The Importance of Iconography in Society

The following sample essay on The Importance of Iconography in Society For thousands of years, religious iconography has been a crucial element to the character of a certain society or community. Sculptures, paintings, and art in general have been created for millenium to be used as representation in beliefs. The “Statuette of a Striding Figure” is a solid copper supernatural being from an in 3000 – 2800 B.C. in ancient Mesopotamia. This statuette was representative of a mediator between two alternate dimensions, one for the living and one for the dead.

The solid copper impacts appearance by giving the statuette a brassy texture, the verdigris color and material displays a sense of strength and durability. The statuette was a bearded figure that had male characteristics with a helmet like hat that had ibex horns coming out of the head. On the body is a raptor skin coat hung over the shoulders paired with curled boots. Standing at a mere 17.2cm in height, the striding man showcases sophistication through the fine, handmade details on the petite body.

By being stanced with one foot staggered in front of the other with both arms bent at a 90 degree angle, one out further than the other, the Striding Man resembles a determined stature. Both front and side views are very dimensional and dynamic, instead of simply standing in a standard anatomical position, the creature exudes an authoritative and energetic energy. Both the attention to detail as well as the powerful stances are similar to ancient Egyptian works of art, such as the statues and paintings of the Pharaohs.

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The figure is thought to have been used as an intermediary between the afterlife and the real world. The image of this “horned demon” is shown in various locations during the beginning of the late neolithic period. This figure was essentially a religious or spiritual icon much like how the terracotta warriors outside of the Tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi were used in guarding him after death. The statuette of a striding figure was seen as a symbol of divine interaction and connection for the Sumerian empire of Mesopotamia in 2800/3000 B.C. This striding man was most likely used for prayer or rituals, as an intermediary between the spiritual realm and the real world. The use of a physical statuette to represent means of communications between the two worlds, the figure represents how iconography, through the creation of idols and statues, has been used to represent honorable religious beings for centuries.

Ancient Egyptian religion had over 80 Gods, each with their own specific purpose, and backstory of how they became a God. One of the 5 main Egyptians Gods was Osiris; a green-skinned Pharaoh that ruled the afterlife. He was a God who was one to remain unbothered by “turmoil in the state” when there could be little to no reliance from other persons in either the current or afterlife. His unaffectedness however, gained him an established title as “King of the dead.” Egyptian culture also celebrated the deceased by using statues, referred to as Ka statues. Designed to individually represent the person who had passed, Ka statues also served to compensate for any flaws on the corpse. Ancient Egyptians also participated in a religious ritual called “the opening of the mouth” ceremony so that the deceased can use their mouth to eat, drink and speak after death. Hence, the marvelous development of Egyptian sculpture. A Ka statue properly identified with the buried person through an inscription as well as being metaphorically animated through the “opening of the mouth” ceremony, the statue could replace the body should the original corpse be damaged by decay or violence.

One specific example was the Statues of King Tutankhamun found in his tomb. There were two life-sized statues found, the King’s skin colored in all black. King Tutankhamun was dressed in a “vivid-gold kilt, headdress and accessories” including golden sandals. The use of rich gold materials as compared to a common metal signified wealth and power, further The statues of the dead were religious iconography in the sense that they were seen as a connection to beliefs in the afterlife. The statues and the Striding Figure were alike due to the fact that they were both used as an intermediary between the real world, and the afterlife. The statues were three dimensional objects created for an alternative purpose other than to be looked at, they were created for a spiritual purpose, as a connection between the two realms, much like how the Striding figure was an intermediary between the same two realms. Humans have always created a version of what is known presently as “heaven,” statues like the Striding Figure, and ancient Egyptian statues of the dead were essential tools used in guiding them there. The Statues from Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt are not the only statues used in guiding the dead to the spiritual realm, cultures across the globe, such as the Terracotta Warriors from China were also used to in connection to the other side.

The Terracotta Warriors were made of painted terracotta, originally found in the Tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi, Lintong, Shannxi. They were created in the 3rd century BCE, and the Terracotta soldiers stood about a mile from Qin Shi Huang’s tomb to protect him in the afterlife.Test digs confirmed that more than 8,000 life-size terracotta soldiers, buried more than 2,000 years ago around 220 BC, filled our concealed underground chambers. The statues were very detailed, each expression was crafted to represent discoveries to come after death.The message conveyed by the shapes of the terracotta warriors suggest that close examination of the soldiers will, in some way, lead to discoveries about the sun and to revelations regarding the spiritual side of life. The purpose of the Terracotta Army was to protect the Emperor’s tomb from his enemies in the great beyond.Childless, concubines, sacrificed to accompany the emperor into the afterlife, lay alongside.

Qin Shi Huangdi wanted to conquer death, and was obsessed with the idea of immortality, he believed that people could still enjoy what they had in the real world after death and wanted to have an army to protect and serve him in the afterlife.Qin ShiI Huangdi became obsessed with immortality and the elixir of life. He traveled to the east in search of Daoist magicians who told him the elixir was on an island guarded by a sea monster. His Alchemists created an immortality pill he took that killed him due to mercury poisoning. These warriors were very true to size and depicted what real soldiers looked like in that time period. The terracotta warriors are just one of many examples of how statues and idols have been used to represent spiritual beings over time. People have always needed a sense of security in death and have created art to use for their spiritual purposes. The Terracotta Warriors were much like the Statuette of a striding figure because they were believed to help guide humans in the afterlife.

Iconography is still used in modern day religion, those who practice Catholicism use Rosary beads for prayer. The first recorded rosary beads made for prayer were created in 300-400 AD,Anthony the Great (251-356) invented the Byzantine rosary: a circular string of knotted wool used in conjunction with the Jesus Prayer. they are typically a longer strand of beads put together with a cross or crucifix.It is a circular string or chain of beads composed of five decades of small beads separated by five larger beads with a pendant attached, consisting of a cross or crucifix, and a chain of two large and three smaller beads. The rosary’s intended purpose is for counting prayers for the Virgin Mary,This device is used to count the prayers recited in honor of the blessed Virgin Mary while meditating on scenes from the life of Christ and His mother. they are held in the hands of those praying, typically kneeling down.

The use of Rosary beads is a catholic practice, but many other religions use different sorts of beads for their beliefs as well, like in Hinduism and also Christianity.The use of beads as a counting device is probably universal, it is known that prayer beads were used in Hindu practice from about 1750 BC. We can date the Christian use of beads to the fourth century and the Jesus Prayer has survived to the present day being counted on a knotted woollen rope. Rosary beads are key evidence of the important part that inanimate objects play in religion, due to the fact that they are widely used around the globe to this day. Although the Statuette of a Striding Figure and Rosary beads are used in two completely different time periods, they still hold true to the same purpose, acting as a tool to bring together two different realms. Both objects hold a meaning created solely by the society surrounding them, those who believed the objects had spiritual abilities created a new meaning to otherwise meaningless works of art.

The Statuette of a Striding Figure was one of many examples of how humans have used icons and inanimate objects as a connection to the afterlife. Humans all over the world throughout the ages have always created a sense of life after death; they crafted objects to go along with their beliefs, and oftentimes believed those objects were necessary to get them there. Religions and cultures have always used objects as a means for communication between the supernatural, spiritual realm and the real world. The Striding man, the ancient Egyptian statues, the Terracotta Warriors and the Rosary beads were all given a non existent power by the societies that they came from. Each object being from a different time period and place in the world represents the longevity and power that religious iconography has and continues to bring to society. The use of iconography in each of the works of art symbolizes more than just a pretty picture, the iconography represents an entire religious belief.

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The Importance of Iconography in Society. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

The Importance of Iconography in Society
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