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Symbolism In Art

Symbolism In Art Essay Symbols And Their Meanings Definition Appreciation Movement Characteristics Visual

Bella Ciao February 19, 2021 Art


During the Paleolithic period, art came into existence as a method of expression. Many events and messages were represented through art via symbolism. Types of art, statuettes and rituals had their own various messages and meanings represented through symbolism.

Types of Art

Two main forms of art were around during the Upper Paleolithic period. The first type of artwork was mobile art, which were small, portable objects such as figurines which held a metaphorical meaning behind it and the second type of artwork was stationary art, which were predominantly cave paintings that held more realistic meanings (Esaak, 2018: para 3). Due to the biggest creative influx taking place during the peak of the Ice Age in Europe, it was theorised that art as a whole could symbolise hope (Paleolithic Beginnings).


One of the most common forms of mobile art was the Venus statuettes. The female form was represented through these figures during the Paleolithic period (Dixson & Dixson, 2011: para 1). The figurines were known to have similar exaggerated physical properties such as large breasts and curvy bodies all carved from various materials (Holloway, 2014: para 1).

Due to these specific characteristics, it was theorised that these statuettes could either be symbols of natural forces such as fertility, protectors during hunting, possible rulers of animals or underworld deities (Narr, 2018: para 19).

Rituals and Cave Paintings

In a similar manner to how statuettes are a form of mobile art, cave paintings were a form of stationary art. According to Lewis – Williams and Clottes (Paleolithic Beginnings), Paleolithic rock paintings related to rituals as said paintings represented the images that were seen during the outer body experience shamans had.

Further investigations by Lewis – Williams and Clottes showed that the layout of the caves where the paintings were found in triggered different mental states. Due to cave paintings representing visions seen during rituals, it could be theorised that cave paintings were a possible symbol of the spirit world.


To conclude, art was well known for its specific symbolism during the Paleolithic period. There were various symbolism related to different forms of art such as fertility and rituals. As a whole however, art was a symbol of hope for these people during tough times and was evidence that these people began to learn how to project different meanings and messages through symbolism.


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