[Gr. allegoria, description of something under the guise of something else]
Term used to describe a method of expressing complex abstract ideas or a work of art composed according to this. An allegory is principally constructed from personifications and symbols (see Symbol), and, though overlapping in function, it is thus more sophisticated in both meaning and operation than either of these. It is found primarily in Western art and constitutes an important area of study in Iconography and iconology.
Allegory, a means of making the ‘invisible’ visible, is a product of the philosophical thought of Classical antiquity and was used by the ancients not only in the fine arts but also in literature and rhetoric (Cicero: On the Orator, xxvii.94; Quintilian: Principles of Oratory, VIII.vi.44; IX.ii.92; Plutarch: Moralia, 19, E-F). In contrast with the symbol, which is a phenomenon of nearly all cultures and religions, allegory is thus essentially a feature primarily of Western art.
The mechanism of allegory further distinguishes it from both symbolism and personification. ...