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AEAH 5120: The Medieval Cult of Saints: Identifying Saints in Art Works

Resources for doing research on the cult of Medieval Christian Saints.

Selected Books

How to Identify Saints in Art Works

How to Identify Saints in a Work of Art

If you are unsure of the identity of a saint in a work of art, you will need to search Iconclass and then some general Art Iconography Books.

Step 1: Iconclass

First identify as many of the objects or images that appear on or around the saint. Note these objects and try to think of similar terms or synonyms for the objects. These objects known as "attributes" will reveal the identity of your saint.
Now look up these objects in the Iconclass A-Z indexes and look for repeating names or themes in the entries.

Iconclass is a icon and symbolism classification system for Western and Eastern Art. Iconclass is available online and in book format. The book format is more complete at this point, but the online has some images of art works while the book format just lists the name of the art works. The directions below are for the book format.

Iconclass (book format) Z697 A8 W3 1973
(Located in the Willis Library on the 3rd floor)

Iconclass is composed of the following volumes/divisions:
1. Religion & Magic
2. Nature
3. Man
4. Society, Civilization and Culture
5. Abstract Ideas and Concepts
6. History,
7. Bible
8. Literature
9. Classical Mythology and Ancient History

Step 2: General Art Iconography Sources

*Once you have a name that repeats and or a theme, look those up along with your original objects in the General Iconography Books listed below. These books will give you a paragraph to a few pages on your saint and their history.

General Art Iconography Books

Click on the title of the book to see the location and call number.

Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art
The Dictionary of Symbols in Western Art
Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art
Dictionary of Symbols

Step 3: Christian Iconography Books

Once you have identified your saint from steps 1 and 2, you can find even more about them in the books listed below. Be sure to just search the name of your saint and or theme (example "Last Supper"), in these books. (Don't search the objects anymore).
Click on the title of the book to see the location and call number. Some books are non-circulating (cannot check out), but you can still photocopy or scan them in the library. Scanners are free.

Saints and Their Emblems
Lives of the Saints (Art Reference, non-circulating)
The Oxford Dictionary of Saints (Art Reference, non-circulating)
Post-Biblical Saints Art Index
Encyclopedia of Women in Religious Art
The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (Art Reference, non-circulating)
Angels, A to Z (Art Reference, non-circulating)
Iconography of Christian Art (2 vols.)
Illustrated Dictionary of Symbols in Eastern and Western Art
A Handbook of Symbols in Christian Art
Monastic Iconography in France from the Renaissance to the Revolution
Signs & Symbols in Christian Art
Christian Iconography; the History of Christian Art in the Middle Ages  ( 2 vols.)
Fabulous Beasts and Demons
Animals in Art and Thought to the End of the Middle Ages

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