Nature and Its Symbols by Lucia Impelluso
This book was given to me by some very dear friends, who knew that I would totally eat up a book dedicated to symbolism…
What I love about this book is that it covers seven different categories, from plants to aquatic animals. Though my favorite section is the one on flowers…
Each section starts with a few pages dedicated to just that topic, and with a write up about how and why the subject matter symbolizes certain ideas and then a few paintings are analyzed, showing how the artist used the symbolism to support the meaning of his painting.
After the general review of the category, specific examples are then further explained. In the flowers section alone, Lily of the Valley, Cyclemen, Jasmine, Tulips, and many others are covered. And this is how each section is organized.
This is a great reference book to have around. If I am noodling on a still-life composition idea and I want to make it a more meaningful piece, I will sometimes read through this book in the evening to make sure my ideas are correctly based.
Here is an interesting dictionary of symbolism for free found via Google Books