frank: I do not think so. Providing subject access to pictures is not an exercise in epistemology. It
is a practical matter.All we really need to decide is whether we want to use the concept of "cold-
ness" as one of the search terms to retrieve this picture and, thereby, this emblem. If so, the Icon-
class concept 22E2 coldness can simply be added to the list given above.
This leaves us with what in the UIUC database is called the "Theme," which I understand to
be identical with E.21 of the Spine.The theme of this picture is concisely described as "Tears of
penance wash away sin." In a limited sense, obviously, this is not something we see in this picture.
In fact, the picture does not give us any clue that this is its theme.To establish that, we must know
that Callot's Lux Claustri is a book that uses emblems to tell a monk how to build his relation-
ship with God, himself, and his fellowmen. Moreover, we need this specific emblem's texts to
understand that the water of the river is a metaphor for the tears of a penitent monk or friar.
Again, while we should avoid giving ontological definitions of what motifs, topoi, and themes
are, we should ask the practical question: do we want this emblem to be retrieved when we
query our data for concepts like "monks," or "penance,""forgiving,""absolution" or perhaps "the
seven Sacraments"? If so, we have to make another decision whether to apply Iconclass to this
task. I am beginning to repeat myself, but that, too, is a practical issue and nothing else. Below
is a list of concepts from the Iconclass system that could be used for making up category E.21
of the "Spine":
· 11P31521 monk(s), friar(s)
· 11Q732321 penance,'Poenitentia'; 'Contritione' (Ripa) ~ part of the confession
· 11Q732323 absolution, forgiveness of sins ~ part of the confession
· 31B6214 weeping
· 57A74 Forgivingness
While it is immediately apparent that the concept "Tears of penance wash away sin" is not pres-
ent as a compound entry among Iconclass's stock of ready-made definitions, many of its build-
ing blocks are, thus recommending this classifications usefulness for several categories of emblem
indexing. For a comparable Biblical image requiring composite descriptors, see illustration 21.
Illustration 21: Crucifixion from a Missal; Koninklijke
Bibliotheek (The Hague), 128 D 29, f. 128v.The sub-
ject matter of this picture may be summarized as
"Christ's death on the cross with St. John and Mary."
But how do we disentangle the knot that ties this sub-
ject to themes like "sacrifice,""redemption," and "cen-
tral mystery of the Christian faith"? Would it have
been possible for, let us say, a fifteenth-century audi-
ence to see the one and not think the other? In a very
interesting study on iconography, Staale Sinding-
Larsen's Iconography and Ritual (Oslo: Universtitetsfor-
laget, 1984), one of the chapter headings reads:
" The Iconographical Subject as a Process and as a
Flexible Entity." That about sums it up ... I'm afraid.
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