Images of Deities

One of the customs of many religions is to depict their deities as figures, sculptures, or statues. Numerous portraits of deities from cultures of the past millennia belong to important works of art history.

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Images of Deities

Images of Deities - Tradition of Many Religions

In almost all societies, religious belief and the worship of deities were and are firmly rooted in people's everyday lives. That usually includes dedicating images to the gods in the form of figures, sculptures, or statues. This custom runs through all religions of the world. Many of the figurines of gods known today originate from Ancient Egypt, Greek and Roman antiquity. Moreover, sacred art and the sculptural representation of gods are of great importance in Christianity and Hinduism. As a rule, they are given a human shape, but some gods were also depicted as animals, for example, the Egyptian god Anubis as a dog, the Egyptian goddess Bastet as a cat or the Hindu god Ganesha as an elephant-like creature. Although there is no pictorial model for deities that sculptors could orientate themselves on, some characteristics established themselves in many cultures that are attributed to the deities and are repeatedly reproduced. In the case of religions with several gods, only certain attributes, or the place where a statue was erected allow conclusions to be drawn about the exact identity of the respective god.

In many societies, the production of statues of gods was and is also an important genre of sculpture. Therefore, art history owes many important motifs to this tradition. Among the most famous sculptures of the gods of antiquity is the "Venus of Milo", a statue of the Greek goddess of love and beauty. But artists have also been inspired over the millennia to create ever-new interpretations of many of the gods of ancient Egypt or of Buddha, the central figure of Buddhism.

Figures of Gods Evoke the Presence of Deities

Images of deities can fulfil various functions. Artfully crafted sculptures that radiate dignity and beauty are intended to honour the gods. In addition, deity figures serve as sculptural representatives of the deities on earth. They remind us of their presence in everyday life, symbolise their power and can admonish us to act righteously. At the same time, they provide hope and consolation. So that people could be close to the gods as often as possible, many statues with images of the gods, some of them monumental, were erected in public places throughout human history. For example, Greek statues of the gods were part of the cityscape of many ancient cities. Sculptures of the gods were placed in places that were of importance for religious customs as well, such as temples, churches, or burial sites. Some religions have the custom of carrying images of gods as sculptures in processions on certain religious occasions. Such traditions are found in Christianity, for example, in Catholic regions of Bavaria or Austria, but also at major religious festivals in Hinduism.