Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art by James HallDictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art by James Hall

Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art

byJames Hall

Paperback | March 1, 2014

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The understanding and enjoyment of a work of art depends as much on the story it depicts as on the artist's execution of it. But what were once biblical or classical commonplaces are not so readily recognizable today. This book relates in a succinct and readable way the themes, sacred and secular, on which the repertoire of Western art is based. Combined here in a single volume are religious, classical, and historical themes, figures of moral allegory, and characters from romantic poetry that appeared throughout paintings and sculpture in Western art before and after the Renaissance. More than just a dictionary, this text places these subjects in their narrative, historical, or mythological context and uses extensive cross-referencing to enhance and clarify the meanings of these themes for the reader.

The definitive work by which others are compared, this volume has become an indispensable handbook for students and general appreciators alike. This wholly redesigned second edition includes a new insert of images chosen by the author, as well as a new preface and index to highlight the ideas, beliefs, and social and religious customs that form the background of much of this subject matter.

James Hall passed away in August 2007. A noted scholar and historian of art, he was the author of several works, including The Illustrated Dictionary of Symbols in Eastern and Western Art (Westview Press, 1996).
Title:Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in ArtFormat:PaperbackDimensions:410 pages, 9 × 5.88 × 0.97 inPublished:March 1, 2014Publisher:Taylor and FrancisLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0813343933

ISBN - 13:9780813343938

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent. Must buy! Author: Lee Sandstead Most great works of art are narratives or allegories that relate a story, myth, legend or particular concept, but in our era of pathetic education, most people are not familiar with the stories from Antiquity or the Judeo-Christian heritage that are necessary to decipher those narratives or allegories. The "Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art," by James Hall, is a dictionary that defines the major subjects and symbols of western art. It contains numerous explanations of legends, myths, symbols, heroes, heroines and citations that show, if applicable, their original source in historical texts or literature. In Jacques-Louis David's "The Oath of the Horatii," we see three men reaching their arms out to an older man raising three swords. To the right of them are women and children on the floor in anguish. If you are not familiar with Livy, Plutarch or Pierre Corneille's play "Horace," then the story will probably escape you, and you will be at the mercy of the title for any information regarding the painting's subject. But by having the "Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art," you can read about the Horatii as a subject. For instance, you will learn that the legend is recounted in Livy and Plutarch; that the three men with raised arms are brothers; that the elderly man with the three swords is their father; that the action being preformed is an oath taken by the brothers to defend Rome by killing three of their cousins; and that one of the women on the ground is married to one of the fated cousins. By knowing this factual information, you can discern the theme of the painting-one should sacrifice all for the State-and be able to judge the painting not only for its style, but also its explicit message. I believe that everyone should have a copy of this book in their home. Personally, it has enabled me to garner more meaning, more value and more passion out of my favorite works of art. Best, Lee Sandstead
Date published: 2008-10-16

Table of Contents

Introduction by Kenneth Clark
Preface to the Second Edition
Preface to the First Edition
Note to the Revised Edition

The Dictionary

Supplementary Index

Editorial Reviews

“It is clearly written, well arranged, and can be read for its own sake as a compendium of the image-making faculty of Western man. I would recommend it strongly to anyone who wishes to increase his interest and pleasure in visiting a picture gallery or turning over the illustrations of a book of art.”—Kenneth Clark“Of the several comparable dictionaries on the iconography of Western art . . . this one is by far the most satisfactory. This much richer fund of material as well as the tightly packed and well-written entries convey much information. In all, an impressively erudite yet thoroughly useable dictionary for which students and faculty alike should be grateful.”—Choice“The volume is comprehensive to interested laymen, and should be quite useful for students and scholars. Entries pertain to persons, titles and pictures, and objects as attributes and symbols. Recurrent mythological, historical and religious themes are explored and allegorical, poetic, and saintly characters are also covered. Cross references and appropriate line drawings enhance the book's value. And because the entries are succinct and really absorbing, it's fun simply to browse through this dictionary. Highly recommended.”—Library Journal