I'm looking for a word that describes a picture or symbol that teaches a lesson or conveys an important message. For instance, the picture of Sisyphus and the rock is meant to teach the observer that mankind longs for reason and meaning in the world, but the world refuses to answer that longing (and as such is an impossible dilemma to work around).

I suppose a more linguistic comparable would be an aphorism.

2 Answers 2


The word for this is Allegory.

1 a.The representation of abstract ideas or principles by characters, figures, or events in narrative, dramatic, or pictorial form.

b.A story, picture, or play employing such representation.

John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and Herman Melville's Moby-Dick are allegories.

  1. A symbolic representation:

The blindfolded figure with scales is an allegory of justice.

[The American Heritage Dictionary]

  • 1
    How about allegorical image? Jan 12 at 0:26

Perhaps the phrase 'object lesson' might work.


Consider my own example, as a Canadian L1 speaker:

"The IKEA layout was an object lesson in commercial architecture."

Edit: I'm new here, I'm not sure if I was meant to only supply a single word.

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