Q: DaVinci and others painted many figures with haloes. What were they really painting? Were they really the artist’s version of someone’s aura?
A: Although much as been stated and speculated regarding the use of haloes in paintings, much of it was affectation, a way of expressing their subject’s holiness and purity; a way of ingratiating themselves as an artist with the Church.
During that period, the Church made much of the purity of the soul, of the brilliance of Christ’s light, and of the need of others to aspire to this purity and achieve this lightness of spirit. Therefore, did the artists of the time, in an effort to curry favor with the Church, illustrate the subject’s purity by giving them a halo, thereby showing everyone the subject’s “soul light”.
Some artists dared to give their patrons haloes, but this was mostly an attempt to win favor and gain remuneration. Primarily were haloes only applied to those representations of deified subjects, subjects approved by and revered by the Church. This would include all instances of Christ, God (though His halo was usually shown as a brilliant full-body light, which was inspired by the knowledge of your own auric body).
Other instances of subjects wearing haloes depended on the mood of the Church and whether the person in question was in favor or not during that time. For often did the Church go for years revering Mary and Joseph, and then just Mary. At different periods were one or more of the disciples dropped from favor, and then as that religious period faded, were they returned to a place respected and honored.
So, always does the Church waiver in its acceptance of what and who is revered at any one time. However, in regards to haloes, have they now become anomalous, with some believing the artists saw auras and others believing they were merely affectations.
While a little of both, they were primarily affectations to please the Church.