Michael BATH: The Image of the Stag. Iconographic Themes in Western Art. 1992. 338 pages, 112 illustrations.

Though there have been book-length studies of the representation of various animals in art, from the unicorn to the rhinoceros, this is the first study of the iconography of the stag in Medieval and Renaissance culture. Successive chapters define and document a number of discrete images and received ideas, but the book reveals how many of these have to be seen as a part of a broader matrix of symbolic themes. The book studies the evolving structure of that semiotic system. Concentrating on paintings, sculptures, tapestries, ceremonial icons, it pays particular attention to the way the inherited matrix of symbolic topoi was interpreted and transformed in Renaissance emblem books. Part One: »Secular Traditions« concentrates on belief in the stag's longevity, which informed the uses to which it was put in courtly iconography as a symbol of dynastic continuity of imperial renovatio. Part Two identifies the major biblical and patristic texts which defined the meaning of the stag in Christian art, closely associated with images of fons vitae, baptismal iconography, and saints' legends. The final chapter describes the summation of medieval topoi and icons in Renaissance emblematics, particularly in Petrarchan Trionfi illustrations, hieroglyphics, emblem books and iconologies. The book contains new interpretations of a number of major works of art, including the Très riches heures, the Wilton Diptych, and the Westminster Abbey Cosmati Pavement. As the definitive study of its subject, it supplies an essential reference-source for the definition and documentation of a wide range of important motifs in western art.

»This is a very useful study of what the stag means both symbolically an allegorically in medieval ad Renaissance art and literature. «
Peggy Muñoz Simonds in A Critical Guide to Iconographic Research in English Renaissance Literature.

»Après avoir publié divers articles sur la symbolique du cerf dans l'art d'Occident, M. Bath a rassemblé et développé ses matériaux dans un livre bienvenu. Aussi étonnant que cela puisse paraître, il n'existait rien de bien approfondi sur le sujet. Une série de motifs particuliers sont analysés ici avec finesse«
Baudouin van den Abeele in Scriporum. 1995, 2, p. 90.

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