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Nimbus

art, circular, head and shape

NIMBUS (Lat., cloud). In art, especially in sacred art, the name given to the disk or halo which enriches the head of the sacred personage who is represented. Its use is occasional in non Christian religious art, especially the Hindu, and it was not unknown to classic and Oriental art. The nimbus, strictly so called, was first systematically used in Christian art. appearing first in the fifth century. Later, in Christian art, it became almost a necessary appendage of all representations of God or of the saints. it is of two kinds—either eiremnserihed by a well defined outline, or radiating in vanishing lines. It took various forms. The square or oblong shape indicated a saintly person. such as a pope, still living, and was used mainly between the fifth and ninth centuries. The square form was symbolic of the material and earthly. The com mon form was the circular, symbolic of the spiritual and perfect. The earliest figure to re ceive tire nimbus was that of Christ, and this nimbus Aims) immediately took a peculiar form, which was ordinarily given to 'Hill up to the ,p1, sixth century. and this was the monogram or in the shape of a cross, called the Constar tinian monogram (see LABARUM), formed of the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ. cirenmseribed in the circle and appearing above and on either side of Ilis head. This became,

after the sixth century, the ordinary cruciform nimbus which was the rule up to the Renais sance, when the nimbus went out of fashion for all ti;.,rures except occasionally in the form of a poised circlet or band. The interior of the nun bus, of whatever form. is gilt, either plain Or in rays, excepting occasionally that of the Vir gin. made of blue or some other color or starred. l'p to the Renaissance the nimbus forms a circle against the !Kiel:ground. hut Renaissance artists tilted it or poised it naturalistically. God the Father was not represented until the late „Middle Ages. and to Him was given a circular nimbus, hut the Renaissanee often gave it a triangular radial ing shape. The dove of the Holy Ghost also had a circular nimbus. So had all duly canon ized saints, for it was a symbol of the blessed tn.:, of eternal life in heaven. In later art the nimbus beetune lighter and more aerial. melting, as it were, into the picture; and in Raphael's saints it oceasionally fades into the very faintest indication of a golden tinge around the head. Alosaie paintings. frescoes. illuminated manu scripts. and altar-pieces are the principal classes of monuments illustrating the use of the nimbus. See IcoxoGnAritY.