Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Art Online. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 26 February 2021

Emblem booklocked

  • Jochen Becker


Artistic genre that flourished in Europe particularly in the 16th and 17th centuries, though it continued beyond this. An emblem (Gr. emblema, originally meaning ‘inlaid work’, ‘mosaic’) combines both words and images, the interpretation of which requires intellectual effort and results in the communication of a moral lesson. Emblems generally consist of three parts: a short, often Classical, motto (lemma, inscriptio), a pictorial representation or icon (pictura) and the explanation of the link between them in an epigram (subscriptio). The earliest and most important emblem book is the Emblematum liber (Augsburg, 1531) by Andrea Alciati . Though its meaning derives largely from the work of Alciati, the emblem was from the beginning an ambiguous concept, covering a variety of connections between word and image. These interrelations arose from the fashionable idea of Ut pictura poesis and were propagated by the techniques of printing. The term continues to be applied and defined in different ways and is in some cases used in tandem with that of the ...

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Please subscribe to access the full content.

O. Schmitt and others, eds: Reallexikon zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte (Stuttgart, Metzler and Munich, 1937–)