Iconclass Iconographical Vocabulary
Contact e-mail: aisaac # few.vu.nl
General characteristics (size, coverage) of the vocabulary
Iconclass contains 28000 ordered items, which can be used to describe the subjects of an image (persons, event, abstract ideas). Iconclass is currently owned and managed by the Dutch institute RKD.
Language(s) in which the vocabulary is provided
Complete versions are available for English, German, French, Italian, partial translation for Finnish and Norvegian
For subject 25F “animals”, orginal display in the browsing interface: http://www.mnemosyne.org/mop/ic?style=kbs.xsl&task=getnotation&datum=25F&taal=en&showfull=Y
2 Nature 25 earth, world as celestial body 25F animals 25F(+) KEY 25F1 groups of animals …. 25F9 mis-shapen animals; monsters 25FF fabulous animals (sometimes wrongly called 'grotesques'); 'Mostri' (Ripa)
There are other displays, focusing on the vocabulary alone, e.g. for 25F http://icontest.iconclass.nl/libertas/ic?task=getnotation&datum=25F&style=notationbb.xsl&taal=en
Additional to the info above, we would also have for 25F:
Systematic references: 34 man and animal Keywords: nature, earth, world, animal
In other subjects, you have other kind of information, e.g. at 11H:
11 H saints Double Letter : 11 HH female saint
Or at 11H (…) STRUCTURAL DIGIT:
11H saints 11H(...) male saints (with NAME) 11H(...) STRUCTURAL DIGIT 11H(...)0 male saint represented in a group 11H(...)2 early life of male saint 11H(...)1 specific aspects ~ male saint
The main building blocks of Iconclass are subjects, used to describe the subject of images. An Iconclass subject consists of a notation (an alphanumeric identier used for annotation) and a textual correlate (e.g. “25F9 mis-shapen animals; monsters”). Subjects are organized in nine hierarchical trees. Other features are associative cross-reference links (systematic reference in the example), as well as mechanisms for subject specialisation at indexing time: keys, queue of keys, structural digits, double letters and bracketed text.
Use of bracketed text allow for adhoc collection-specific extension of iconclass. For exemple, you can specialize “11H(…) saints” into any kind of saint you find in an image, even though not present in standard Iconclass, like 11H(VALENTINE).
Keys are (organized) lists of items that can be applied to subjects at indexing time to add an extra meaning to them. 25FF has an active key list, which is attached to it and accessible via the hierarchical browser (it is itself organized as a tree).
25FF fabulous animals (sometimes wrongly called 'grotesques'); 'Mostri' (Ripa) 25FF(+) KEY 25FF(+0) variant 25FF(+1) parts, limbs and organs larger than normal 25FF(+2) limbs and organs smaller than normal 25FF(+3) parts, limbs and organs missing 25FF(+4) parts, limbs and organs in greater number than normal 25FF(+5) parts, limbs and organs in unusual places 25FF(+6) deformed parts, limbs and organs 25FF(+7) aspects of parts, limbs and organs of fabulous animals, not meant or mentioned under KEY (+1) to (+6) 25FF1 groups of fabulous animals 25FF2 fabulous animals ~ mammals
The notation of any element of this key can be appended to the one of a class specializing 25FF, adding a shade of meaning to it. For example 25FF2(+11) would refer to an mammal having a greater number of parts, limbs or organs than normal.
The key mechanism is augmented with a queue-of-key mechanism. As 25FF comes with a key list, these keys can themseleves come with queues:
25FF fabulous animals (sometimes wrongly called 'grotesques'); 'Mostri' (Ripa) 25FF(+) KEY 25FF(+7) aspects of parts, limbs and organs of fabulous animals, not meant or mentioned under KEY (+1) to (+6) 25FF(+7) QUEUE OF KEY 25FF(+70) variant 25FF(+71) animals used symbolically 25FF(+712) heraldic animals 25FF(+72) sex and age of animals; propagation of animals
In such a setting, 25FF2(+712) would refer to a specific aspect of a fabulous animal used in heraldry.
Structural digits have similar nature and role as keys: you can synthesize “11H(VALENTINE)2” from “11H(VALENTINE)” and “11H(...)early life of male saint” to index an image which specifically denotes the early days of the saint.
Finally, duplicating the upper case letter of a notation allows to alter its meaning in a pre-defined way, often turning it into some kind of opposite: 11H saint can be transformed into 11 HH female saint. In Iconclass, one knows for each subject whether its letter can be doubled or not, and which is the meaning implied by the duplication.
Additionally, subjects have (lexical) keywords that are used to access them: 25F9 is thus linked to “monster” and “shape”, amongst others. Keywords form a network of their own, a keyword possibly refering to another by several means:
See reference refers the user from a non-preferred term (one that is not formally linked to a notation) to a preferred term (one which is linked to a notation). E.g., 'beaker' see 'cup'.
See also references refer the user from a preferred term to other preferred terms that are related either semantically or iconographically. E.g., 'journey' see also 'travelling'
- Equality between keywords from different languages, possibly partial or multiple. 'journey' is translated to French 'voyage' and 'travelling' is translated to 'voyager', while 'cup' has two translations ('coupe' and 'tasse') and 'beaker' none.
Software applications used to create and/or maintain the vocabulary, features lacking for the case
Maintenance of vocabulary is done via manual edition of semi-structured source files.
Management of changes
As a general rule, the standard version shall only be changed in a conservative way, not modifying the existing subjects.
Information on Iconclass history and content, as well as the vocabulary itself, can be accessed at www.iconclass.nl