Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Aureola
AUREOLA, Aureole, the radiance or luminous cloud which, in paintings of sacred personages, is represented as surrounding the whole figure. In the earliest periods of Christian art this splendour was confined to the figures of the persons of the Godhead, but it was afterwards extended to the Virgin Mary and to several of the saints. The aureola, when enveloping the whole body, is generally oval or elliptical in form, but is occasionally circular or quatrefoil. When it is merely a luminous disk round the head, it is called specifically a nimbus, while the combination of nimbus and aureole is called a glory. The strict dis tinction between nimbus and aureole is not commonly maintained, and the latter term is most frequently used to denote the radiance round the heads of saints, angels, or persons of the Godhead.