Sunday, September 11, 2011

Iconography and Iconology

Andy Warhol, The Last Supper

Introductory video to: Iconography

Erwin Panofsky's explanation of Iconography and Iconology.

For Panofsky the study of art objects and images could be systematized into three levels.

The first was simple identification through familiarity. Looking at a painting of an historical battle scene, for example, we can only identify and name weapons such as crossbows with which we are familiar, although we can readily understand the expressions of pain and anguish on the faces of wounded soldiers. Panofsky explained such divisions as factual and expressional. Factual and expressional apprehension will vary greatly, depending on experience. Obviously, an expert on ancient weaponry will identify a great variety of motifs; just as viewer with experience of battle might react very differently to those without such experience.

The second dealt with the domain of iconography. That is: the linking of artistic motifs with themes, concepts or conventional meaning. For example, at this level a Renaissance image of a man struck in the eye with an arrow from a crossbow might be apprehended beyond its horrific expressional value as representational of, or an allegory for, the power of linear perspective. Such recognition would be made possible because of a knowledge of Renaissance treatises on perspective and similar or related images.

The third, most contentious level of interpretation was iconological. At this deepest level, the intrinsic meaning or content of the work was apprehended. It is worth quoting Panofsky directly here as he explains this intrinsic meaning.

Learn more about Erwin Panofsky on wikipedia.

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