What is the X in X-mas?
the science of identification, description, classification, and interpretation of symbols, themes, and subject matter in the visual arts. The term can also refer to the artist's use of this imagery in a particular work. The earliest iconographical studies, published in the 16th century, were catalogs of emblems and symbols collected from antique literature and translated into pictorial terms for the use of artists. The most famous of these works is Cesare Ripa's Iconologia (1593). Extensive iconographical study did not begin in Europe until the 18th century, however, when, as a companion to archaeology, it consisted of the classification of subjects and motifs in ancient monuments.