Skip to main content
Select Source:

nimbus (in art)

nimbus (nĬm´bəs), in art, the luminous disk or circle or other indication of light around the head of a sacred personage. It was used in Buddhist and other Asian art and by the early Greeks and Romans to designate gods and heroes and appeared in Christian art in the 5th cent. Although usually a circle or disk, the nimbus has various forms—triangular for God the Father; a circle with a cross for Jesus; a square for a living person; a disk or circle for a saint, with sometimes a band of small stars for the Virgin Mary. In stained glass Jesus and the Virgin were often represented surrounded by an ovoid light called a vesica piscis [Lat.,=fish bladder] (see iconography). The square form was symbolic of the material world; the circle symbolized spiritual perfection and eternal blessedness; and the triangle represented eternity and the Trinity. The nimbus is usually of gold and may have a clearly defined outline or the light may be diffused, radiating from the head in lines that melt into the picture. The term aureole may denote a crown or radiance around the head or it may be an oval used as a background for the whole body. When nimbus and aureole are combined for one figure, the illumination is called a glory. An almond-shaped glory is a mandorla. Halo is a nontechnical term to denote either a disk behind the head or a circle surrounding it.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"nimbus (in art)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"nimbus (in art)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/nimbus-art

"nimbus (in art)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/nimbus-art

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

nimbus

nim·bus / ˈnimbəs/ • n. (pl. -bi / -ˌbī/ or -bus·es ) 1. a luminous cloud or a halo surrounding a supernatural being or a saint. ∎  a light, aura, color, etc., that surrounds someone or something. 2. a large gray rain cloud: [as adj.] nimbus clouds. ORIGIN: early 17th cent.: from Latin, literally ‘cloud, aureole.’

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"nimbus." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"nimbus." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/nimbus-1

"nimbus." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved September 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/nimbus-1

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

nimbus (in meteorology)

nimbus, in meteorology, low, dark, formless cloud covering the entire sky, from which rain or snow is steadily falling. The term is usually applied to any cloud from which rain descends. Modifications are cumulonimbus, fractonimbus (ragged, broken nimbus), and nimbostratus.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"nimbus (in meteorology)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"nimbus (in meteorology)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/nimbus-meteorology

"nimbus (in meteorology)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/nimbus-meteorology

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

nimbus

nimbus a luminous cloud or a halo surrounding a supernatural being or a saint. Recorded from the early 17th century, the word is Latin, and means literally ‘cloud, aureole’.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"nimbus." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"nimbus." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/nimbus

"nimbus." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved September 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/nimbus

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

nimbus

nimbus cloud-like splendour investing a god XVII; halo XVIII; rain-cloud XIX. — L. nimbus rain, cloud, aureole.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"nimbus." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"nimbus." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/nimbus-2

"nimbus." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved September 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/nimbus-2

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

nimbus

nimbus. See aureole.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"nimbus." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"nimbus." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/nimbus

"nimbus." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Retrieved September 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/nimbus

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

nimbus

nimbusAnanias, bias, Darius, dryas, Elias, eyas, Gaius, hamadryas, Lias, Mathias, pious, Tobias •joyous • Shavuoth • tempestuous •spirituous • tortuous • sumptuous •voluptuous • virtuous • mellifluous •superfluous • congruous • vacuous •fatuous • anfractuous • arduous •ingenuous, strenuous, tenuous •flexuous • sensuous • impetuous •contemptuous • incestuous •assiduous, deciduous •ambiguous, contiguous, exiguous •inconspicuous, perspicuous •promiscuous •continuous, sinuous •nocuous • fructuous • tumultuous •unctuous •Abbas, shabbos •choriambus, iambus •Arbus •Phoebus, rebus •gibbous •cumulonimbus, nimbus •omnibus • ceteris paribus • Erebus •rhombus • incubus • succubus •bulbous • Columbus • syllabus •colobus • Barnabas • righteous •rumbustious

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"nimbus." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"nimbus." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/nimbus-0

"nimbus." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved September 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/nimbus-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Nimbus

NIMBUS

NIMBUS . The nimbus, or halo, usually pictured as a luminous figure around the head of a god or holy person, is clearly related in some instances to the sun and solar divinities. Among the native civilizations of Central America, agrarian gods are often pictured with golden crowns or nimbuses. The Inca deity Viracocha wears a tiara that is also the sun. Combining the natures of a sun god and a storm god, Viracocha participates in the character of the highest universal beings, such as Yahveh/El, Zeus, and the Buddha, who in some representations both wields a thunderbolt and wears a nimbus. The nimbus can also be traced, however, to the idea of an external expression of an internal supernatural force, and hence partakes of the full range of light symbolism from both Western and Eastern traditions; in particular, its light signifies intellect or mystical knowledge.

The Iranians pictured what the Avesta terms the khvarenah as a sort of supernatural fire, a nimbus, or an aureole, which is like the nimbus but encircles the whole person. It belonged primarily to the gods but could be given to royalty by the grace of the chief divinity, Ahura Mazdā. In Vajrayāna Buddhism in Tibet, the Vidyārajas represent the wrathful side of the absolute wisdom of Vairocana as the bodhisattvas represent the calm side. Encircling the supreme being, they wear aureoles of blazing flames and direct them against the darkness of avidyā (ignorance), which prevents aspirants from gaining emancipation.

More commonly, the nimbus expresses holiness or sacred character rather than action: two early texts of Mahāyāna Buddhism describe the bodhisattva as having a halo studded with five hundred Buddhas, each of which is, in turn, attended by numberless gods. As a way of picturing the wholly transcendent nature of the Buddha, some portraits show his head and halo as a wheel.

In Greece and Rome, the nimbus was often shown around the heads of gods and those in special relationships with them. It acquired fine distinctions in Christian art: the rectangular nimbus, for example, belonged to someone still living at the time the picture was made, whereas a nimbus with three rays or groups of rays was one of several forms that could be given only to the members of the Trinity, usually to the Son.

Between the sixth and twelfth centuries ce, the nimbus was depicted as luminous and transparent. Later representations were more stylized. Sometimes it was opaque, and between 1300 and 1500 the name or initials of a saint were often decoratively inscribed on the nimbus itself. During this same period, the nimbus sometimes appeared around animals when they symbolized divinities or holy persons. In depictions of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus, the aureole was sometimes used.

Another, possibly related, version of the aureole occurs in Islamic representations of a person inside a pearl: here the pearl represents Paradise, where those who are blessed go after death.

See Also

Iconography.

Bibliography

The nimbus as a Christian symbol has been described in detail in many books on Christian symbolism in art. Typical of these is George W. Ferguson's Signs and Symbols in Christian Art (Oxford, 1954). Most of the time these discussions are general and have little or no explanation of deeper meanings. The Mahāyāna texts in which the nimbus of the bodhisattva is described are the Amitāyurdhyāna Sūtra and the Vajracchedika Sūtra.

New Sources

Hagstrom, Aurelie A. "The Symbol of the Mandorla in Christian Art: Recovery of a Feminine Archetype." Arts 10 (1998): 2529.

Elaine Magalis (1987)

Revised Bibliography

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Nimbus." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Nimbus." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/nimbus

"Nimbus." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Retrieved September 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/nimbus

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.