What is the meaning of a picture? ‘Reading art’ answers this question by exploring the levels of meaning that can be found in an artwork and the different ways in which we can begin to understand it. The term ‘read’ is explained, and the contradictions inherent in describing art, a visual phenomenon, in words, is discussed. What is the representational meaning of art, and how does the viewer's cultural knowledge contribute to an understanding of representational art? How does art relate to textural sources, and our common knowledge of them? What is the importance of iconography? A comparison of three famous cultural icons illustrates the points made.