Iconography and Iconology of an Advertisement

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Iconography and Iconology of an Advertisement

Looking at the art of the past, we see many images depicting nude women. From Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus to Ingres’s Grande Odelisque, many artists like the idea of painting a woman in the nude in an interesting pose. Even modern images in contemporary magazines depict nude images. Yves Saint Laurent’s advertisement of their fragrance Opium depicts a nude woman covering her breast. Her pose is a symbol of the iconography, while beauty serves as the iconology. The understanding of the iconography and iconology of this image by contemporary society comes from the fact that the nude image was depicted in the great art of the past; however, the fact that society has become contemporary also serves to hinder their understanding of nude images.

The woman’s pose in the advertisment is depicted much like that of many great paintings from the past. Depictions of nude women began in the ancient Greek times when Praxiteles made a statue of Aphrodite. As Marilyn Stokstad explains in the textbook Art History, the statue of Aphrodite was a symbol of enchanting beauty and served as a model of high moral value. Sandro Botticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus shows Venus, the goddess of love, floating ashore on a scallop shell, arranging her hands and hair to hide, or maybe, enhance her sexuality. Jean Ingres’s Grande Odalisque depiction of a woman’s naked body turning away showed her eroticism and aloofness. Each of these art pieces shows the woman depicted in such a way to show her sexuality. The pose of the subjects is an iconography that is similar to that of the woman in the advertisement.

The advertisers portray the iconography of the advertisement through the pose of the woman...

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...he pose of the woman in the advertisement is not there to enhance her beauty, but to show her sexuality; those are the thoughts of the contemporary society. There are people who know what nudity really represents, but there are many more that see it as erotic.

When people see an image of a nude woman on television or a magazine, they are not surprised by the amount of skin that the woman is showing. They understand that the woman is a depiction of beauty, much like nude women depicted in the art of the past. Even though contemporary society has changed the views of what people think about when they see a nude image, the art of the past has helped shaped what most people’s thoughts on a nude image’s iconography and iconology are.


Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. and Prentice Hall, Inc. 1999.


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