Images have had different meanings throughout time. In any culture images have a certain meaning and they produce certain feelings such as peace, tranquility, and even hope. Throughout history these images have changed and the meaning or feelings those images inspire has also changed.
Let’s take for example the painting of “The Marriage Giovanni Arnolfini and Giovanna Cenami” by Jan van Eyck, which was painted in 1434. This visual image was well understood in the 15th century, but it is not interpreted similarly today.
At the time, this painting was a type of “wedding certificate.” Their grave faces indicate the responsibility of marriage. The green dress that the bride is wearing indicates fertility, and was the traditional wedding dress color of the time. She is not pregnant as may be thought in this day and age, but the swelling of her abdomen suggests great female beauty for the 15th century.
The lack of shoes was a religious symbol that indicated the standing on holy ground, and the burning candle symbolizes the presence of Christ. Now unless we knew about these images and what they presented in the 15th century, people would have no idea of what this painting represented in today’s time. The same is probably true, if we took a painting of Andy Warhol’s “Soup can” back to the 15th century. Do you think they would understand that it is a representation of Modern day life.