General introduction

The Iconclass system has a history reaching back into the 1940’s when Henri van de Waal began to develop ideas for a universal classification for the subject matter of works of art. The classification itself went through several phases, after its first edition as part of the Decimal Index of Art of the Low Countries or D.I.A.L., in 1968.

In its completed form it was published as a printed publication in 17 volumes between 1973 and 1985.
In its digital format it was included in the HIDA-MIDAS database management system of the Marburger Index in the 1980's. As a standalone browser it was first published by the department of Computer & Letteren of Utrecht University in the 1990's.

The system has been frequently reviewed and discussed. There is a range of publications containing iconographic indices based on the Iconclass schedules, starting with Th.A.G. Wilberg-Vignau-Schuurman, Die emblematischen Elemente im Werke Joris Hoefnagels. As had been anticipated by Van de Waal himself, the Iconclass system fitted the demands of the digital systems that began to be developed from the 1970's onwards. In several reports the technical idiosyncracies of the system were analysed. These are made available for the first time here too as they may be useful sources for a future 'archaeology of technology'.
Over the years elements of the system have been the main or secondary topic of many conference lectures, and it has been transformed into a retrieval module incorporated in a series of digital catalogues on CD-ROM, and in a growing range of websites. We have made a start with the collection of this type of source material here too.

Together these publications and emanations offer valuable insights in the ideas of Van de Waal, who at a very early stage had strong ideas about the use of information technology. In recent years it has also become clear that pictorial datasets with rich Iconclass metadata are a valuable testing ground for AI and ML applications in the field of the subject analysis of images.
Documentation here thus starts with a first step towards a comprehensive bibliography about the system and topics involving Iconclass [A]. They are listed chronologically. Included are also publications that offer iconographic indices organized in compliance with Iconclass. We have begun to collect sources in full text, both published and unpublished ones. These are included in PDF format and wherever possible, links are provided to the full texts.
A short survey is included of the path to the present Iconclass version [B] for those interested in the 'archaeology of the Iconclass system'.
A start has been made with a survey of the websites that offer Iconclass-ified information [C]. At this point in time there is little uniformity in the way the sites of museums, libraries and documentation institutes guide their users to iconographic information, even when they use Iconclass as their common vocabulary. Hopefully this new browser version can be a first step towards more uniformity.
Conference presentations and lectures dealing in whole or in part with Iconclass are also to be included [D]. We have begun this collection by offering our own presentations in PDF-format from circa 2010 forward. In the spirit of Van de Waal we also collect information about pictorial information systems with an iconographic emphasis that do not use Iconclass [E].

If you have information to supplement any of our documentation pages, please contact us at the address shown below.

A. Bibliography of publications about Iconclass and of publications using Iconclass for iconographic indexing
B. Survey of versions of the Iconclass system
C. Web-based pictorial information systems using Iconclass for subject access
D. Conference papers, presentations, and (online) lectures about Iconclass or related topics
E. Web-based systems with rich iconographic information, not using Iconclass