Monday, August 6, 2012

The Art of Faith: A Guide to Understanding Christian Art and Architecture by Judith Couchman

Paraclete Press sent me a review copy of The Art of Faith: A Guide to Christian Art and Architecture by Judith Couchman. The book is arranged topically. Within those divisions there are various entries that explain the symbolism found in Christian artwork. An index is provided so that you can quickly look up an entry such as "almond." Each entry contains a brief explanation and examples of painting where this symbol can be found. I am not aware of any book quite like this and it should be helpful for anyone who has an interest in Christian art. Symbols typically are there for a reason and not merely decorative. Like other books from Paraclete Press, the book attempts to be ecumenical in order to be useful to a wide variety of Christians but at times I thought this was take too far. For instance, the majority (if not all) of the artistic works mentioned that depict baptism were done by people who held to baptismal regeneration but the author of the book says that baptism is a symbol of salvation. So we end up with a painting that contains symbols of symbols. When it came to the Lord's Supper, the author spent a brief time explaining the different views that Christians have of the Lord's Supper but I don't think all these various views existed among the artists. The book is not tiny but I would have liked to see entries that were a bit longer in some cases. When we get to the baptism of Jesus all we really learn is that the Holy Spirit is depicted as a dove in Christian art. But the book is certainly still useful, especially when dealing with some of the less obvious symbolism in Christian art.

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