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Symbols in Art

Category: Art & Craft
ISBN:   9780500295748
Publisher:  Thames & Hudson
On sale: November 2020
List price: R408
Format: Paperback
eBook ISBN

Symbols in Art (Art Essentials)


Matthew Wilson


Iconography, the study of symbols – be they animals, artefacts, plants, shapes or gestures – is an essential element of art history.

This guide unravels over fifty of the most common and intriguing visual symbols from across the globe from 2300 BCE to the present day. While symbols cross dialects and national boundaries, their meanings can vary and are often culturally specific. The snake, an object of fascination and mysticism in Aztec culture, usually represents sin in the west. Yinka Shonibare’s Last Supper (2013) plays on the grapevine’s historic associations to satiric and startling effect.

Matt Wilson explores symbolism’s subtle implications and overt and covert meanings, providing an indispensable tool for interpretation. A reference section includes suggestions for further reading and a glossary of art and historical terms.


Matthew Wilson is a teacher of History of Art, an examination specialist for art historical syllabuses and a freelance writer on cultural topics. He studied the History of Art at the University of Nottingham and the Courtauld Institute, and now lives and works in Kent where he spends his free time sea swimming and fathering two young children.

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