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ARTH 4805: Medieval Saints: Identifying Saints in Art Works

Resources on the lives of the saints, hagiography, liturgy and ritual.

Books on Saints

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. Since Iconclass is an art reference set, it is non-circulating. You can still scan (for free), photocopy and use the set in the library.

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

Most of these books are art reference books located on the 3rd floor of the Willis Library. They are non-circulating (cannot be checked out), but can be used in the library, photocopied and scanned (free). 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).

These books are  Art Reference books located on the 3rd floor of the Willis Library. They are non-circulating. Click on the titles of the books to see the location and call number.

Saints and Their Emblems
Lives of the Saints (4 vols).
The Oxford Dictionary of Saints
Post-Biblical Saints Art Index
Encyclopedia of Women in Religious Art
The Oxford Dictionary of Popes
Angels, A to Z
Iconography of Christian Art (2 vols.)
Illustrated Dictionary of Symbols in Eastern and Western Art
A Handbook of Symbols in Christian Art
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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