My course in Luke is currently looking at various artistic renditions of stories that appear in Luke's Gospel. Growing up Protestant, one isn't exposed to a great number of religious icons. Even the stained glass windows in the 1st Presbyterian Church in Winneconne were strictly ornamental, a few had names of church founders but that was about it. I find these icons pretty fascinating, but see them largely as a means for the artist and the commisioning agent (usually the Catholic Church) to pass along these stories in a way that people of the time could relate. For example, the one I wrote a little about was "The Annunciation" by Da Vinci. It certainly doesn't resemble a picture in my mind of how Gabriel interacted with Mary. It certainly doesn't reflect the humble beginnings I would put Mary into. But maybe that's partially the point - that we need to think about these events beyond our current vision/version.
There is a great deal of symbolism within many of these paintings. Some I can "buy" some seems to be a stretch. For example, here Gabriel is holding a lily in one hand, symbolizing Mary's purity. The book on the lecturn is supposedly open to Isiah - demonstrating that Mary was well versed in scripture. For me, like I mentioned before, everything is a little too perfect.
I don't necessarily find these icons useful in interpreting the scripture, but I do find them very enriching for my appreciation of scripture.