Iconography, the study of symbols - be they animals, artefacts, plants, shapes or gestures - is an essential element of art history.
This guide unravels over fifty of the most common and intriguing visual symbols from across the globe from 2300 BCE to the present day. While symbols cross dialects and national boundaries, their meanings can vary and are often culturally specific. The snake, an object of fascination and mysticism in Aztec culture, usually represents sin in the west. Yinka Shonibare's Last Supper (2013) plays on the grapevine's historic associations to satiric and startling effect.