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Home >> Painting by Themes >> Halo

Halo



The Halo Motif had been in vogue in Western art over long periods of time. A Halo refers to a circular ring of light surrounding the head of a deity or saint. The Halo motif was at its peak during the Egyptian and Christian epochs. It is no longer the in practice in Western art culture. However use of Halo in religious art forms has been partially compensated by its inclusion in the pop culture. It is an interesting tale of how artists adopt and also then do away with symbols and how Western culture has undergone changes over the years.

A halo usually represents holiness. To the Christian Art practitioners the halo was the symbol of light of grace conferred by God. In Roman times emperors were portrayed with halos.



Symbolic meaning of Halos

A halo generally symbolizes the following things.
  • The divine
  • Majestic Grandeur
  • The inspiration that comes from within.

Halos in Egyptian art- The evolution of the concept of Halo is closely linked with Egyptian tradition of sun and animal worship. Thus though halo is traditionally linked to Christianity it was in existence long before Christ was born. Egyptians Halos are distinctly different from the modern day notion of the Halo. According to Frederick Goodman "The 'halo', which is ultimately derived from the magical symbolism of the Egyptians ... is almost like a sun, and, symbolically speaking, may be considered to be the equivalent of a small and radiant sun, streaming forth spiritual light”

Halos in Greek and Roman art- Greek culture is replete with examples of halos .the Romans also embraced willingly the symbol of halo like the Greeks. Many Roman and Greek gods were depicted with halos in their paintings. More interestingly, a time came when Roman emperors began to portray halos in imperial coins.

Halos in Early Christianity- In Christian tradition Jesus Christ was always portrayed with a halo. However use of this symbol became generalized and soon martyrs or persons with royal bearing were portrayed with halos.

Halos in later Christianity- During the Renaissance period the halos went out of fashion as the new emphasis was on perspective. Many art critics hold Italian painter Giotto responsible for this change. However some people in the world of art claim that halos did not disappear totally as they began to be in vogue as hats or arches. Use of Halo in mainstream western art however made a comeback in the highly symbolic art of William Blake. Art underwent radical changes in the 20th century and consequently many schools of painting came up who used this symbol of halo in their paintings.

 
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