Attribute (art) - Attribut (Kunst)

An attribute (from Latin attribuere : “to assign”, “to ascribe”; attribute : “what is added”) is the characteristic addition of a figure in the visual arts . In contrast, identifying items that are or on its own to replace their signified representative, as a symbol or emblem referred to (in turn can have attributes).

Attribute of allegory

The attribute of an allegory is an object that makes the allegory recognizable. In this way a figure becomes the embodiment of a general concept: an allegory of justice traditionally includes the scales (which “weighs guilt and innocence”) and the blindfold (“blind justice”), and an allegory of death includes the scythe (as the “ grim reaper ", Which mows people away) or the skull (the" skull "of the ossuary).

Attributes of the activity

Professions are often associated with attributes. The doctor was often represented with a urine glass or with a pulse- sensing device (more rarely with a watch for pulse measurement), an anatomist with a dissecting knife, a scholar with a book or pen. [1]

Saints attributes

Certain people, situations and rooms can also be made recognizable through an attribute. Iconographic attributes of saints such as the key of Peter in images of the apostle Peter represent the passage from the Bible I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. ( Mt 16,18f EU ) and thus become the unmistakable sign of Simon Peter.



Many Hindu gods can be easily identified by their companion animals ( vahanas ) or by their weapons etc. The standing or seated figures of Jain - Tirthankaras are - if at all - almost to differ only by the small animal attributes to her feet.


Individual proof

  1. Werner Friedrich Kümmel: The pulse and the problem of time measurement in the history of medicine. In: Medical History Journal. Volume 9, 1974, pp. 1–22, here: p. 1.