Please, have a look at this picture:

enter image description here

It represents the Medicine. At the bottom you see a swan and a cock. The cock was sacred to Asclepius and should be one of his symbols here. But what about that swan sitting on an open book? Currently I don't know where this picture came from, but I can ask for information, if it helps. A friend of mine asked me for a suggestion about its iconographic meaning, but I have no idea.

edited to add: It's a fresco of the 18th century, a cycle of paintings actually, on the wall of the former Aula Magna (Great Hall) of the university of Pavia. Here a view:

enter image description here

I was fancying that maybe in some way the rooster on the closed books represents the practical side of the medicine, the practice, while the swan on the open book the studying, the theory (but it's just a fantasy of mine). Intriguing by the way that first comes the open book, and then the closed ones.

  • 1
    A few questions: (1) how do you know that this picture "represents the medicine"? Is it because the drawing has a rooster? (2) Where did you get this picture? The internet?
    – user62
    Oct 2 '15 at 20:49
  • Hi Hamlet, thank you. As I wrote, I'm asking the question a friend of mine asked me yesterday; I ended up here by mere chance, searching the web. The fresco is inside the university of Pavia, Italy, and should represent one of the subjects being taught there in the past, the art of medicine. Anyhow tomorrow I'll be more specific.
    – antmjr
    Oct 2 '15 at 21:11
  • it would be wonderful if you could edit the question to add that additional information. That said, this sounds like it will be a great question, so +1 from me!
    – user62
    Oct 2 '15 at 21:14
  • 1
    Is it possible that the bird is a goose rather than a swan? The swan is a theriomorph of Aphrodite, whose connection with medicine is fairly tangential. The goose, however, is a theriomorph of Artemis (sister of Apollo, a medicine god). She's associated with midwifery and sudden death among prepubescent girls.
    – Peter
    Oct 8 '15 at 19:46

I'm just guessing, but the swan was Apollo's bird, and one of his aspects was Paion, the Healer. His son Asklepios was the main healer-god, and roosters were offered to him as sacrifices. So the two birds may symbolize the two healing gods.

  • I think you're right.
    – cmw
    Oct 10 '15 at 4:30
  • Thank you so much from me too. My friend, too, associated the swan with Apollo and so Apollo with his son, but missed Paion! (please, try to hypothesize about the meaning of those books too, if you have time).
    – antmjr
    Oct 10 '15 at 4:56
  • @antmjr I would say that the books represent wisdom. However, I can't think of a way that the books would mean anything more specific than that.
    – user62
    Oct 10 '15 at 5:28
  • @Hamlet Yes, but why an open book under the swan/Paion and the closed ones under the rooster/Asklepius? I have the feeling (just that!) that they must be meaningful.
    – antmjr
    Oct 10 '15 at 5:52

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