Religious Art during the Dark Ages and the Renaissance
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Ermine- symbolizes truth, fidelity, mischief making. Often associated with the aristocracy or royalty. lamb- symbolizes humanity, peace, and innocence. The lamb represents Christ as the Lamb, and also Christians as the flock. Cat- symbolizes shrewdness, treachery, trickery and watchfulness. Often associated with Satan, witchcraft or sorcery. Unicorn- symbolizes purity, harmony and the arrival of Spring. Since the Middle Ages the unicorn was a symbol of chastity and innocence, it was believed that a unicorn could only be tamed by a virgin’s gentle stroke. Goat- symbolizes Satan. Satan is often depicted as a horned and hoofed goat-like creature. Green- symbolizes the Resurrection, the Ascension and Baptism. Grey/Black/Dark Brown- symbolizes the Entombment, Crosses and Crucifixes. Red- is a symbol of greediness and lust.
Orange- is a symbol of materialism and desire for worldly goods in favor of spiritual health. White- is a sign of innocence; Birth, Youth, Betrothal and Marriage Anemone- The anemone is a flower, that may be depicted in scenes of the Crucifixion, or in conjunction with the Virgin Mary to show her sorrow for the Passion of Christ. The red spots on the petals symbolize the blood of Christ, it is said that anemones sprang up on Calvary the evening of the Crucifixion. In the early days of the Church, the triple leaf of this plant was used to symbolize the Trinity. Carnation- The red carnation is a symbol of pure love. According to an old custom, a variety of carnation, the pink, was worn by the bride upon the day of her wedding, and the groom was supposed to search her and find it.
From this custom, the pink has become a symbol of marriage. Cyclamen- This plant was early dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the red spot at the heart of the flower represents the bleeding sorrow of the Immaculate Heart. The cyclamen is sometimes called ‘bleeding nun’. Fern- The fern conceals its grace, delicacy, and beauty in the shadowed recesses of the forest. Because the charm of this plant is seen only by the earnest searcher, the fern symbolizes solitary humility, frankness, and sincerity. Fir-The fir tree is a symbol of the elect in Heaven, who despise lowly desires. It also symbolizes people who excel in the virtue of patience. A rabbit on a white or silver platter- implies fertility.
Hourglass – symbolizes the inevitable passing of time and the certainty of death. A child’s toy- symbolizes the freedom and innocence of early life. A dirty window- suggests physical illness (usually a venereal disease or leprosy); a polluted body. An overturned copper tea kettle- symbolizes loss of faith.
Artist used symbols to provide instruction to the uneducated commoners that yearned for scriptural understanding. Paintings were used as guides that helped illuminate the amazing mysteries of Church doctrine.
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