Biblia, ad vetustissima exemplaria nunc recens castigata .… Cum licentia superiorum. Venice: Niccolò Bevilaqua, 1583. RBP Bible Latin 1583
Symbols have been used to tell the stories of the lives of saints since the early days of Christianity. Iconic motifs, or emblems, present in each saintly image represent a particular aspect of their lives. These serve not only as means to identify each saint, but also as visual cues which allowed illiterate members of the congregation to recognise biblical scenes and figures.
The emblems of the Evangelists are connected to the ‘four living creatures’ that surround God as witnessed in a vision by the prophet Ezekiel. Each creature represents a different aspect of Christ as noted in the Four Gospels. St. Matthew, whose Gospel begins by tracing the genealogy of Jesus from Abraham, is symbolised by an angel or winged man, as representation of Christ’s human nature. In this depiction the figure is holding a pen dipped into an inkwell, symbolising the inspiration for St. Matthew to write his Gospel.