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The Square Halo and Other Mysteries of Western Art:
The very symbols and stories that imbue much of Western art with its meaning and drama are often enigmatic to contemporary viewers. Why, for example, are some saints represented by certain animals, or why are they depicted with square or triangular halos? The answers, which were once clear to viewers of previous eras, are now long-forgotten and obscure. Paintings from earlier centuries can be totally mystifying if viewers do not understand certain iconography and what it once meant to the artist and his or her patrons. Author Sally Fisher, who worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 17 years, bridges that gap with this fascinating, clearly written book. Each of the 150 works of art included (most in full color) illustrates age-old beliefs, stories, and symbols, from Old Testament stories and the lives of the Madonna, Christ, and the saints, to the peculiar symbolism of classical mythology. [via]