When we say that 'Love is blind' or 'Time flies' - making concepts sound like living beings - we are using the language of allegory. Painters have long relied on allegory to create 'message pictures'. Once thought to rival literary works or political oratory in influence and prestige, such paintings, with their references to ancient myth, the Bible or astrology, all too often puzzle modern viewers. This book explains types of visual allegory in Western art, and the contexts in which they were originally created and viewed, through some of the most beautiful and intriguing pictures in the National Gallery, London. A Closer Look: Allegory is one of eleven books in the A Closer Look series.
Erika Langmuir, OBE, was Head of Education at the National Gallery from 1988 to 1995.