Hidden Symbols in a 400-year-old Painting | TateShots


Uncover the symbolism hidden in this 400-year-old artwork, painted by an unknown artist, on display at Tate Britain.

Like most religious paintings, ‘An Allegory of Man’ is packed with hidden meanings.

Extremely few British paintings of religious subjects have survived from the 16th century. After the Reformation, Protestant unease about images meant it would have been highly controversial to display either religious paintings.

The inscription at the bottom, in English, warns against the evil of worldly vanity. Instead it urges prayer to ensure the safe passage of the soul to heaven. The resurrected Christ appears at the top. Below him, at the centre, is Man, shielded by Christian and moral virtues against attacks from all sides by the Seven Deadly Sins.

The opposition against iconography, or the use of images to depict religious figures, is known as ‘aniconism’.

Voiced by Sheila Atim.

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