Iconography is an important type of visual symbolism. Throughout history, iconography has been seen by a large number of people, and symbolism is something that would have been familiar to the people that were viewing it. Iconography is an important type of visual symbolism, especially for the illiterate. It’s a way of depicting important symbolic references. In addition, it is a way of telling a story.
The first is a Hindu image of Vishnu, who is one of the principal deities of the Hindu faith. Vishnu is known for manifesting in a number of physical forms, which are called avatars. This particular manifestation is a fish.
The image tells the story of how Vishnu saved several sages, or wise men, as well as samples of plants and animals from a great flood. It’s a very similar story to the Christian story of Noah and the Ark. Although the story may be foreign to many Westerners, the symbolism in it would be well known by its Hindu observers.
The second image, below, is of a fresco painted by the artist Fra Angelico. It depicts the important Christian narrative of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel brings news to the Virgin Mary that she is chosen to be the mother of God’s son on Earth, Jesus Christ, which would be quite the news if you weren’t expecting it.
The next image you see is another fresco, this time by the Italian painter Giotto. It is a depiction of another important Christian narrative—the nativity, or the birth of Jesus Christ.
The fourth image, seen below, is of Adam and Eve. It is a good example of important Christian symbolism, such as the snake or serpent, which symbolized Satan, or the devil. The apple itself is also symbolic as apples were often used to represent the fall of man, when the first humans were evicted from the Garden of Eden for disobeying God, which was the first sin.
The Arnolfini Wedding, by the Flemish artist Jan van Eyck, may not seem to be an example of iconography. However, iconographic interpretations of works of art are not necessarily an exact science.
This is the case particularly if there are no supporting documents or if the symbolism is obscure, like in the example below. It is believed among some scholars to be a form of iconography under the guise of a wealthy merchant’s wedding portrait. Notice how the wife is depicted in a similar manner to that of the Virgin Mary in many scenes of the Annunciation. Whether this was the intention of van Eyck is subject to debate
Allegory is a form of visual symbolism. Allegorical figures are visual metaphors; they stand for something. Often they represent abstract concepts, such as justice or victory.
Below is another example of allegory. Here, the winged Greek goddess Nike represents the abstract concept of victory, even though she is headless here.
Source: THIS WORK IS ADAPTED FROM SOPHIA AUTHOR IAN MCCONNELL.