Symbolism Sunday, Dove

August 22, 2010

Back for more symbolism, eh? Well, all right.

This week, it’s the dove! The dove is commonly found in sentimental miniatures of the Neoclassical period and would often be seen being held, or sitting near two lovers? This is because the dove represents peace, love, purity and gentleness.

From an ecclesiastical standpoint, the dove represents the Holy Spirit, hence why it is quite commonly found in cemeteries of various Christian denominations. The white dove is referred to in the story of baptism of Christ. “And John bore record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him” (Bible, John 1:32). The descending dove is a very common motif on grave memorials. Seven doves are representative of the seven spirits of God or the Holy Spirit in its sevenfold gifts of grace. Purity, devotion, Divine Spirit. When shown with an Olive Sprig it means Hope or Promise.

It should be noted that the bird in relation to a sentimental image is also important; if the bird is a dove, then it can be further detached from the subject and more inclined towards a neo-classical ideal of peace/hope/heaven, if the bird a sparrow then love (dedication, trust), if the bird is a swallow, there’s motherhood or children involved. There are many neo-classical images of the woman holding the bird with a man looking upon her or involved with her (hand upon shoulder or body) which allude to motherhood, futurity and the prospect of a child. Many of these bird subjects often come back to the nature of the child.

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