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Full Access De novis libris iudicia Images, Inscriptions and Interpretation

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De novis libris iudicia Images, Inscriptions and Interpretation

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image of Mnemosyne

A recent collection of papers focusing on the relationship between inscriptions and the images they accompany postulates a great variety in subjective ‘reader/viewer response’ and underlines discrepancies between texts and images. Inscriptions are believed to complicate rather than elucidate representations and to have been set up to pose challenges to readers. However, many of the examples selected are exceptional in one way or another. As a rule inscriptions intend to provide authoritative information to readers prepared to accept it as such. Inscriptions anchor floating images, investing the general with the specific and consequently serving an hermeneutic purpose. The ambit of ‘reader/viewer response’ tends to be inversely proportional to the amount of inscribed text, though with exceptions admitted: its room is potentially enlarged, first with the lapse of time, and secondly with inscriptions meant to be read in private space, especially in a sympotic context. The reconstruction of responses to inscribed images should start from (more or less) contemporary sources rather than modern viewers’ speculations. What is known of ancient reader/viewer reception in the domestic sphere (inter alia the ekphrasis of paintings in Lucian’s De domo) suggests that texts may have been subjected to several types of variatio and paintings may have elicited subject-orientated comments devoid of ingenious associations.

Affiliations: 1: Universiteit Leiden, Instituut voor Geschiedenis Doelensteeg 16, 2311 VL Leiden The Netherlands, Email: r.a.tybout@hum.leidenuniv.nl

A recent collection of papers focusing on the relationship between inscriptions and the images they accompany postulates a great variety in subjective ‘reader/viewer response’ and underlines discrepancies between texts and images. Inscriptions are believed to complicate rather than elucidate representations and to have been set up to pose challenges to readers. However, many of the examples selected are exceptional in one way or another. As a rule inscriptions intend to provide authoritative information to readers prepared to accept it as such. Inscriptions anchor floating images, investing the general with the specific and consequently serving an hermeneutic purpose. The ambit of ‘reader/viewer response’ tends to be inversely proportional to the amount of inscribed text, though with exceptions admitted: its room is potentially enlarged, first with the lapse of time, and secondly with inscriptions meant to be read in private space, especially in a sympotic context. The reconstruction of responses to inscribed images should start from (more or less) contemporary sources rather than modern viewers’ speculations. What is known of ancient reader/viewer reception in the domestic sphere (inter alia the ekphrasis of paintings in Lucian’s De domo) suggests that texts may have been subjected to several types of variatio and paintings may have elicited subject-orientated comments devoid of ingenious associations.

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/content/journals/10.1163/156852511x505141
2011-01-01
2016-12-10

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