Tweaks to the blog

In the midst of your fulsome praise of this blog and its design–in response to some silly words from Redeemed Rambling–you DID include a few suggestions.   Thanks to Stewart Lundy of Bulldog Media (click the dog in the sidebar for all of your website needs), we have fulfilled your dreams.   There is now a “Preview” feature for the comments.  The black borders have been lightened to a dark grey, which also seems to make the white appear lest stark, being more friendly to the eyes.   Some of you have complained about the field of the blog becoming narrower, but that is apparently an optical illusion, since nothing about that has been changed.  Anyway, thanks for your suggestions.   Especially for the suggestions to keep things, for the most part, the way they are!

You will also notice a visual touch at the top:  Cranach’s seal.   The great artist/entrepreneur/printer/politician and exemplar of the doctrine of vocation would sign his paintings with a stylized squiggle of his family seal:   A winged dragon, crowned, bearing a ring.  That is the logo of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, which is the institutional home of this blog, and it is fitting that it be displayed here.

How would you interpret the dragon iconography?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Abby

    “How would you interpret the dragon iconography?” That’s what I was hoping you would answer, Dr. Veith. When I noticed the icon I couldn’t quite make it out–what it looked like–until I came upon the link below. I’ve been thinking about it for awhile now, and I can’t come up with an answer. The only thing that kept coming to mind was the ring in “Lord of the Rings.” And the reason it had to be destroyed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Podpis_had_cranach_starsi.jpg

  • Abby

    “How would you interpret the dragon iconography?” That’s what I was hoping you would answer, Dr. Veith. When I noticed the icon I couldn’t quite make it out–what it looked like–until I came upon the link below. I’ve been thinking about it for awhile now, and I can’t come up with an answer. The only thing that kept coming to mind was the ring in “Lord of the Rings.” And the reason it had to be destroyed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Podpis_had_cranach_starsi.jpg

  • Tom Hering

    “Some of you have complained about the field of the blog becoming narrower, but that is apparently an optical illusion, since nothing about that has been changed.”

    Hmm. Optical illusion, eh? Todd asked me to do a couple of screen captures. The first is the current version of a Cranach page, and it looks the way I see it now:

    https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B0LY_IA6TPrINDViMjhlZGItMWVlZC00ZmMxLWJlNWMtZTYxOGJmZGI3Yjcy&hl=en

    The second is Google’s cached version of the same page, and it looks the way I used to see it:

    https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B0LY_IA6TPrINDUzZjRlNjYtYzI0YS00OTg5LThiZTQtOTdmODIwMmYwMjRm&hl=en

    Since the appearance of the page changed after the tweaks, and I didn’t change any settings on my end, I don’t think I’m just seeing things. :-)

  • Tom Hering

    “Some of you have complained about the field of the blog becoming narrower, but that is apparently an optical illusion, since nothing about that has been changed.”

    Hmm. Optical illusion, eh? Todd asked me to do a couple of screen captures. The first is the current version of a Cranach page, and it looks the way I see it now:

    https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B0LY_IA6TPrINDViMjhlZGItMWVlZC00ZmMxLWJlNWMtZTYxOGJmZGI3Yjcy&hl=en

    The second is Google’s cached version of the same page, and it looks the way I used to see it:

    https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B0LY_IA6TPrINDUzZjRlNjYtYzI0YS00OTg5LThiZTQtOTdmODIwMmYwMjRm&hl=en

    Since the appearance of the page changed after the tweaks, and I didn’t change any settings on my end, I don’t think I’m just seeing things. :-)

  • Tom Hering

    “How would you interpret the dragon iconography?”

    I understand that Cranach, like Durer, was influenced by alchemical thought. In alchemy, a winged dragon represents the spiritual state of an earthly substance. A crown represents the completion of a transition. A ring, or more specifically a wedding ring, represents gold – or the perfection of matter.

    So, a winged dragon wearing a crown and bearing a ring could represent the risen, ascended, and reigning Christ. But that’s only a guess. I’d really like to know how John Warwick Montgomery interprets Cranach’s symbolic signature. I understand he owns the world’s largest private library of old, occult books. (Occult in the sense of esoteric knowledge.) Maybe you could query him, Dr. Veith?

  • Tom Hering

    “How would you interpret the dragon iconography?”

    I understand that Cranach, like Durer, was influenced by alchemical thought. In alchemy, a winged dragon represents the spiritual state of an earthly substance. A crown represents the completion of a transition. A ring, or more specifically a wedding ring, represents gold – or the perfection of matter.

    So, a winged dragon wearing a crown and bearing a ring could represent the risen, ascended, and reigning Christ. But that’s only a guess. I’d really like to know how John Warwick Montgomery interprets Cranach’s symbolic signature. I understand he owns the world’s largest private library of old, occult books. (Occult in the sense of esoteric knowledge.) Maybe you could query him, Dr. Veith?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Brilliant, Tom. I’ll ask Dr. Montgomery. Cranach was a pharmacist, in addition to everything else he did, and alchemy back then was not all that occult but blended with early chemistry.

    My interpretation is that the serpent crowned with a wedding ring symbolized something along the line of a sinner redeemed.

    How do you know so much about alchemical symbolism?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Brilliant, Tom. I’ll ask Dr. Montgomery. Cranach was a pharmacist, in addition to everything else he did, and alchemy back then was not all that occult but blended with early chemistry.

    My interpretation is that the serpent crowned with a wedding ring symbolized something along the line of a sinner redeemed.

    How do you know so much about alchemical symbolism?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Wow, Abby. THAT is a mean-looking dragon! Cranach rendered the seal in some very realistic versions, but this is the best I’ve ever seen. Thanks for this.

    I’ve got to add these!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Wow, Abby. THAT is a mean-looking dragon! Cranach rendered the seal in some very realistic versions, but this is the best I’ve ever seen. Thanks for this.

    I’ve got to add these!

  • Tom Hering

    “My interpretation is that the serpent crowned with a wedding ring symbolized something along the line of a sinner redeemed.”

    That would fit the symbols too! I was just thinking of Cranach’s signature as a visual parallel to the way Christian artists of old signed their works Soli Deo Gloria – directing the viewer to God rather than the artist.

    “How do you know so much about alchemical symbolism?”

    I have a secret laboratory, hidden behind a false wall in my art studio. And my mysterious equipment includes Google. :-D But seriously, back in my Neo-Pagan days, I was into stuff like Jung, Theosophy, etc. What’s interesting to me now is the degree to which Luther, Cranach and other Reformers had an interest in esoteric knowledge. Which was not, I understand, an unusual interest for educated men of their time.

  • Tom Hering

    “My interpretation is that the serpent crowned with a wedding ring symbolized something along the line of a sinner redeemed.”

    That would fit the symbols too! I was just thinking of Cranach’s signature as a visual parallel to the way Christian artists of old signed their works Soli Deo Gloria – directing the viewer to God rather than the artist.

    “How do you know so much about alchemical symbolism?”

    I have a secret laboratory, hidden behind a false wall in my art studio. And my mysterious equipment includes Google. :-D But seriously, back in my Neo-Pagan days, I was into stuff like Jung, Theosophy, etc. What’s interesting to me now is the degree to which Luther, Cranach and other Reformers had an interest in esoteric knowledge. Which was not, I understand, an unusual interest for educated men of their time.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Excellent.
    And having been mentioned in Cranach, my life is a little more complete…

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Excellent.
    And having been mentioned in Cranach, my life is a little more complete…

  • Tom Hering

    Re: Abby’s link. Didn’t you see that image in the last header design I sent you, Dr. Veith? Or have my e-mails not been getting through?

  • Tom Hering

    Re: Abby’s link. Didn’t you see that image in the last header design I sent you, Dr. Veith? Or have my e-mails not been getting through?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    No, Tom, I guess they haven’t! I’ll e-mail you to try to figure out where those might be.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    No, Tom, I guess they haven’t! I’ll e-mail you to try to figure out where those might be.

  • WebMonk

    This is pure Wikipedia research, but here’s what it says about the image on it’s page for Lucas Cranach the Elder.

    In 1509 Cranach went to the Netherlands, and painted the Emperor Maximilian and the boy who afterwards became Emperor Charles V. Until 1508 Cranach signed his works with his initials. In that year the elector gave him the winged snake as a emblem, or Kleinod, which superseded the initials on his pictures after that date.
    Somewhat later the duke conferred on him the monopoly of the sale of medicines at Wittenberg, and a printer’s patent with exclusive privileges as to copyright in Bibles. Cranach’s presses were used by Martin Luther. His apothecary shop was open for centuries, and was only lost by fire in 1871.

    The Cranach Institute calls the symbol “a dragon bearing a ring, symbolizing Christ’s redemption of sinners”. That clashes a bit with the Wikipedia description, and what I know about iconography definitely suggests it is a winged snake, and not a dragon.

    Most other sites I’ve seen something about the symbol describes it as a snake too. As it was given to him as his coat of arms, I don’t know how much influence Cranach had in deciding what it would be.

    I doubt that it was originally intended to symbolize Christ redeeming sinners – there is NO way that Christ was ever symbolized by winged snakes (those two were typically diametrically opposed in iconography), and if there is some sort of link between a ruby/amethyst ring and the souls of the saved, it’s certainly one I’ve never heard.

    Especially considering how common the snake as Satan was in Cranach’s paintings of Adam and Eve, I really, really doubt that Cranach would suddenly switch to representing Christ with a snake symbol.

  • WebMonk

    This is pure Wikipedia research, but here’s what it says about the image on it’s page for Lucas Cranach the Elder.

    In 1509 Cranach went to the Netherlands, and painted the Emperor Maximilian and the boy who afterwards became Emperor Charles V. Until 1508 Cranach signed his works with his initials. In that year the elector gave him the winged snake as a emblem, or Kleinod, which superseded the initials on his pictures after that date.
    Somewhat later the duke conferred on him the monopoly of the sale of medicines at Wittenberg, and a printer’s patent with exclusive privileges as to copyright in Bibles. Cranach’s presses were used by Martin Luther. His apothecary shop was open for centuries, and was only lost by fire in 1871.

    The Cranach Institute calls the symbol “a dragon bearing a ring, symbolizing Christ’s redemption of sinners”. That clashes a bit with the Wikipedia description, and what I know about iconography definitely suggests it is a winged snake, and not a dragon.

    Most other sites I’ve seen something about the symbol describes it as a snake too. As it was given to him as his coat of arms, I don’t know how much influence Cranach had in deciding what it would be.

    I doubt that it was originally intended to symbolize Christ redeeming sinners – there is NO way that Christ was ever symbolized by winged snakes (those two were typically diametrically opposed in iconography), and if there is some sort of link between a ruby/amethyst ring and the souls of the saved, it’s certainly one I’ve never heard.

    Especially considering how common the snake as Satan was in Cranach’s paintings of Adam and Eve, I really, really doubt that Cranach would suddenly switch to representing Christ with a snake symbol.

  • WebMonk

    Oh, and as to the blog’s new color scheme – I very much like it. Less stark and easier on the eyes. The small, darker border lines of fading between the white and grey helps with the transition nicely.

    Maybe integrate the winged snake symbol a little bit more into the title text? Other than that, though, I like that representation of the Cranach symbol.

    On the sidebar – the block of text about Cranach is rather dense and unrelieved. That makes it a bit difficult to read and doesn’t look particularly attractive. Maybe making it a bit more concise, and adding in a paragraph break or three in there would help.

  • WebMonk

    Oh, and as to the blog’s new color scheme – I very much like it. Less stark and easier on the eyes. The small, darker border lines of fading between the white and grey helps with the transition nicely.

    Maybe integrate the winged snake symbol a little bit more into the title text? Other than that, though, I like that representation of the Cranach symbol.

    On the sidebar – the block of text about Cranach is rather dense and unrelieved. That makes it a bit difficult to read and doesn’t look particularly attractive. Maybe making it a bit more concise, and adding in a paragraph break or three in there would help.

  • Tom Hering

    Dr. Veith, do your AOL and PHC accounts accept e-mails with attachments? Sometimes those are blocked because viruses are often sent in attachments.

  • Tom Hering

    Dr. Veith, do your AOL and PHC accounts accept e-mails with attachments? Sometimes those are blocked because viruses are often sent in attachments.

  • Carl Vehse

    In 1504 Lucas Cranach was invited by the Elector of Saxony Frederick the Wise to become his court artist at Wittenberg and within four years he was knighted and awarded the coat of arms of a winged serpent that became his signature. A Wilanow Palace Museum site explains the Cranach symbol:

    The signature and the style of the painting suggest that it was painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder. From 1508, the artist usually signed his works with a monogram and the symbol of a winged serpent; until 1537 the serpent has bat’s wings, which are then replaced by lowered bird’s (probably eagle’s) wings. This emblem suggests an excellent knowledge of the humanist pictorial symbolism. The symbol was probably modelled on the basilisk, which had been used by guilds since the 13th century as the symbol of painters (the earliest attested use is on a seal of the guild of painters in the city of Erfurt). A winged serpent was the attribute of Kronos: a clear allusion to Cranach’s surname in its (incorrect) Latinate form of “Lucas Chronus” as used by the painter (the correct Latin would be “Lucas Cronaciensis”). Kronos or Chronos, the Greek god of Time, was identified with the Roman god Saturn. In the perfected version of his sign, Cranach clearly gave the serpent bat’s wings. The serpent wears a crown and in its mouth it holds a ring, the symbol of just reward. Cranach’s symbolic sign can also be read as a metaphor of painterly excellence, which is justly rewarded by Time (Chronos).

    In the 1509 woodcarving, Adam and Eve one can see the note on the tree with the artist’s initials, “LC” and the winged serpent, which Frederick the Wise had given to Cranach a year earlier. The coats of arms hanging from the tree are those of Elector Frederick.

  • Carl Vehse

    In 1504 Lucas Cranach was invited by the Elector of Saxony Frederick the Wise to become his court artist at Wittenberg and within four years he was knighted and awarded the coat of arms of a winged serpent that became his signature. A Wilanow Palace Museum site explains the Cranach symbol:

    The signature and the style of the painting suggest that it was painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder. From 1508, the artist usually signed his works with a monogram and the symbol of a winged serpent; until 1537 the serpent has bat’s wings, which are then replaced by lowered bird’s (probably eagle’s) wings. This emblem suggests an excellent knowledge of the humanist pictorial symbolism. The symbol was probably modelled on the basilisk, which had been used by guilds since the 13th century as the symbol of painters (the earliest attested use is on a seal of the guild of painters in the city of Erfurt). A winged serpent was the attribute of Kronos: a clear allusion to Cranach’s surname in its (incorrect) Latinate form of “Lucas Chronus” as used by the painter (the correct Latin would be “Lucas Cronaciensis”). Kronos or Chronos, the Greek god of Time, was identified with the Roman god Saturn. In the perfected version of his sign, Cranach clearly gave the serpent bat’s wings. The serpent wears a crown and in its mouth it holds a ring, the symbol of just reward. Cranach’s symbolic sign can also be read as a metaphor of painterly excellence, which is justly rewarded by Time (Chronos).

    In the 1509 woodcarving, Adam and Eve one can see the note on the tree with the artist’s initials, “LC” and the winged serpent, which Frederick the Wise had given to Cranach a year earlier. The coats of arms hanging from the tree are those of Elector Frederick.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems to me too much is being made (@10) of the distinction between dragons and serpents. Seems to me that those words were fairly interchangeable — all the more so when you have a “winged serpent”! I refer to the Wikipedia article on “dragon”, which I’m happy to have trumped with better research:

    The Greek and Latin term referred to any great serpent, not necessarily mythological, and this usage was also current in English up to the 18th century. Today the Komodo monitor lizard Varanus komodoensis is known in English as the Komodo dragon. The King James Bible uses the words “serpent”, “dragon” and “Devil” in a fairly interchangeable manner.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems to me too much is being made (@10) of the distinction between dragons and serpents. Seems to me that those words were fairly interchangeable — all the more so when you have a “winged serpent”! I refer to the Wikipedia article on “dragon”, which I’m happy to have trumped with better research:

    The Greek and Latin term referred to any great serpent, not necessarily mythological, and this usage was also current in English up to the 18th century. Today the Komodo monitor lizard Varanus komodoensis is known in English as the Komodo dragon. The King James Bible uses the words “serpent”, “dragon” and “Devil” in a fairly interchangeable manner.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith said:

    Some of you have complained about the field of the blog becoming narrower, but that is apparently an optical illusion, since nothing about that has been changed.

    Actually, I’ve looked into this, and the above statement is incorrect. Unfortunately, in order to explain what I mean, I have to get wonky (“px” refers to pixels).

    On the new design, the main (white) column is set at “78.7 em”, while on the old design it was set at “77.6 em” — in either case, these are relative terms of measurement that basically tell the browser to create a column that is 78.7 times the relevant font size (in this case, the font size for the <body> tag).

    Okay then, so how does that body font size differ? Well, on the new design, it’s set explicitly at “10 px”. However, on the old design, it was set at “62.5%”. 62.5% of what? Of whatever the browser thinks the default font size is. Now, as it happens, most browsers have a default font size of 16px (and most people have no idea how to change this). 62.5% of 16 px is 10 px. As such, both versions of the site, in theory, have the same body font size of 10 px.

    Of course, 78.7 times 10 px (787 px) and 77.6 times 10 px (776 px) aren’t all that different — in fact, the new site’s column is actually 11 px wider!

    However, if anyone has ever monkeyed with their browser’s default font size settings, then the old site would have scaled to whatever that default was.

    And, in an email conversation with Tom, we discovered that his default was set to 20 px — which, on the old site, would have resulted in a column that was 970 px wide, not 776 px! That’s quite a difference, and why the new site (which does not scale with default font sizes) looks so much narrower.

    Apologies for the potentially eye-glazing details, but perhaps this gives you insight into the vocation of a Web designer, and how frustrating it can be to realize that not everyone sees on their computers what you see on yours.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith said:

    Some of you have complained about the field of the blog becoming narrower, but that is apparently an optical illusion, since nothing about that has been changed.

    Actually, I’ve looked into this, and the above statement is incorrect. Unfortunately, in order to explain what I mean, I have to get wonky (“px” refers to pixels).

    On the new design, the main (white) column is set at “78.7 em”, while on the old design it was set at “77.6 em” — in either case, these are relative terms of measurement that basically tell the browser to create a column that is 78.7 times the relevant font size (in this case, the font size for the <body> tag).

    Okay then, so how does that body font size differ? Well, on the new design, it’s set explicitly at “10 px”. However, on the old design, it was set at “62.5%”. 62.5% of what? Of whatever the browser thinks the default font size is. Now, as it happens, most browsers have a default font size of 16px (and most people have no idea how to change this). 62.5% of 16 px is 10 px. As such, both versions of the site, in theory, have the same body font size of 10 px.

    Of course, 78.7 times 10 px (787 px) and 77.6 times 10 px (776 px) aren’t all that different — in fact, the new site’s column is actually 11 px wider!

    However, if anyone has ever monkeyed with their browser’s default font size settings, then the old site would have scaled to whatever that default was.

    And, in an email conversation with Tom, we discovered that his default was set to 20 px — which, on the old site, would have resulted in a column that was 970 px wide, not 776 px! That’s quite a difference, and why the new site (which does not scale with default font sizes) looks so much narrower.

    Apologies for the potentially eye-glazing details, but perhaps this gives you insight into the vocation of a Web designer, and how frustrating it can be to realize that not everyone sees on their computers what you see on yours.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Thanks, Carl. That’s a helpful interpretation also. I think the discussion of the meaning of Cranach’s seal is moving to the updated post where I show various versions. (And Todd is right about serpents and dragons, as I was going to say.)

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Thanks, Carl. That’s a helpful interpretation also. I think the discussion of the meaning of Cranach’s seal is moving to the updated post where I show various versions. (And Todd is right about serpents and dragons, as I was going to say.)

  • SKPeterson

    It reminds me of Gaudi’s dragon gate: http://bestiarium.net/gaudi.html .

  • SKPeterson

    It reminds me of Gaudi’s dragon gate: http://bestiarium.net/gaudi.html .

  • Booklover

    I think very highly of this blog, but the seal creeps me out! :-) But I have never been an “image” person. I would record a song for it, though. “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted?” No, it would probably have to be “vocation” related. . .

    I also was wondering if we would get the “Home” button back, right alongside the “About” button?

  • Booklover

    I think very highly of this blog, but the seal creeps me out! :-) But I have never been an “image” person. I would record a song for it, though. “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted?” No, it would probably have to be “vocation” related. . .

    I also was wondering if we would get the “Home” button back, right alongside the “About” button?

  • Pete

    Ditto to Booklover’s pining for the lost “Home” button.

    Booklover’s also right about the fairly high creepiness quotient of the logo. Mr. Snake/Serpent/Dragon looks like he’d be more likely to be on the side of Boris and Natasha than that of Moose and Squirrel. On the other hand that might be representative of one of the strong suits of this blog; eschewing cartoonish imagery for something with more substance – something that’s not necessarily evident at first glance and may require some thought, prior knowledge or probing.

    It does strike me that the overall effect of the new look does lend some gravitas.

  • Pete

    Ditto to Booklover’s pining for the lost “Home” button.

    Booklover’s also right about the fairly high creepiness quotient of the logo. Mr. Snake/Serpent/Dragon looks like he’d be more likely to be on the side of Boris and Natasha than that of Moose and Squirrel. On the other hand that might be representative of one of the strong suits of this blog; eschewing cartoonish imagery for something with more substance – something that’s not necessarily evident at first glance and may require some thought, prior knowledge or probing.

    It does strike me that the overall effect of the new look does lend some gravitas.

  • Tom Hering

    Pete and Booklover, the “Home” link was redundant, as clicking the header did the same thing. Still does. (Clicking a header or a logo takes you to the home page on a lot of sites.)

  • Tom Hering

    Pete and Booklover, the “Home” link was redundant, as clicking the header did the same thing. Still does. (Clicking a header or a logo takes you to the home page on a lot of sites.)

  • Pete

    Thanks, Tom.

  • Pete

    Thanks, Tom.

  • Booklover

    OK, this creature on the new logo no longer “creeps me out.” He’s rather intriguing.

  • Booklover

    OK, this creature on the new logo no longer “creeps me out.” He’s rather intriguing.


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