Quantitative iconographical data

Hi, I am involved in a study of artworks made for medieval and renaissance hospitals. My dataset has more than 1300 items (paintings, sculptures, etc.) from all over Europe, made between 1100 and 1600. Each artwork has been assigned one or more ICONCLASS codes. In order to assess whether the iconographical themes of artworks made for hospitals are specific for that context, I need quantitative iconographical data reflecting the themes of “all” artworks made in the period 1100-1600. The main problem that I face is that existing datasets with iconographical information are not necessarily representative (e.g., the data on the RKD - Netherlands Institute for Art History website mostly cover the Netherlands only). Suggestions for where I can find useful comparative data are most welcome!


This is a truly fascinating question that touches upon many aspects of iconographic research. I am not an expert in the field of the decoration of public spaces or types of building in the Middle Ages, but it is obvious to me that your question addresses important issues of standardization and the organization of information. Without some form of standardization it is extremely difficult - if not impossible - to quantify anything. How would one reliably count the occurrences of a theme like the Seven Acts of Mercy if representations of this theme are described in many different ways and a wide variety of languages?
It would also require fairly precise information about provenance for objects that are no longer ‘in situ’ but have been moved to heritage collections.

I was wondering whether it would help to break up this question into ‘smaller’ questions, giving the community some concrete examples from your dataset to work with. Specific themes like the Acts of Mercy or representations of the poor or disabled, or a specific saint like Martin are perhaps useful points of departure.
With more specific thematic questions colleagues it would, for example, be possible to query the Corpus Vitrearum

I am in the process of linking Iconclass concepts to Wikidata more systematically. In the long run this should help interlink the Iconclass Browser with Wikidata information about e.g. saint Martin, specific handicaps or social status. That we still have a long way to go before we can reliably start counting broad iconographic themes or specific details, does not mean we should not accept an important challenge like the one you have put before us.