Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Symbolic Owl in Art


Recommended Posts

On 12/18/2010 at 10:30 AM, dream_weaver said:

From Wikipedia:

(Spanish:El sueño de la razón produce monstruos') is an etching made by the Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes. Etched between 1797–1799,[1] it is plate 43 of the 80 etchings comprising the Los Caprichos series and was initially intended to be the frontispiece.[2]
It consists of a self-portrait of the artist with his head on a table, as owls and bats surround him, assailing him as he buries his head into his arms.[3] Seemingly poised to attack the artist are owls (symbols of folly) and bats (symbols of ignorance)

It would seem that owls, as a symbol of wisdom, is a rather recent phenomena.

A bust of Ayn Rand would be fitting.


Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters


One figure down, five to go... Bryan Larsen

Rather than a recent development of owls as a symbol of wisdom, Owl of Athena had spread its wings in Greek mythology.

As a philosophical metaphor, further down the Wikipedia page, Rand's ability to "see in the dark" was adequately demonstrated with her theory of concepts and laying an ethical foundation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I doubt the owl represents folly. It is one of three depicted night predators, which together symbolize unchecked fantasy. When reason leaves you, fantasy preys upon your mind. A broader interpretation would probably be a stretch without further context or guidance from the artist.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Had I dug into the symbology more back in 2010, I might have encountered

Why is the owl considered a wise bird in the West and a symbol of foolishness in India?

Wikipedia, as a reference, often requires a little extra digging. Delving into some of the mythology introduces complexities of its own. When I saw Bryan's preliminary share of the painting he is working on, it struck me as odd to see the owl portrayed, stemming from my conclusion jumped to in 2010 of a correlation with monsters/folly, so I fielded a question, and reopened my investigation based on Bryan's response.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hieronymus Bosch’s Creepy Owls

A western painter who included many owls in his works.

I was raised in a Baptist household, and grew up with the more benevolent view of the owl as a symbol of wisdom. Bosch conveys his owls oft in a less favorable light.

And just now, the recollection of an old commercial that crosses the wisdom of the owl with the impatience of a child.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Owl - Dream meaning and symbolism

One last link with a bridge to tarot reading, art, and a few movies.

Once again, this served as a reminder of the recent usage of the crystal owls used by the Court of Owls in the Gotham series. The secret organization imposing their will on society, and the secrets cast into the crystal owls that were revealed by shining a light onto them.

Rand's words at the end of chapter 3 in The Romantic Manifesto about art, philosophy, the artist, and the patron come to mind.

When one learns to translate the meaning of an art work into objective terms, one discovers that nothing is as potent as art in exposing the essence of a man's character. An artist reveals his naked soul in his work—and so, gentle reader, do you when you respond to it.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • dream_weaver changed the title to Symbolic Owl in Art
  • 6 months later...

A Parliament of Owls. (Article which reminded me of this thread.)

Often times, groups of animals are based on the animal, such as a 'murder of crows', a 'gaggle of geese',  a 'herd of cows', etc.  A group of owls is designated a 'parliament of owls', as influenced by western culture, as the following excerpt provides:

Owls are generally solitary, but when seen together the group is called a “parliament” as they have long been considered to be of a wise disposition. In Greek mythology, the owl is the symbol for Athena, the goddess of wisdom.

The sun rises to the east and sets to the west universally, yet there is a divide between eastern and western cultures. Using an English to Chinese translation website, "A parliament of owls" was entered to acquire the Chinese kanji "猫头鹰议会" translation. Entering the kanji into a Chinese to English translation website, "猫头鹰议会" was translated into "Owl Council"

Etymologically speaking of parliament or council, the differences can quickly become blurred. Adding in the etymology of congress and senate, serve to show how quickly the dividing lines provided by spelling and pronunciation blur when it comes to identifying any commensurable axis' when traversing more deeply into politically analogous waters.

Edited by dream_weaver
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...