The Society for Emblem Studies

Current Research

Language Image Space. Applied Emblematics in the Visual Culture of Northern Germany, Southern Sweden and Denmark from the 16th to the 18th Century
(Prof. Dr. Iris Wenderholm, Dr. Christina Kuhli, Universität Hamburg)

The project is interested in the question of the significance of applied emblematics in the western Baltic region between the 16th and 18th centuries for the emergence and communication of a common transnational cultural and value space. Emblem occurrences in Northern Germany, Denmark and Sweden will be analysed with regard to the far-reaching concepts of image, language and space.

The translation of emblem literature into wall and ceiling paintings is to be investigated, taking into account spatial ensembles, visual axes and hierarchies within image sequences, which also demand a different reception behaviour. One of the aims of the project is to shed light on these translation processes and local specifics in the use of print originals as well as their further developments and adaptations (cf. Höpel 2014, preface). The connection between language and image, the inter- or multi-mediality of the emblem has been analysed in particular with regard to the polyvalence and multi-functionality of emblematics (Harms 2002; Köhler/ Schneider 2007). We would like to build on this and also consider the frictionally competitive nature of word and image and their staging (cf. Paech/ Schröter 2008, preface as well as Müller 2008, p. 32; Robert 2017). The pictorial component also provides us with an iconographic starting point that, through a comparative perspective, gives us information about the frequency of pictorial motifs and thus a more or less stable reservoir of motifs. Emblems of love and power, such as those that dominate the Bunte Kammer at the Gaarz and Ludwigsburg estates or the Knights’ Hall at the Hohen Luckow estate, can also be found in Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie’s Swedish estates in Ekholmen and Venngarn (Boström 2006). Political emblematics characterise Schering Rosenhane’s palace in Stockholm (today the Supreme Court, cf. Vasquez 2006). Natural philosophical motifs, moral-Christian canons of virtue and civic pride also frequently appear – not uncommonly with the intention of proposing a conversation – for example in the ceiling paintings of the Stora Lassåna Herrgård (McKeown 2011), in Hans Peter Scheffler’s house in Stockholm or at Gut Roest near Kappeln (Voß 2014). In sacred art and architecture, frequently used emblem books such as Daniel Cramer’s Emblemata Sacra or Herman Hugo’s Pia desideria can be identified in northern Germany as well as in Denmark.

The North German and Scandinavian regions can be understood both as a confessionally homogeneous area and as a liminal coastal region with different political systems (kingdoms, medium-sized and small principalities as well as city republics or free imperial cities). Perceptions of political philosophy, natural philosophy, religion and moral didactics as well as the discourse of love represent the content-related frame of reference of the emblems, whereby a thematic distribution or congruence in the different social and political milieus is to be analysed. With approaches to spatial research such as those of the socially and culturally arguing spatial turn or the topographical turn with its sign-like, graphic configuration of spaces and their historical and cultural conditionality, new interdisciplinary questions can be applied to emblem research, for which a cultural-geographical entity such as the Baltic Sea region seems particularly fruitful. The overarching importance of German as a language of trade and scholarship, as well as the phenomenon of multilingualism in emblem books and transmitted inscriptiones, also makes the geographical focus significant. 

In conjunction with interdisciplinary cooperation, a digital infrastructure is to deepen and differentiate the theoretical analytical categories of language — image — space. These are to be networked with digitally available emblem books and visualised in their spatial, pictorial-iconographic and linguistic connections.


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Biblioteca Digital Siglo de Oro (BIDISO) – Emblemática
Universidade da Coruña (Spain)

This project was a pioneer in providing digitized pages of Spanish Emblem books (mainly from microfilms), partial transcription (mottoes, epigrams), translation of mottoes and study of each emblem attending to each one of its three parts on the internet (1995-1998). Two sections are available: Spanish Emblem Books and Emblem Books written originally in other languages  and translated into Spanish:

• Biblioteca digital de Emblemática Hispánica
• Biblioteca Digital de Libros de Emblemas Traducidos al español.
Significant contributions to research on Emblem Studies:
– DEBOW (Digital Emblems Books on Web). A Database with 1,265 records of digital editions of emblem books currently available online. Since some of these books have copies from different sources, 2,014 copies are listed.
– Literatura Emblemática Hispánica. Bibliografía / An Online Bibliography on Emblem Studies. Consists of a database of secondary sources about Emblem studies. More than 3,200 references are currently available.
–  Symbola. Divisas o empresas históricas / Symbola. Historic Devices or Imprese  / <> is a database and digital library that collects (and provides online access to) historic devices or imprese utilized by kings, knights and ladies, clergymen, scholars, printers, etc., from the very onset of this genre, towards the end of the late Middle Ages, throughout the apex of this tradition (15th-16th centuries) until its decline at the end of the 17th century.  Symbola is envisioned as an ongoing project with gradual phases of development. At this time, the database is already available, with devices or imprese records (from thirteenth to seventeenth centuries) analyzed and the biographical data of its bearers (if known) as well as images of the devices (if extant).

The team will be feeding the database with about 700 devices in the coming months, and will continue working.

Sagrario López Poza,
Professor (Spanish Literature 16th-17th centuries),

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Dear member, this page will be available for you to upload a short description of your current research in emblems. We hope that this will facilitate the contact between colleagues with similar interests, or allow visitors to identify and contact specialists in different areas of emblematics.

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