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Storytelling in Miniature

Hans Sebald Beham
German, 1500–1550

Genie with Armor (Male Genius Holding a Coat of Arms)

Engraving, about 1535
3 5/16 x 2 1/8 in.
Museum purchase, 1926.7

With origins in ancient Greek and Roman religion, a genie or genius in Renaissance iconography might symbolize a moral and rational standard, an ideal to be followed and emulated. More commonly, a genius was seen as something like a guardian angel—a protective spirit associated with a place, a person, or a thing. They were often depicted as winged and nude or semi-nude figures.