsky makes a clear distinction between iconography and iconology, but many art historians do notthey often use the word iconography when they mean both. Art historians study iconography and iconology so often that they have compiled reference texts that list many of the famous works that show particular themesyou might use these as a resource, so ask the art librarian about them. One such resource is the Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art by James Hall.
This assignment uses the same grade rubric as previous essays.
Develop an iconographic essay. Select a work from this module to write the essay on. Utilize the objectives and above information to develop the statement. The essay must include a thesis statement/introduction, supporting body, and conclusion. The conclusion should provide a synthesis of the statements and thesis into a final idea about what the audience should remember and take away from the assignment.
Use description as evidence to support the thesis and any other support statements.
Use CRAAP standards to evaluate sources for academic value.
Use the Chicago or Turabian citation method to document sources.
650 word length, approx. 1 – 2 pages; Required File Type/Document: Microsoft Word
Writing Strategy Make an Outline:
List the objects and subjects included in the painting
Provide an iconographic definition (ala dictionary or glossary for each item)
Identify the narrative source for each item (artist invention, poem, narrative, biblical, greco-roman, other presence, real life historical or cultural artifact as symbol, other artworks and ideas as symbols, etc.)
ex. Alexander the Great as a symbol; American Flag as a symbol; Greek mythology as symbols; The hammer and sickle in Russia, the american eagle, a soldier, etc.
4. Is there more than one context for the iconographic or symbolic representation of the idea? How many contexts or roles is each symbolic object fulfilling in presenting, adding, or relaying meaning about the subject; (current age vs. past age; multiple metaphors; multiple layers of ideas etc.)
5. Symbols and Icons in different contexts – define how the symbols and subjects make one idea serve another idea (A Greek god is rebranded and used in Rome. What does this act mean for Rome to use a Greek Religious concept)
6. What do the symbols mean in the age, or multiple ages, and how are we supposed to connect to them in the context of the work? – ex. How are greco-roman subject and symbols used and perceived in a Renaissance age? Why would someone in the Renaissance care about Ancient Greco-Roman gods and subjects, whats in it for a Renaissance Italian or Renaissance Italy for that matter?