What is Iconclass?
Iconclass is a subject-specific classification system. It is a hierarchically ordered collection of definitions of objects, people, events and abstract ideas that serve as the subject of an image. Art historians, researchers and curators use it to describe, classify and examine the subject of images represented in various media such as paintings, drawings and photographs.
Numerous institutions across the world use Iconclass to describe and classify their collections in a standardized manner. In turn, users ranging from art historians to museum visitors use Iconclass to search and retrieve images from these collections. And as a research tool, Iconclass is also used to identify the significance of entire scenes or individual elements represented within an image. ICONCLASS applications used around the world have made it the most widely accepted classification system for visual documents.
The three main components of Iconclass are:
- Classification System: 28,000 hierarchically ordered definitions divided into ten main divisions. Each definition consists of an alphanumeric classification code (notation) and the description of the iconographic subject (textual correlate). The definitions are used to index, catalogue and describe the subjects of images represented in works of art, reproductions, photographs and other sources.
- Alphabetical Index: 14,000 keywords used for locating the notation and its textual correlate needed to describe and/or index an image.
- Bibliography: 40,000 references to books and articles of iconographical interest (not yet online).