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Iconography

Iconography may be defined as the process of identification, description, classification and interpretation of themes and subjects of art in the visual arts. With reference to art, iconography may also be indicative of an artist's use of this imagery in a particular artwork in terms of the content of the image, such as the number of figures used, their placement and gestures. The word iconography comes from the Greek εἰκών ("image") and γράφειν ("to write") and it emerged as a dominant art form from 1940 onwards. The occurrence of religious images is frequent in Indian art replete with the 'mudra' and gestures with specific meanings. Some features of the iconography in Indian art comprise of the aureola and halo, which are also seen in Christian and Islamic art. Divine qualities and attributes are depicted through asana and ritual tools such as the dharmchakra, vajra, dadar, chhatra, suawastika, phurba and danda. Other examples include the Mathuran style that drew upon the indigenous traditions of India in portraying the human form in robust, rounded volumes symbolizing the fertility of nature. During this period, Buddhist architecture and sculpture proliferated and the iconography of Buddhist images was formulated.


Central Tibetan Thanka of Guhyasamaja, Akshobhyavajra, Rubin Museum of Art, 17th Century.