Halo (religious iconography)

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Halo (religious iconography)
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{{short description|Religious symbol representing a ring of light}}{{Other uses2|halo}}{{Use dmy dates|date=July 2013}}File:Gandhara Buddha (tnm).jpeg|thumb|right|220px|Standing Buddha with a halo, 1st–2nd century AD (or earlier), Greco-Buddhist art of GandharaGandharaFile:Masaccio chapelle Brancacci.png|thumb|right|320px|Jesus and nine of the Twelve Apostles depicted with "Floating" disk haloes in perspective (detail from The Tribute Money, illustrating {{bibleverse||Matthew|17:24-27|KJV}}, by Masaccio, 1424, Brancacci ChapelBrancacci ChapelA halo (from Greek , halōs;{{OEtymD|halo}} {{LSJ|a(/lws|ἅλως|ref}}. also known as a nimbus, aureole, glory, or gloriole) is a crown of light rays, circle or disk of lightWEB,weblink halo – art,, that surrounds a person in art. It has been used in the iconography of many religions to indicate holy or sacred figures, and has at various periods also been used in images of rulers or heroes. In the religious art of Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, among other religions, sacred persons may be depicted with a halo in the form of a circular glow, or flames in Asian art, around the head or around the whole body—this last one is often called a mandorla. Halos may be shown as almost any colour or combination of colours, but are most often depicted as golden, yellow or white when representing light or red when representing flames.

Ancient Greek world

File:Octadrachm Ptolemy III BM CMBMC103.jpg|thumb|left|220px|Octadrachm of Ptolemy IIIPtolemy IIIHomer describes a more-than-natural light around the heads of heroes in battle.Iliad v.4ff, xviii.203ff. Depictions of Perseus in the act of slaying Medusa, with lines radiating from his head, appear on a white-ground toiletry box in the Louvre and on a slightly later red-figured vase in the style of Polygnotos, ca. 450-30 BC, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.Marjorie J. Milne, "Perseus and Medusa on an Attic Vase" The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin New Series, 4.5 (January 1946, pp. 126-130) 126.p.) {{JSTOR|3257993}} On painted wares from south Italy, radiant lines or simple haloes appear on a range of mythic figures: Lyssa, a personification of madness; a sphinx; a sea demon; and Thetis, the sea-nymph who was mother to Achilles.L. Stephani, Nimbus und Strahlenkranz in den Werken der Alten Kunst" in Mémoires de l'Académie des Sciences de Saint-Petersbourg'', series vi, vol. vol ix, noted in Milne 1946:130. The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the sun-god Helios and had his usual radiate crown (copied for the Statue of Liberty). Hellenistic rulers are often shown wearing radiate crowns that seem clearly to imitate this effect.{{citation needed|date=January 2012}}Further afield, Sumerian religious literature frequently speaks of melam (loaned into Akkadian as melammu), a "brilliant, visible glamour which is exuded by gods, heroes, sometimes by kings, and also by temples of great holiness and by gods' symbols and emblems."J. Black and A. Green, Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotmia (Austin, 1992) p. 130.

In Asian art

File:Menander II with nimbate Nike.jpg|thumb|350px|Coin of Indo-Greek king Menander II (90–85 BCE), displaying Nike with a halo on the reverse.]]The halo and the aureola have been widely used in Indian art, particularly in Buddhist iconographyWEB,weblink Metropolitan Museum of Art: Art of South Asia,, where it has appeared since at least the 1st century AD; the Kushan Bimaran casket in the British Museum is dated 60AD (at least between 30BC and 200AD). The rulers of the Kushan Empire were perhaps the earliest to give themselves haloes on their coins, and the nimbus in art may have originated in Central Asia and spread both east and west.In Chinese and Japanese Buddhist art the halo has also been used since the earliest periods in depicting the image of Amitabha Buddha and others. Tibetan Buddhism uses haloes and aureoles of many types, drawing from both Indian and Chinese traditions, extensively in statues and Thangka paintings of Buddhist saints such as Milarepa and Padmasambhava and deities. Different coloured haloes have specific meanings: orange for monks, green for the Buddha and other more elevated beings,including the Qianlong Emperor – see note below. Rhie, Marylin and Thurman, Robert (eds):Wisdom And Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet, p. 99, & passim, 2000, 1991, {{ISBN|0-8109-2526-5}} and commonly figures have both a halo for the head, and another circular one for the body, the two often intersecting somewhere around the head or neck. Thin lines of gold often radiate outwards or inwards from the rim of the halo, and sometimes a whole halo is made up of these.Rhie and Thurman, pp 77, 176, 197 etc. In India the head halo is called Prabhamandala or Siras-cakra, while the full body halo is Prabhavali. Gopinatha Rao, T. A. (1985). Elements of Hindu Iconography. pps. 31-32. Motilal Banarsidass. {{ISBN|9788120808782}} Elaborate haloes and especially aureoles also appear in Hindu sculpture, where they tend to develop into architectural frames in which the original idea can be hard to recognise. Theravada Buddhism and Jainism did not use the halo for many centuries, but later adopted it, though less thoroughly than other religious groups.File:Medieval Persian manuscript Muhammad leads Abraham Moses Jesus.jpg|thumb|right|Muhammad leads Abraham, Moses, Jesus and others in prayer. Persian miniaturePersian miniatureIn Asian art, the nimbus is often imagined as consisting not just of light, but of flames. This type seems to first appear in Chinese bronzes of which the earliest surviving examples date from before 450.No doubt, as later, the same motif appeared in paintings, but none survive from this early. L Sickman & A Soper, "The Art and Architecture of China", Pelican History of Art, 3rd ed 1971, pp 86-7, Penguin (now Yale History of Art), LOC 70-125675 The depiction of the flames may be very formalized, as in the regular little flames on the ring aureole surrounding many Chola bronzes and other classic Hindu sculptures of divinities, or very prominent, as with the more realistic flames, and sometimes smoke, shown rising to a peak behind many Tibetan Buddhist depictions of the "wrathful aspect" of divinities, and also in Persian miniatures of the classic period. This type is also very rarely found, and on a smaller scale, in medieval Christian art.See Didron{{page needed|date=July 2017}} Sometimes a thin line of flames rise up from the edges of a circular halo in Buddhist examples.Often in paintings from the Dunhuang caves, see Anne Farrer (ed), "Caves of the Thousand Buddhas" , 1990, British Museum publications, nos 42, 53, 54 etc, {{ISBN|0-7141-1447-2}} In Tibetan paintings the flames are often shown as blown by a wind, usually from left to right.Rhie and Thurman, p.161Halos are found in Islamic art from various places and periods, especially in Persian miniatures and Moghul and Ottoman art influenced by them. Flaming halos derived from Buddhist art surround angels, and similar ones are often seen around Muhammad and other sacred human figures. From the early 17th century, plainer round haloes appear in portraits of Mughal Emperors and subsequently Rajput and Sikh rulers; despite the more local precedents art historians believe the Mughals took the motif from European religious art, though it expresses a Persian idea of the God-given charisma of kingship that is far older.Crill & Jariwala, 29 and note The Ottomans avoided using halos for the sultans, despite their title as Caliph, and they are only seen on Chinese emperors if they are posing as Buddhist religious figures, as some felt entitled to do.Such as the Qianlong Emperor the Qianlong Emperor in Buddhist Dress, and his father.

Egypt and Asia

File:Maler der Grabkammer der Nefertari 001.jpg|Ra with solar disc, before 1235 BCFile:TrilogyDetail.JPG|The Kushan Kanishka casket of 127, with (left to right) Brahma, the Buddha and Indra.File:Maitri.jpg|Northern Wei Buddhist bronze, 524, with two-ringed halo within a flaming mandorlaFile:Shiva Nataraja Musée Guimet 25971.jpg|Chola Nataraja with an aureole of flames, 11th centuryThe ring of fire is ascribed other meanings in many accounts of the iconography of the Nataraja, but many other types of statue have similar aureoles, and their origin as such is clear.File:Museum für Indische Kunst Dahlem Berlin Mai 2006 019.jpg|Hindu figure, 11th centuryFile:Vishnu Kumartuli Park Sarbojanin Arnab Dutta 2010.JPG|Modern murti of Vishnu, with halo created by lightingFile:Bichitr - Jahangir preferring a sufi sheikh to kings.jpg|The Mughal emperor Jahangir often had himself depicted with a halo of unprecedented size. ca. 1620File:Tibetan Thangka, anonymous, private collection.jpg|A multi-limbed Tibet a deity surrounded by an aureole of fire and smoke, 19th century. (Thangka of the Hayagriva)

In Roman art

File:Apollo1.JPG|thumb|240px|right|Apollo with a radiant halo in a Roman floor mosaic (late 2nd century, El DjemEl DjemThe halo represents an aura or the glow of sanctity which was conventionally drawn encircling the head. It first appeared in the culture of Hellenistic Greece and Rome, possibly related to the Zoroastrian hvarena – "glory" or "divine lustre" – which marked the Persian kings, and may have been imported with Mithraism.JOURNAL, Ramsden, E. H., 1941, The Halo: A Further Enquiry into Its Origin, 868232, The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, 78, 457, 123–131, Though Roman paintings have largely disappeared, save some fresco decorations, the haloed figure remains fresh in Roman mosaics. In a 2nd-century AD Roman floor mosaic preserved at Bardo, Tunisia,Illustrated. a haloed Poseidon appears in his chariot drawn by hippocamps. Significantly, the triton and nereid who accompany the sea-god are not haloed.In a late 2nd century AD floor mosaic from Thysdrus, El Djem, (illustration) Apollo Helios is identified by his effulgent halo. Another haloed Apollo in mosaic, from Hadrumentum, is in the museum at Sousse.WEB,weblink Illustration, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 8 July 2008, dmy-all, The conventions of this representation, head tilted, lips slightly parted, large-eyed, curling hair cut in locks grazing the neck, were developed in the 3rd century BC to depict Alexander the Great (Bieber 1964; Yalouris 1980). Sometime after this mosaic was executed, the Emperor began to be depicted with a halo,Initially only dead and therefore deified Emperors were haloed, later the living Catholic Encyclopedia which was not abandoned when they became Christian; initially Christ only had one when shown on a throne as Christ in Majesty.WEB,weblink CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Nimbus,,

In Christian art

File:ChristAsSol.jpg|thumb|left|240px|Early pre-4th century Mosaic of Sol InvictusAccording to the 1967 New Catholic Encyclopedia, a standard library reference, in an article on Constantine the Great: "Besides, the Sol Invictus had been adopted by the Christians in a Christian sense, as demonstrated in the Christ as Apollo-Helios in a mausoleum (c. 250) discovered beneath St. Peter's in the Vatican." in Mausoleum M in the pre-4th-century necropolis beneath St Peter's BasilicaSt Peter's BasilicaThe halo was incorporated into Early Christian art sometime in the 4th century with the earliest iconic images of Christ, initially the only figure shown with one (together with his symbol, the Lamb of God). Initially the halo was regarded by many as a representation of the Logos of Christ, his divine nature, and therefore in very early (before 500) depictions of Christ before his Baptism by John he tends not to be shown with a halo, it being a matter of debate whether his Logos was innate from conception (the Orthodox view), or acquired at Baptism (the Nestorian view). At this period he is also shown as a child or youth in Baptisms, though this may be a hieratic rather than an age-related representation.G Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. I, 1971 (English trans. from German), Lund Humphries, London, p. 135, figs 150-53, 346-54. {{ISBN|0-85331-270-2}}File:Kölner Meister eines Evangelienbuches 001.jpg|thumb|right|Nativity and Transfiguration of Christ, with cross haloes; the apostles, angels and prophets have plain ones. (1025–50, CologneCologneA cruciform halo, that is to say a halo with a cross within, or extending beyond, the circle is used to represent the persons of the Holy Trinity, especially Jesus, and especially in medieval art. In Byzantine and Orthodox images, inside each of the bars of the cross in Christ's halo is one of the Greek letters Ο Ω Ν, making up —"ho ōn", literally, "the Existing One"—indicating the divinity of Jesus.WEB, Early Christian Symbols,weblink Catholic Biblical Association of Canada, 20 September 2011, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 23 December 2011, dmy-all, At least in later Orthodox images, each bar of this cross is composed of three lines, symbolising the dogmas of the Trinity, the oneness of God and the two natures of Christ.In mosaics in Santa Maria Maggiore (432-40) the juvenile Christ has a four-armed cross either on top of his head in the radius of the nimbus, or placed above the radius, but this is unusual. In the same mosaics the accompanying angels have haloes (as, in a continuation of the Imperial tradition, does King Herod), but not Mary and Joseph. Occasionally other figures have crossed haloes, such as the seven doves representing the Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit in the 11th century Codex Vyssegradensis Tree of Jesse (where Jesse and Isaiah also have plain haloes, as do the Ancestors of Christ in other miniatures).G Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. I, 1971 (English trans. from German), Lund Humphries, London, figs 20-22, {{ISBN|0-85331-270-2}}Later, triangular haloes are sometimes given to God the Father to represent the {{webarchive|url= |date=23 April 2007 }}, Late 15th century reliefs by Jacopo della Quercia on the portal of San Petronio, Bologna are an early example of the triangular halo. According to Didron, Adolphe Napoléon: Christian Iconography: Or, The History of Christian Art in the Middle Ages, London, 1851, Vol 2, p30, this is "extremely rare in France, but common enough in Italy and Greece When he is represented by a hand emerging from a cloud, this may be given a halo.Plain round haloes are typically used to signify saints, the Virgin Mary, Old Testament prophets, angels, symbols of the Four Evangelists, and some other figures. Byzantine emperors and empresses were often shown with them in compositions including saints or Christ, however the haloes were outlined only. This was copied by Ottonian and later Russian rulers. Old Testament figures become less likely to have haloes in the West as the Middle Ages go on.Didron, Vol 2, pp.68-71File:Pope Paschalis I. in apsis mosaic of Santa Prassede in Rome.gif|thumb|right|180px|Pope Paschal I is depicted during his lifetime, so with a square halo, c. 820, Santa PrassedeSanta PrassedeBeatified figures, not yet canonised as saints, are sometimes shown in medieval Italian art with linear rays radiating out from the head, but no circular edge of the nimbus defined; later this became a less obtrusive form of halo that could be used for all figures.The distinction is observed in the Christ Glorified in the Court of Heaven (1423-4) by Fra Angelico, National Gallery, London, where only the beatified saints at the edges have radiating linear haloes. Mary has, especially from the Baroque period onwards, a special form of halo in a circle of twelve stars, derived from her identification as the Woman of the Apocalypse.Square haloes were sometimes used for the living in donor portraits of about 500-1100 in Italy;only in Italy, according to Didron, Vol 2 p.79. Most surviving ones are of Popes and others in mosaics in Rome, including the Episcopa Theodora head of the mother of the Pope of the day. They seem merely an indication of a contemporary figure, as opposed to the saints usually accompanying them, with no real implication of future canonization. A late example is of Desiderius, Abbot of Monte Cassino, later Pope, from a manuscript of 1056–86;see Didron, Vol 2 p.79 and Dodwell, C.R.; The Pictorial arts of the West, 800-1200, 1993, Yale UP, {{ISBN|0-300-06493-4}}, p. 170 Pope Gregory the Great had himself depicted with one, according to the 9th-century writer of his vita, John, deacon of Rome.Johannes Diaconus gives the reason: circa verticem tabulae similitudinem, quod viventis insigne est, preferens, non-coronam ("bearing around his head the likeness of a square, which is the sign for a living person, and not a crown") (Migne, Pat. Lat. 75, 231). The deacon of Rome was unaware of the Eastern tradition of depicting the emperor with a halo. Surviving examples are rare, and seem to be becoming rarer; Bishop Ecclesius has a clear one in older photos of the mosaics in San Vitale, Ravenna, which appears to have been removed in recent restoration Cupola of the choir – see: James Hall, A History of Ideas and Images in Italian Art, p100 & photo p.93, 1983, John Murray, London, {{ISBN|0-7195-3971-4}}. Other surviving examples are Pope Hadrian I in a mural formerly in Santa Prassede, Rome, donor figures in the church at Saint Catherine's Monastery and two more Roman examples – items 3 and 5 {{webarchive|url= |date=30 June 2007 }}, one of Paschal's mother, the rather mysterious Episcopa Theodora. see also: Fisher, Sally. The Square Halo and Other Mysteries of Western Art: Images and the Stories that Inspired Them. Edited by Harriet Whelchel, Harry N Abrams, Inc., 1995 A figure who may represent Moses in the 3rd century Dura Europos Synagogue has one, where no round halos are found.WEB,weblink Joshua. Fresco from the Dura Europos synagogue (Jewish Art, ed. Cecil Roth, Tel Aviv: Massadah Press, 1961, cols. 203-204: "Joshua")., made by photographer, Becklectic, Wikimedia Commons, Personifications of the Virtues are sometimes given hexagonal haloes.As in the frescoes by the workshop of Giotto in the lower church at Assisi. James Hall, A History of Ideas and Images in Italian Art, p202, 1983, John Murray, London, {{ISBN|0-7195-3971-4}} Scalloped haloes, sometimes just appearing as made of radiating bars, are found in the manuscripts of the Carolingian "Ada School", such as the Ada Gospels.The whole-body image of radiance is sometimes called the 'aureole' or glory; it is shown radiating from all round the body, most often of Christ or Mary, occasionally of saints (especially those reported to have been seen surrounded by one). Such an aureola is often a mandorla ("almond-shaped" vesica piscis), especially around Christ in Majesty, who may well have a halo as well. In depictions of the Transfiguration of Jesus a more complicated shape is often seen, especially in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, as in the famous 15th century icon in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.Didron, Vol 2, pp. 107-126Where gold is used as a background in miniatures, mosaics and panel paintings, the halo is often formed by inscribing lines in the gold leaf, and may be decorated in patterns (diapering) within the outer radius, and thus becomes much less prominent. The gold leaf inside the halo may also be burnished in a circular manner, so as to produce the effect of light radiating out from the subject's head. In the early centuries of its use, the Christian halo may be in most colours (though black is reserved for Judas, Satan and other evil figures) or multicoloured; later gold becomes standard, and if the entire background is not gold leaf, the halo itself usually will be.Robin Margaret Jensen, Understanding Early Christian Art, p. 112, 2000, Routledge, {{ISBN|0-415-20454-2}}

Decline of the halo

File:Fra Angelico 082.jpg|thumb|left|290px|Fra Angelico. Coronation of the VirginCoronation of the VirginWith increasing realism in painting, the halo came to be a problem for artists. So long as they continued to use the old compositional formulae which had been worked out to accommodate haloes, the problems were manageable, but as Western artists sought more flexibility in composition, this ceased to be the case. In free-standing medieval sculpture, the halo was already shown as a flat disk above or behind the head. When perspective came to be considered essential, painters also changed the halo from an aura surrounding the head, always depicted as though seen full-on, to a flat golden disk or ring that appeared in perspective, floating above the heads of the saints, or vertically behind, sometimes transparent. This can be seen first in Giotto, who still gives Christ the cruciform halo which began to be phased out by his successors. In northern Europe the radiant halo, made up of rays like a sunburst, came into fashion in French painting around the end of the 14th century.Tait, Hugh. Catalogue of the Waddesdon Bequest in the British Museum, p. 43, 1986, British Museum Press, {{ISBN|978-0-7141-0525-3}}In the early 15th century Jan van Eyck and Robert Campin largely abandoned their use, although some other Early Netherlandish artists continued to use them.Haloes were also often added by later dealers and restorers to such works, and indeed sometimes used to convert portraits into "saints". Intentional Alterations of Early Netherlandish Painting, Metropolitan Museum In Italy at around the same time, Pisanello used them if they did not clash with one of the enormous hats he liked to paint. Generally they lasted longer in Italy, although often reduced to a thin gold band depicting the outer edge of the nimbus, usual for example in Giovanni Bellini. Christ began to be shown with a plain halo.File:Madonna Benois.jpg|thumb|right|250px|Leonardo da Vinci (attributed), Benois Madonna. Floating semi-transparent haloes in perspective.]]Fra Angelico, himself a monk, was a conservative as far as haloes are concerned, and some of his paintings demonstrate the problems well, as in several of his more crowded compositions, where they are shown as solid gold disks on the same plane as the picture surface, it becomes difficult to prevent them obstructing other figures. At the same time they were useful in crowded narrative scenes for distinguishing the main, identifiable, figures from the mass of a crowd. Giotto's Lamentation of Christ from the Scrovegni Chapel has eight figures with haloes and ten without, to whom the viewer knows they are not meant to attach a specific identity. In the same way, a Baptism of Christ by Perugino in Vienna gives neither Christ nor John the Baptist haloes, as sufficiently recognisable without them, but a saint in the background, not usually present in this scene, has a ring halo to denote his status.If not their identity. The painting has been partly repainted, and the current appearance may not be the original one. (:File:Pietro Perugino 077.jpg|Vienna Perugino)In the High Renaissance, even most Italian painters dispensed with haloes altogether, but in the Church's reaction to the Protestant Reformation, that culminated in the decrees on images of the Council of Trent of 1563, their use was mandated by clerical writers on religious art such as Molanus and Saint Carlo Borromeo. Figures were placed where natural light sources would highlight their heads, or instead more discreet quasi-naturalistic flickering or glowing light was shown around the head of Christ and other figures (perhaps pioneered by Titian in his late period). Rembrandt's etchings, for example, show a variety of solutions of all of these types, as well as a majority with no halo effect at all. The disk halo was rarely used for figures from classical mythology in the Renaissance, although they are sometimes seen, especially in the classical radiant form, in Mannerist and Baroque art.By the 19th century haloes have become unusual in Western mainstream art, although retained in iconic and popular images, and sometimes as a medievalising effect. When John Millais gives his otherwise realist St Stephen (1895) a ring halo, it seems rather surprising.WEB,weblink ‘Saint Stephen’, Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, 1895 – Tate, Tate,, In popular graphic culture, a simple ring has become the predominant representation of a halo since at least the late 19th century, as seen for example in the logo for the Simon Templar ("The Saint") series of novels and other adaptations.

Spiritual significance in Christianity

File:Ushakov Nerukotvorniy.jpg|thumb|right|250px|Eastern Orthodox icon of Christ "Not Made by Hand" with the Greek letters Ο ὤ Ν. Simon UshakovSimon UshakovThe early Church Fathers expended much rhetorical energy on conceptions of God as a source of light; among other things this was because "in the controversies in the 4th century over the consubstantiality of the Father and the Son, the relation of the ray to the source was the most cogent example of emanation and of distinct forms with a common substance" – key concepts in the theological thought of the time.Notes on Castelseprio (1957) in Meyer Schapiro, Selected Papers, volume 3, p117, Late Antique, Early Christian and Mediaeval Art, 1980, Chatto & Windus, London, {{ISBN|0-7011-2514-4}}A more Catholic interpretation, less dualistic in its assumptions, is that the halo represents the light of divine grace suffusing the soul, which is perfectly united and in harmony with the physical body.In the theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church, an icon is a "window into heaven" through which Christ and the Saints in heaven can be seen and communicated with. The gold background of the icon indicates that what is depicted is in heaven. The halo is a symbol of the Uncreated Light (Greek: Ἄκτιστον Φῶς) or grace of God shining forth through the icon. Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in his Celestial Hierarchies speaks of the angels and saints being illuminated by the grace of God, and in turn illumining others.

Gallery – Christian art

File:Justinian.jpg|The Emperor Justinian (and the Empress Theodora) are haloed in mosaics at the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, 548. See here for earlier and here for later examples.File:Tetraevangelia of Tsar Ivan Alexander.jpg|Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria, 1355–56; the whole royal family have haloes.File:Giotto - Scrovegni - -29- - Last Supper.jpg|Giotto Scrovegni Chapel, 1305, with flat perspectival haloes; the view from behind causes difficulties, and John's halo has to be reduced in size.File:Duccio di Buoninsegna 017.jpg|The risen Christ appearing to the Eleven (Luke 24,36-49) from Duccio's Maestà. Christ has a plain halo; the Apostles only have them where they will not seriously interfere with the composition.File:Robert Campin - The Virgin and Child before a Firescreen (National Gallery London).jpg|Netherlandish, before 1430. A religious scene where objects in a realistic domestic setting contain symbolism. A wicker firescreen serves as a halo.File:Pisanello 014.jpg|Mary above has a large aureole, St Anthony has a disk halo in perspective, but this would spoil the appearance of St George's hat. Pisanello, 1430sFile:Fra Angelico 005.jpg|Fra Angelico 1450, Mary's halo is in perspective, Joseph's is not. Jesus still has a cruciform halo.File:Hans Leonhard Schäufelein - Abendmahl.jpg|The Lutheran Hans Leonhard Schäufelein shows only Christ with a halo in this Last Supper of 1515.File:Simon ushakov last supper 1685.jpg|In Simon Ushakov's icon of The Last Supper (1685) eleven of the twelve apostles have haloes: only Judas Iscariot does not.File:Salvatormundi.jpg|Salvator Mundi, 1570, by Titian. From the late Renaissance a more "naturalistic" form of halo was often preferred.File:Mary Wollstonecraft Original Stories from Real Life copy 1 object 1 - Look what a fine morning it is.jpg|William Blake uses the hats of the two girls to suggest haloes in the frontispiece to Mary Wollstonecraft's "Original Stories from Real Life", 1791.File:L F Schnorr von Carolsfeld Die drei Marien am Grab Jesu.jpg|Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld was a member of the Nazarene movement that looked back to medieval art. However, in The Three Marys at the Tomb, 1835, only the angel has a halo.

Origins and usage of the different terms

File:Preobrazhenie.jpeg|thumb|Late Byzantine/Russian icon of the Transfiguration. Christ is shown surrounded by a light blue aureole with white flashes of lightning (15th century, attributed to Theophanes the Greek, Tretyakov Gallery, MoscowMoscowThe distinction between the alternative terms in English is rather unclear. The oldest term in English is "glory", the only one available in the Middle Ages, but now largely obsolete. It came from the French "gloire" which has much the same range of meanings as "glory". "Gloriole" does not appear in this sense until 1844, being a modern invention, as a diminutive, in French also. "Halo" is first found in English in this sense in 1646 (nearly a century after the optical or astronomical sense). Both "halos" and "haloes" may be used as plural forms, and halo may be used as a verb.OED original edition for "glory", "gloriole" and "halo". Halo comes originally from the Greek for "threshing-floor" – a circular, slightly sloping area kept very clean, around which slaves or oxen walked to thresh the grain. In Greek, this came to mean the divine bright disk.Nimbus means a cloud in Latin and is found as a divine cloud in 1616, whereas as "a bright or golden disk surrounding the head" it does not appear until 1727. The plural "nimbi" is correct but "rare"; "nimbuses" is not in the OED but sometimes used. "Nimb" is an obsolete form of the noun, but not a verb, except that the obsolete "nimbated", like the commoner "nimbate", means "furnished with a nimbus". It is sometimes preferred by art-historians, as sounding more technical than halo.OED original edition for "nimbus" etc."Aureole", from the Latin for "golden", has been used in English as a term for a gold crown, especially that traditionally considered the reward of martyrs, since the Middle Ages (OED 1220). But the first use recorded as a term for a halo is in 1848, very shortly after which matters were greatly complicated by the publication in 1851 of the English translation of Adolphe Napoléon Didron's important Christian Iconography: Or, The History of Christian Art in the Middle Ages. This, by what the OED calls a "strange blunder", derived the word from the Latin "aura" as a diminutive, and also defined it as meaning a halo or glory covering the whole body, whilst saying that "nimbus" referred only to a halo around the head. This, according to the OED, reversed the historical usage of both words, but whilst Didron's diktat was "not accepted in France", the OED noted it had already been picked up by several English dictionaries, and influenced usage in English, which still seems to be the case, as the word "nimbus" is mostly found describing whole-body haloes, and seems to have also influenced "gloriole" in the same direction.OED original edition for "aureole".The only English term that unequivocally means a full-body halo, and cannot be used for a circular disk around the head is "mandorla", first occurring in 1883. However, this term, which is the Italian word for "almond", is usually reserved for the vesica piscis shape, at least in describing Christian art. In discussing Asian art, it is used more widely.For example by Sickman and Soper, op. cit. Otherwise, there could be said to be an excess of words that could refer to either a head-disk or a full-body halo, and no word that clearly denotes a full-body halo that is not vesica piscis shaped. "Halo" by itself, according to recent dictionaries,Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1995, and Collins English Dictionary. means only a circle around the head, although Rhie and Thurman use the word also for circular full-body aureoles.op & pages cit. The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1911 (link above) has a further set of meanings for these terms, including glory.

See also




  • Aster, Shawn Zelig, The Unbeatable Light: Melammu and Its Biblical Parallels, Alter Orient und Altes Testament vol. 384 (Münster), 2012, {{ISBN|978-3-86835-051-7}}
  • Crill, Rosemary, and Jariwala, Kapil. The Indian Portrait, 1560–1860, National Portrait Gallery, London, 2010, {{ISBN|978-1-85514-409-5}}
  • Didron, Adolphe Napoléon, Christian Iconography: Or, The History of Christian Art in the Middle Ages, Translated by Ellen J. Millington, H. G. Bohn, (Original from Harvard University, Digitized for Google Books) – Volume I, Part I (pp. 25–165) is concerned with the halo in its different forms, though the book is not up to date.
  • Dodwell, C. R., The Pictorial arts of the West, 800–1200, 1993, Yale UP, {{ISBN|0-300-06493-4}}
  • Rhie, Marylin and Thurman, Robert (eds.): Wisdom And Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet, 1991, {{ISBN|0-8109-2526-5}}
  • Schiller, Gertrud, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. I, 1971 (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, {{ISBN|0-85331-270-2}}

Further reading

  • Ainsworth, Maryan W., "Intentional Alterations of Early Netherlandish Paintings", Metropolitan Museum Journal, Vol. 40, Essays in Memory of John M. Brealey (2005), pp. 51–65, 10, University of Chicago Press on behalf of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, {{jstor|20320643}} – on the later addition and removal of halos

External links

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