Method of interpretation in cultural history / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Iconology is a method of interpretation in cultural history and the history of the visual arts used by Aby Warburg, Erwin Panofsky and their followers that uncovers the cultural, social, and historical background of themes and subjects in the visual arts.[1] Though Panofsky differentiated between iconology and iconography, the distinction is not very widely followed, "and they have never been given definitions accepted by all iconographers and iconologists".[2] Few 21st-century authors continue to use the term "iconology" consistently, and instead use iconography to cover both areas of scholarship.

To those who use the term, iconology is derived from synthesis rather than scattered analysis and examines symbolic meaning on more than its face value by reconciling it with its historical context and with the artist's body of work[3] ā€“ in contrast to the widely descriptive iconography, which, as described by Panofsky, is an approach to studying the content and meaning of works of art that is primarily focused on classifying, establishing dates, provenance and other necessary fundamental knowledge concerning the subject matter of an artwork that is needed for further interpretation.[4]

Panofsky's "use of iconology as the principle tool of art analysis brought him critics." For instance, in 1946, Jan Gerrit Van Gelder "criticized Panofsky's iconology as putting too much emphasis on the symbolic content of the work of art, neglecting its formal aspects and the work as a unity of form and content."[5] Furthermore, iconology is mostly avoided by social historians who do not accept the theoretical dogmaticism in the work of Panofsky.[6]