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Until today, I did not know that an image does not need to be a picture:

From the Oxford dictionary:

Image: [countable] a picture, photograph or statue that represents somebody/something

Reading a story titled "The Bronze Image", they talk of a small bronze image of the God Ganesha. From the context (and also because it is bronze) it is clear that it is not a picture. However, why did the author not use "a statue" then, or "a figure"? Is there anything special about using "image" in this sense?

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  • The definition you quote says statue. So, it's not clear what you're asking when you ask Why not a statue? Aug 13, 2020 at 19:07

3 Answers 3

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It’s an older (but still valid) meaning of image from an era where the only images available were paintings or sculptures.

Today, image is almost exclusively used to mean a photograph, simply because most modern people have little or no experience with any other kind of image.

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The word 'image' can have the meaning of 'statue used for worship' (or 'idol'). In the 17th century King James Bible the second of the Ten Commandments of God forbids the worship of 'graven images' (carved statues).

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I believe using "image" instead of "statue" confers the idea that it is a statue with religious significance, not just an art object. In the story, the bronze image is of Ganesha, an important Hindu deity. Another example I was able to find was an article titled "Buddha images"

Sculptures known as "Buddha images" can depict one of many buddhas...

Since the Judeo-Christian Bible does forbid idolatry as Michael's answer explains, I think "image" used to mean "a religious statue" is almost always restricted to religions other than Judaism or Christianity.

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