Metabolism of Visual Symbols: Case Madonna

By Sari Kuuva.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published Online: February 5, 2016 $US5.00

W. J. T. Mitchell (2005) has compared images with living organisms. While images can be likened with species, individual pictures can be likened to specimens. I suggest that visual symbols, partly images and partly pictures, can be approached through physiological concept of metabolism. Metabolism refers to a set of life-maintaining chemical reactions that occur in the living organism, allowing the organism to grow and to reproduce, to maintain its structure and to respond to its environment. Just like living organisms, also visual symbols respond to their environment, and in the context of this interaction both their perceivable and non-perceivable properties may transform. Metabolism of visual symbols is discussed through the imagery of the Madonna, and examples are taken from both ecclesiastical and secular art. Special attention is paid to those dogmas and cults of Mary, like the Immaculate Conception, which have interacted with the iconography of the Madonna. The goal is to analyze how the concept of metabolism could clarify the problematics of change and continuity in the study of images, pictures and symbols.

Keywords: Symbol, Picture, Image, Art, Interpretation, Madonna, Mitchell

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 7, Issue 2, June, 2016, pp.9-14. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online: February 5, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 496.796KB)).

Dr. Sari Kuuva

Post-doctoral Researcher, Department of Arts and Culture Studies, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland