The ekphrastic tradition

Literary and pictorial narrative in the epigrams of john elsum, an eighteenth-century connoisseur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

‘We do not explain pictures: We explain remarks about pictures.’ This pronouncement comes from Michael Baxandall, whose stimulating book, Patterns of Intention, deals with the complex and problematic relationship of text to image and image to text.1 Can any verbal description offer an adequate account or representation of a work of art? This question worries Baxandall and others, who realize that the nature of language makes the process of description (or ekphrasis, as the Greeks called it) an ‘untidy and lively affair.’2 By and large, such doubts about the insufficiency of language seldom troubled earlier writers who strove to render the visual experience oflooking at pictures, From antiquity to the Renaissance, the sister arts were assumed to be on close (and almost interchangeable) terms with each other. Proverbial wisdom thought of poetry as eloquent painting and painting as mute poetry - an assumption that went virtually unchallenged throughout the eighteenth century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-400
Number of pages18
JournalWord and Image
Volume9
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes

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eighteenth century
narrative
poetry
work of art
language
antiquity
Renaissance
wisdom
writer
art
Connoisseurs
Epigrams
Literary Tradition
experience
Poetry
Language
Works of Art
Sister
Render
Intentions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this

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abstract = "‘We do not explain pictures: We explain remarks about pictures.’ This pronouncement comes from Michael Baxandall, whose stimulating book, Patterns of Intention, deals with the complex and problematic relationship of text to image and image to text.1 Can any verbal description offer an adequate account or representation of a work of art? This question worries Baxandall and others, who realize that the nature of language makes the process of description (or ekphrasis, as the Greeks called it) an ‘untidy and lively affair.’2 By and large, such doubts about the insufficiency of language seldom troubled earlier writers who strove to render the visual experience oflooking at pictures, From antiquity to the Renaissance, the sister arts were assumed to be on close (and almost interchangeable) terms with each other. Proverbial wisdom thought of poetry as eloquent painting and painting as mute poetry - an assumption that went virtually unchallenged throughout the eighteenth century.",
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