EMBLEMATICS AND THE PHENOMENON OF EMBLEMS IN 17TH AND 18TH CENTURY ART IN LATVIA (Emblematika un emblemu fenomems Latvijas 17. un 18. gadsimta maksla)
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The terms 'emblem' and 'emblematics' are mentioned several times in Latvian art history literature. However, it cannot be said that they are in common usage and self-evident even in experts' circles because there still are no comprehensive texts describing emblematics as a subdivision of iconography. Art historians' interest in emblems has emerged quite recently in Latvia, gradually discovering more and more ways of their use and now would seem to be an appropriate moment for the first general conclusions. The aim of this article is to try to embrace the main directions of the use of emblems, to outline the course of their development and distribution among different social classes and to give an insight into the localisation process of the phenomenon by selecting the most important and remarkable examples. No specialised collections of emblems have been published by any of the Latvian publishing houses, only books with emblematic illustrations. Their number also is small in comparison with other, mostly European publishing centres. There was no active process of creating emblems in Latvia because two of the most important components were lacking - an independent institution of education or erudite group of interested people and a suitable publishing house. Nevertheless, the limited intellectual potential did not mean that Latvia was left untouched by the fashion for emblems. The protestant theologian and superintendent of the Duchy of Luneburg Johann Arndt's book 'Vier geistreiche Bucher vom wahren Christentum .. ', published in Riga in 1678-1679 and supplemented with copper engravings, as a particularly remarkable item in the provincial milieu. 50 years after the author's death, illustrations appeared in Riga that became a paradigm for frequent reproductions by German, Swiss and North American (Pennsylvania) publishers right up to 1930. The next stage in the development of emblems in Latvia is related to 18th century book printing and society - not only German but, important to note, also Latvian.
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