Renaissance Art - Sacred Active Learning Project Available


Christian Narratives

The Temptation
In the Garden Adam is tempted with the forbidden fruit by Eve, or the serpent approaches Eve herself. The "Fall of Man" is the result of Adam's succumbing.

Annunciation of the Shepherds
The angel appears to the shepherds to announce the birth of Christ. Sometimes depicted as a continuous narration with the Nativity.
The Expulsion
The sin committed and "eyes opened," Adam and Eve are cast out of the Garden. Often shown as a continuous narration with the Temptation.
The beginning of the ministry of Jesus, he receives the ritual rebirth from John the Baptist who "paved the way" for the coming Kingdom.
The angel Gabriel comes to Mary the Virgin to announce that she will bear the son of God. One of the most popular narratives of the era.

Last Supper
The Passover meal transformed into a self memorial showing Christ giving the bread and wine to the Apostles. Ritualized by the Church in the Eucharist (Communion).
The birth of Jesus. At minimum Mary kneels over the Christ infant, but others may be present as well. See Adoration below.

The execution seen as a sacrifice. Jesus hangs on the cross flanked by two criminals while others stand nearby. Often symbolic rather than historic.
Adoration of the Shepherds
Often shepherds are shown at the Nativity viewing the infant . The ideal of Christian piety ("flock of Christ"), they were common and without worldliness.
The Descent
Also called the Deposition. The body of Jesus is removed from the cross by Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus. Others my be present.
Adoration of the Magi
Like the shepherds, the "wise men" from the east may be depicted at the Nativity bearing gifts as well. Christ was the "King of the Jews."
Though the moment of resurrection is not described in the Bible, artist sometimes show it as well as later encountering which are described.
Common Symbolism
From the Latin malum meaning both apple and sin, the image is used to reference man's disobedience.
Light Penetrating Glass
The Virgin Birth. As light penetrates glass without breaking it, so can Mary bear the God's son as a virgin.
Most generically the scriptures, though often more specifically meaning the prophecy of the scriptures.
A common sign of purity. In the Annunciation Mary is shown near or being handed a Lilly.
Hanging on the wall, or leaned in the corner refers to the domestic arts of cooking, sewing, tending to the home.
Lorraine vs. Latin Cross
The Titulus added above the cross of Christ transformed the traditional Latin cross into a dual horizontal cross.
A single candle is the "eye of God." Used to show God's presence or witnessing of a blessed event.
Olive Branch
Peace. To hold out, or extend the branch is an offer of peace. Christ was the "Prince of Peace."
A goblet used for the consecrated wine of the Eucharist. Often shown filled/being filled with blood of Christ.
The world. Holding the globe was a sign of having dominion or control over the world.
Dead Tree
The "Fall of Man" also called the original sin. Poetically, the tree Adam ate of shown dead as a result of sin.
Palm Branch
The sign of a martyr. The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem Jesus was met with crowds waving palm branches.
Any tool of gambling is a reference to vice. A figure shown holding such things attributes the action to the holder itself.
Resurrection Banner
A white flag, shield, or banner with a red cross placed on it refers to the resurrection.
Dog (generic)
Man's best friend, a sign of fidelity and faithfulness. Obvious connection to Fido and it's Latin derivative.
The decline of the world shown in art as a physical decay. Understood as a metaphor for spiritual decline of the world.
Dog (hound)
Specifically, hound dogs were a sign of Hell (the Hound of Hell), perversion or more exact - inversion.
Shoes Removed
Derived from Moses' approach of the burning bush, shoes removed referenced the holiness of an event.
The Holy Spirit (neuma) - the third part of the Trinity. A descending dove is the descent of the spirit.
A reminder of death (memento mori). The crucifixion was at Golgotha - "the place of the skull."
Feminine principle or fertility. An enclosed garden (fortified) expands the metaphor to show chastity or virginity.
Any element of torture are associated with the Passion and crucifixion of Christ. Often seen held or hanging at the cross.
Jingle Bells
Folly and foolishness. As tools of frivolousness they are derogatory when associated with serious personalities.
The ten commandments of the Old Testament are the foundation of Western Morality. A common attribute of Moses.
Unity. "To tie the knot" is to form a unity in marriage. Also as a spiritual uniting of the faithful.
A fringed prayer shawl with bands of blue or black by Jewish men at prayer or other solemn occasions.
The lamb was the sacrificial animal of the Old Testament. Jesus becomes the "Lamb of God." (Agnus Dei)
The Title placed above the head of Christ by Pilate reading "Jesus Christ King of the Jews." Abbreviated I.N.R.I.
Left vs. Right
A convention of opposites. Often associated with the two sides of Christ, it can be the good vs. bad, or New vs. Old.
Tree Trunk
A prominently displayed trunk (interior scenes a column) refers to the Passion and suffering of Christ.
Adam and Eve
First creation of God's humanity. They commit the original sin and all mankind inherit this sin.
The husband of Mary, not to be confused with the father of Jesus. A perplexing figure shown in a multitude of ways.
Dismas & Gestas
The names given to the two criminals executed with Jesus. Dismas repents, Gestas does not.
Joseph of Arimathaea
A rich Jew who believed, but was a afraid to confess it. With Nicodemus he removes the body at the descent.
Gabriel (Angel)
The Archangel who appears to Mary in the Annunciation to reveal she will have the son of God.
The traditional name given to the one who stabbed Jesus in the side at the Crucifixion.
In incarnation of God. Through the suffering and sacrifice mankind reclaims the salvation lost through original sin.
A Pharisee who came to Jesus by night and rebuked by the others for suggesting they "hear before judging him."
Jewish Leadership
Pharisee et al who emblematize the hypocrisy of the faith leading to the conflict with Jesus.

Pilate, Pontius
The Roman governor of Judaea at the time of the Jesus. Failing to persuade the mob otherwise, he orders Jesus executed.
John the Evangelist
The youngest of the twelve Apostles revered for his innocent and devout sincerity.

Mary Magdalene
The prostitute turned faithful follower of Jesus. She become emblematic of redemption of all.
John the Baptist
He who "prepared the way" for the coming Kingdom and associated with the beginning of Jesus' ministry.
Mary the Virgin
The Mother of Jesus, who through the divine act of the spirit becomes pregnant with the incarnation of God.


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