Music, Symbolism, and Allegory

Authored by: Ayla Lepine

The Routledge Companion to Music and Visual Culture

Print publication date:  September  2013
Online publication date:  July  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415629256
eBook ISBN: 9780203629987
Adobe ISBN: 9781135956462


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A symbol is an image or an object that represents something other than its own form, whether by convention, association, or resemblance. A triangular emblem may represent the Christian Trinity, or a particular flower may represent loyalty, mourning, or purity. Allegories are more complex. An allegory is an image or cluster of objects that may represent an abstract concept. A book may symbolize knowledge and a sword may be a symbol of strength. Taken together in a complex pictorial framework, which may also include references to literature and cultural context, symbols may support delicate allegories. In Raphael's painting An Allegory of 1504, which the National Gallery in London acquired in 1847 and which inspired numerous modern British painters, two women stand on either side of a sleeping knight who lies beneath a bay tree. In relation to a Roman first-century poem well known to Raphael and his contemporaries, these figures and their attributes arguably construct a cohesive allegory of a man's choice between Virtue and Pleasure.

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