Emily Joern


student bio

Emily Joern is studying Art History for her undergraduate degree and will be graduating in May 2017. She is currently interning at the Emmanuel Gallery, aiding in any way possible, eager to soak it all up. Looking forward, Joern would like to obtain her graduate degree in Art History to further her knowledge in the field. She is passionate about promoting social, political, and environmental change through art. Therefore, she aims to work on the emerging world of activist art. 

thesis description

Religious Art and Iconography: Ancient Pagan Representation as Appropriated by Christianity during the Renaissance

Abstract: The use of pagan iconography, symbolism, and concepts in early Christian art on through the Renaissance has long been dissected in the art historical field by scholars such as Don Cameron Allen and Robin Margaret Jensen, both identifying an intimate connection. Jensen thoroughly analyzes pagan icons and symbols used by Christians in art while Allen argues that just as pagans initially persecuted Christians, as the pagans quietly dissolved, Christianity took a strong stance against earlier religions.

Credible scholars such as Allen and Jensen who analyze this relationship between the religions’ art and ideology have not adequately addressed the values and limitations of such creative appropriation. My paper addresses the ways in which this adoptive behavior was both beneficial in ways while also having confines. Specifically in my project, I will be looking at emblems such as the cross and the fish and these signs’ various denotations and connotations in Christianity juxtaposed with their origin in pagan religions. I will identify images of deities from the pagan pantheon and juxtapose them with the various representations that they inspired of Christ such as the good shepherd and Christ as the Son of God. I argue that Christian dogma would not have been able to flourish without the aid of allegorical and iconographic artwork, especially that artwork produced during the Renaissance.

In conclusion, this project, by closely examining Christian appropriation of pagan images and beliefs, sheds new light on the neglected issue of both the values and limitations of artistic appropriation.