Sign and Design: Script as Image in a Cross
Sign and Design: Script as Image in a Cross-Cultural Perspective (300 – 1600 CE)
October 12 – 14, 2012
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C.
Brigitte Miriam Bedos-Rezak, Professor of History at New York University, has published
extensively on medieval seals as conceptual tools, markers of identity, and social agents,
including Form as Order in Medieval France (Aldershot, 1993), “Medieval Identity: A Sign and
a Concept” (American Historical Review, 2000), and When Ego was Imago (Leiden, 2011).
Jeffrey F. Hamburger is the Kuno Francke Professor of German Art & Culture at Harvard
University, where he teaches as the medievalist in the Department of History of Art &
Architecture. A Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America and a member of both the
American Philosophical Society and American Academy of Arts & Sciences, he has published
widely on medieval manuscript illumination, medieval image theory, theology and mysticism, as
well as the art of female monasticism.
Pictorial Talking: The Figural Rendering of Speech Acts and Texts in Aztec Mexico
Elizabeth Hill Boone
In Aztec Mexico before the Spanish conquest, there was no fusion of letter and image,
because there were no letters. A single sign form, the image, supported by the line and the field,
bore the documentary responsibility of scripts elsewhere. Images carried semantic meanings by
symbolizing or representing (in an abstractly conventional mimesis) that which they indexed,
and a spatial syntax organized these images into specific messages. The goal of Mexican
pictography was to record meaning rather than sound and language. Only in appellatives
(personal, ethnic, and place names) did the images occasionally refer to the sounds of spoken
words when identification could not otherwise be achieved. Pictography was thus a
semasiagraphic rather than a glottographic system, one that operated freely across linguistic
Despite its relative independence from spoken language, however, pictography could still
accommodate the contents of speech acts; there are rare examples from the preconquest period.
After the conquest, and under the influence of alphabetic writing, pictography opened up to the
possibility of word writing by representing linguistic streams glyphically. Painted conversations
appear in the pictorial histories. Pictography’s final expression was the pictorial catechism
developed in the sixteenth century; there the principles of indigenous figuration refashioned
Christian images into glyphic signifiers that referenced the phrasings of doctrinal texts.
Elizabeth Hill Boone, Robertson Chair in Latin American Art, Tulane University, is a specialist
in the painted manuscripts of Pre-Columbian and early colonial Mexico. Formerly Director of
Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks (1983-95) and Andrew W. Mellon Professor at the
Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art (2006-8), she has edited
or co-edited eleven books, including Writing without Words (with Walter Mignolo) and Their
Way of Writing (with Gary Urton). Her monographs include Stories in Red and Black: Pictorial
Histories of the Aztecs and Mixtecs and Cycles of Time and Meaning in the Mexican Books of
Fate. She is the recipient of Mexico’s Order of the Aztec Eagle and a corresponding member of
the Academia Mexicana de la Historia. She has been elected a fellow of the American Academy
of Arts and Sciences. Her current project examines changes in the indigenous tradition of
pictography and manuscript painting after the conquest.
Entre glorification du texte et nouvelle esthétique de l’image : l’illustration des chartes
françaises au Moyen Age
Archives Nationales, Paris
La réflexion sur le rôle de l’image médiévale gagnera beaucoup à prendre en compte l’histoire de
l’illustration des chartes qui s’avère être un mouvement de grande ampleur dans l’Europe
médiévale. Outils de communication politique et sociale, ces actes décorés ont connu une
histoire particulière en France car la chancellerie royale a très vite accaparé le procédé au début
du XIVe siècle. Chaque souverain a élaboré, avec l’aide de ses conseillers et de ses notaires, une
iconographie singulière qui lui permettait tout à la fois d’affirmer une continuité dynastique et de
témoigner d’une vision personnelle de son image.
Mais une question plus large se pose : dans le domaine de la rédaction des actes administratifs,
politiques et financiers, où l’autorité des mots était incontestable, quel sens donnait-on au
redoublement du message du texte par un message visuel ? Manifestement, cette mise en scène
virtuose d’emblèmes, d’insignes politiques, de visages, de végétaux et d’animaux, a conduit à
élaborer une vision esthétique au service du pouvoir, servie par des scribes-dessinateurs qui ont
privilégié l’illustration à la plume. Le « texte en image » a donc bénéficié d’innovations
techniques constantes, du point de vue de la calligraphie, de la mise en page, de l’iconographie,
voire du scellement. Il est devenu littéralement « fascinant », reflet d’un discours qui transcendait
les mots. C’est ce mouvement de longue durée (vers 1280 – vers 1450), dont l’impact demeure
mal évalué, que je m’attacherai à restituer.
Ghislain Brunel est conservateur en chef du Patrimoine aux Archives nationales (Paris), dans le
département du Moyen Âge et de l’Ancien Régime. Diplômé de l'École nationale des Chartes et
docteur en histoire médiévale, il a publié Images du pouvoir royal. Les chartes décorées des
Archives nationales (XIIIe-XVe siècle) (2005) et il a été le commissaire scientifique de
l’exposition « Trésor des chartes des rois de France. La lettre et l’image de Saint Louis à
Charles VII » (Paris, Archives nationales, 2007). Il prépare actuellement une synthèse sur
l’illustration des chartes françaises au Moyen Âge.
Visible / Lisible : Pour une typologie iconique de l’écriture
Centre d’etude de l’écriture et de l’image
Cet exposé se situe dans le prolongement des analyses que j’ai menées précédemment sur les
origines iconiques de l’écriture. Celles-ci faisaient apparaître que le « lisible » était issu du
« visible » et non du langage, d’un mode de communication et de pensée fondé sur la révélation
et le parcours, l’observation et l’interrogation, non sur une finalisation verbale de l’écrit censée
le conduire progressivement à disparaître derrière la parole.
Ces analyses ne convenaient toutefois pleinement qu’aux écritures ayant donné naissance à
l’idéogramme. Il ne pouvait en aller de même des écritures « secondes », « réinventées » à partir
d’elles dans un contexte nécessairement différent. Leur invention ne reposait plus sur le seul
métissage de faits de langue et de données iconiques, mais sur l’existence même des systèmes
dont elles souhaitaient se détacher tout en continuant de s’en inspirer. Tel est le cas de l’alphabet
grec par rapport au système sémitique, et au-delà de lui aux hiéroglyphes égyptiens, ou celui du
système japonais par rapport à l’écriture chinoise.
On tentera de montrer que ces écritures réinventées ne peuvent être analysées exactement dans
les mêmes termes et de la même manière que les systèmes dont elles sont issues. Mais elles ont
d’autre part en commun les unes avec les autres, en dépit de leur diversité, des principes de
fonctionnement spécifiques, qui peuvent éclairer, en retour, certains aspects méconnus ou
négligés de l’apparition de l’écriture et de sa genèse.
Anne-Marie Christin is professor emeritus at the Université Paris Diderot – Paris 7. Her
publications include L'Image écrite ou la déraison graphique (1995), Poétique du blanc: vide et
intervalle dans la civilisation de l'alphabet (2000), and L’Invention de la figure (2011). She is
interested in analyzing the influence of art on literature in France in the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries and in investigating the presence of the image in different writing systems.
From Many into One: The transformation of Pre-Columbian signs into European Designs in the
Late Pre-Columbian graphic systems in Mexico and Peru adhered to their own internal system of
forms, designs, and referentiality. This talk will first outline the major components of these
radically different systems and explore how they become integrated, or not within the universal
system employed by the Spanish. This examination will begin with a broad range of material and
then will focus on European works on paper and some stone sculpture.
Thomas Cummins is Dumbarton Oaks Professor of the History of Pre-Columbian and Colonial
Art in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University. His research
focuses on the Pre-Columbian arts of Peru and Ecuador and the colonial arts of Latin America,
especially sixteenth-century Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. Most recently, he collaborated with a
team of scholars at the Getty Research Institute to study two illustrated manuscripts from
seventeenth-century Peru. His most recent book Beyond the Lettered City: Native Literacies in
the Northern Andes, co-authored with Joanne Rappaport, is published by The Duke University
Du Monogramme du Christ À L’image de Dieu.
Contribution Épigraphique À La Compréhension du Chrisme Monumental
(France-Espagne, Xie-Xiiie Siècles)
From Christ's Monogram to God's Presence. Epigraphic contribution to the study of chrismon in
Université de Poitiers
Engraved on the tympanum of Romanesque churches, on the lid of early Christian sarcophagi,
drawn at the beginning of charters and diplomas or inscribed on seals, the chrismon is an
omnipresent motif in artistic and cultural manifestations of the western middle ages. It occupies a
particular place in monumental sculpture in the South of France and in the North of Spain where
it contributes to the decoration and general organization of buildings. Until today, art history has
not submitted the motif to formal analysis nor satisfactorily interpreted its meaning. Most of the
studies about the chrismon have been made within the framework of medieval epigraphy, as a
particular form of medieval writing.
Generally, the chrismon has been studied from an evolutionist perspective which attempts to
point out formal and semantic transformations of the motif, from the simple Constantin's
labarum to the complex sign of Romanesque portals. This limited search for meaning and its
evolution has led scholars away from analyzing the nature of this sign.
By analyzing the inscriptions that accompany Romanesque chrismons and looking for common
factors allowing for different forms and functions of this motif, this paper would like to propose
some runways for the understanding of the semantic value of the Pyrenean chrismon and for its
role in monumental implementation of sculptured decoration.
Vincent Debiais (PhD in History, 2004), is a researcher at the Centre national de la recherche
scientifique, a member of the Centre d’études supérieures de civilisation médiévale of Poitiers
(France) and a specialist in medieval epigraphy. He edited the Corpus des inscriptions de la
France médiévale, and his interests include Tituli and inscriptions in Romanesque works of art,
written culture and written objects, Latin ekphrasis and artistic literature.
Chrysepēs Stichourgia: The Iconicity of the Byzantine Epigram
University of Washington
In Byzantine usage, the word epigram refers either to a verse inscription written on an object—
be it a ring, a tomb, a reliquary casket, or a fortification wall—or to a poem accompanying a
piece of literature. Defined by its inscriptional use, the Byzantine epigram is a twofold entity,
simultaneously a literary composition and a material artifact, a painted, carved, hammered,
embroidered, nielloed, or otherwise manufactured string of letters. The aim of the present paper
is to explore this visual and physical dimension of the Byzantine epigram. The paper takes its
lead from a passage found in a twelfth-century monody, or burial song, composed by Niketas
Eugeneianos on the occasion of the death of his teacher, the poet Theodore Prodromos. Praising
the epigrams of his beloved master, Eugeneianos stresses both their literary qualities and visual
aspect. He extols Prodromos’ verses affixed to icons as a perfect form of adornment, comparable
to precious stones and pearls, and further likens tombs bearing Prodromos’ epitaphs to
sumptuously arrayed bridegrooms. To contextualize Eugeneianos’ eulogy and explore how and
why the epigram was conceived as iconic text, I shall probe the nexus of conceptual and
metaphorical associations linking literature, writing, adornment, and clothing in Byzantine
culture. The non-linguistic aspects of epigrammatic poetry, I shall argue, were not only
recognized and admired by the Byzantines; the inscribed verse, in fact, called for graphic and
material elaboration. The self-conscious iconicity of the Byzantine epigram communicated its
status as literature, an instantiation of logos, and in the process opened poetry to sensual
Ivan Drpić (PhD Harvard University, 2011) is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Art
History at the University of Washington. His areas of research and teaching include the art,
architecture, and material culture of the medieval Mediterranean and Europe, with an emphasis
on Byzantium; the nexus of aesthetics, anthropology, and religion; theories of the image; and the
intersection of the verbal and the visual. In his current book project, Professor Drpić explores the
relationship between art and epigrammatic poetry in the last centuries of Byzantium, taking as
his focus the realm of personal piety and its artistic arsenal. The project is grounded in a close
examination of the corpus of Byzantine epigrams, or verse inscriptions, on art objects produced
from around 1100 to around 1450.
Loud Inscriptions, Silent Prayers
Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London
A number of mosaic inscriptions set up in the church of St Demetrios in Thessaloniki in the sixth
and seventh century contain only the phrase: ‘A prayer by one whose name is known by God’.
These enigmatic and self-effacing texts raise questions about the presence and functions of
monumentally inscribed prayers. My paper will explore the relationship between the visibility of
such inscriptions and the limited benefits gained by those who read them (at least in terms of the
factual information that can be gleaned from them). The value of such loud inscriptions lies
much more in the placement and organization of their blocks of text than in the silent prayers
that they contain. I will argue that the meaning and significance of these texts is generated by
their formal appearance - by the fact the ways such texts are set out requires that they are
understood to represent prayer. This visual vocabulary could then be exploited by those who
commissioned and made works of art in order to give other, more mundane, texts a power and
authority that their words could never convey.
In many cases such inscriptions accompany unidentified depictions of those making the prayers,
raising additional questions about the ways in which combinations of text and image were used
to create pious portraits in the early middle ages.
Antony Eastmond is AG Leventis Reader in the History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art,
University of London. He has recently led an AHRC-funded research network entitled Viewing
Texts: Word as Image and ornament in Medieval Inscriptions
(http://projects.beyondtext.ac.uk/wordasimage/index.php) and is about to embark on a two-year
major research fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust to complete a book on art and women as
diplomatic commodities in the thirteenth century.
Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales
Nous nous proposons de revenir sur les usages des signatures en rebus que nous avions évoqué
dans notre ouvrage La signature Genèse d’un signe (1992) sans les analyser en profondeur. Nous
nous appuierons sur le corpus des signatures-rébus tel que la tradition savante l’a inventorié et
analysé. Ce corpus rassemble surtout des seings de notaires attestés en France entre le XIVe et le
XVIe siècle. Ces signes puisent leurs motifs dans des ressources héraldiques, artistiques et
Nous défendrons l'hypothèse que la mise en rébus du nom propre est une manière de s'approprier
un système anthroponymique en voie de renouveau. En effet, la formule « Prénom + Nom de
famille » se diffuse entre le XIVe et le XVIe siècle. Le rébus pourrait être une stratégie de
distinction visant à rehausser des noms communs devenus noms propres.
La signature en rébus pourrait également être une étape dans le passage d'un système de signes
de l'identité fondé sur des signes iconiques à un système où l'emportent l'écriture et ses
Enfin, la culture notariale mérite d’être questionnée : Y a-t-il un lien entre la force de validation
du signe et le choix du rébus ? Comment comprendre l’humour et l’ironie qui s’expriment
volontiers dans les actes notariés par les rébus et les seings mais aussi par les marques de
correction et d’annotation ?
D’un point de vue anthropologique, la signature en rébus doit être située dans le vaste domaine
des pratiques cryptographiques qui connaissent une embellie certaine aux XVe et XVIe siècle
(Alberti, Raymond Lulle, Trithème).
Béatrice Fraenkel is a Professor at the EHESS (École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales)
in Paris, where she teaches the Anthropology of Writing. She has developed a pragmatic
approach to writing and reading practices grounded in ethnographic and historical research. The
notion of the « writing act » is at the center of her theoretical work, and creation of new
Her publications include: La Signature, genèse d’un signe (Paris, Gallimard, 1992), Illettrismes,
Approches historiques et anthropologiques (Paris,1993), Langage et Travail, Communication,
cognition, action (ed. with A. Borzeix, Paris, CNRS, 2001), Les écrits de Septembre : New York
2001 (Paris, Textuel, 2002). She is currently the director of the research group Anthropology of
Writing which is part of the IIAC (Interdisciplinary Institute of Contemporary Anthropology EHESS-CNRS).
B. Fraenkel directed, with C. Licoppe, ParisTech, the research program “Ecologie et Politique de
l’écriture,” supported by the Agence Nationale pour la Recherche (2006-2009) and was the
program head of “Future Writings of Paris 2030” supported by la Mairie de Paris (2009-2011).
Excavating the Letter in the Carolingian Sacramentary
Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY)
Historiated initials were a new phenomenon in the Carolingian period. Although earlier
manuscripts had used ornamented or emphasized letters, the Carolingians went much further,
adding narrative within the confined boundaries of the letter-- or sometimes even breaking those
boundaries. These additions seem to pull the viewer in a different or, at least non-linear direction,
away from the text which the initial purports to begin. Striking, however, is the way such
imagery interacts with texts, in this case, liturgical and performative texts. I propose to look at
the Gellone and Drogo Sacramentaries, two key monuments in the history of the historiated
initial, in order to assess their approach to these new visual forms. Of particular interest are the
texts of the Canon of the Mass and certain other ceremonies such as feast of the invention of the
cross. Although the “viewing audience” of such imagery is limited one presumes to clerics, I
would argue that the initials offer an added value to the performance of the liturgy. The initials
propose a space of performance that moves the reader, the celebrant, from the material to the
spiritual world, and thence to a deeper understanding and experience of the ritual.
Cynthia Hahn is Professor of Art History at Hunter College and the Graduate Center at CUNY.
She is the author of two books and many articles on illustrated manuscripts of saints' lives,
including, Portrayed on the Heart: Narrative Effect in Pictorial Lives of the Saints from the
Tenth through the Thirteenth Century (Univ of California, 2001). More recently, she has been
working on the rhetorical presentation of reliquaries, the full study will appear in 2012 from
University of Pennsylvania Press: Strange Beauty: Origins and Issues in the Making of Medieval
Reliquaries 400-circa 1204. Recently, she has returned to an interest in manuscripts and script
with an essay appearing in Visible Writings: Cultures, Forms, Readings, ed. M. Shaw.
“De una essentia innectunctur sibi duo circuli:” Dynamic Signs and Trinitarian Designs
Herbert L. Kessler
Starting with the initial for the “Quod fuit ab initio” of 1 John in the ninth-century First Bible of
Charles the Bald, the paper analyzes the use of circles, simultaneously as letter forms, cosmic
schemata, and symbols of God. It then moves to an examination of the ways in which the
interlocking of these simple geometrical forms was deployed in the Hrabanus Maurus De
universo manuscript of 1023, the legend of Edmund of Abingdon, the Vere dignum initial in a
Romanesque Sacramentary from Tours, and the “Venn diagrams” of Petrus Alfonsi and Joachim
of Fiore to convey the ineffable nature of the Holy Trinity. In so doing, the paper intends to show
how even the simplest of visual signs was able to engage words and mathematics as a means of
negotiating the relationship between physics and abstract theology and, in that way, to represent
the mechanics of Christianity’s most recondite mystery.
Educated at the University of Chicago (BA 1961) and Princeton University (MFA 1963, Ph.D.
1965), Herbert L. Kessler has taught at the University of Chicago and, since 1976, at the Johns
Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard
University, Emory University, and Williams College and was the first Richard Krautheimer
Professor at the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome (Max Planck Institut). Kessler is an elected
Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Medieval Academy of
America, of which he was also president in 2009-10.
He has published some 150 articles and reviews and is author or editor of fifteen books, among
them: The Illustrated Bibles from Tours (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977); (with
Kurt Weitzmann) The Cotton Genesis (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986); (with Kurt
Weitzmann) The Frescoes of the Dura Synagogue and Christian Art (Washington D.C.:
Dumbarton Oaks, 1990); (with Paul E. Dutton) The Poetry and Paintings in the First Bible of
Charles the Bald (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997); (with Johanna Zacharias)
Rome1300: On the Path of the Pilgrim (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000); Seeing
Medieval Art (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004); Neither God nor Man. Texts,
Pictures, and the Anxiety of Medieval Art (Quellen zur Kunst) (Freiburg im Breisgau: Rombach
Druck- und Verlagshaus, 2007); (with D. Nirenberg) Judaism and Christian Art (Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).
The Role of Hebrew Letters in Making the Divine Visible
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
When Jewish figural book art came on the scene in Central Europe, around 1230, the patrons and
artists of Hebrew liturgical books opened up to the tastes, fashions, and conventions of Latin
illuminated manuscripts and other forms of Christian art. Jewish book designers dealt with the
visual culture they encountered in the environment in which they lived with a complex process
of transmission, adaptation, and translation. Among the wealth of Christian visual themes,
however, there was one that the Jews could not integrate into their religious culture: they were
not prepared to create anthropomorphic representations of God.
This stand does not imply that Jewish imagery never met the challenge involved in representing
the Divine. Among the most lavish medieval Hebrew manuscripts is a group of prayer books that
contain the liturgical hymns that were commonly part of the Central European prayer rites. Many
of these hymns address God by means of the initial word el (God) and other forms that refer to
the Divine. The proposed paper will examine these initials and the different ways in which they
are integrated into the overall imagery of decorated initial panels, their frames, and entire page
Thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Ashkenazi culture was, to a great extent, indebted to the
heritage of Pietism, a religious movement that developed around 1200. Issues of
anthropomorphism were high on their list of principal concerns, but they were also very much
occupied with the symbolic aspects of the Hebrew alphabet and the numerical values of the
various letters. The way in which these interests are visually manifest in the initial panels of
certain Hebrew prayer books will be at the core of my presentation.
Katrin Kogman-Appel (Ph.D., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1994) is the Deputy Dean
of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer
Sheva, where she also holds the Evelyn Metz Memorial Research Chair at the Department of the
Arts. She has published work on the relationship between Jewish and Christian art in late
antiquity and on Hebrew manuscript painting in various journals, such as Gesta, Zeitschrift für
Kunstgeschichte, The Art Bulletin, Speculum, Studies in Iconography and others. She is the
author of “Jewish Book Art Between Islam and Christianity” which appeared in 2004 at E. J.
Brill, Leiden (and in 2001 in Hebrew); and of “Illuminated Haggadot from Medieval Spain”
published in 2007 by Penn State University Press, which won the Premio del Rey Prize of the
American Historical Association in 2009. Among her most recent work is one of the essays in a
recently published new facsimile edition of the Washington Haggadah for Harvard University
Press. A Mahzor from Worms. Art and Religion in a Medieval Jewish Community, a monograph
on the Leipzig Mahzor, appeared recently at Harvard University Press. She is currently working
on a study on Elisha Cresques ben Abraham, a fourteenth-century Jewish scribe, illuminator, and
map maker in Mallorca.
A spectacle for the Senses: The Description and Inscription of Church Dedication in Liturgical
Manuscripts (Tenth - Twelfth Century)
Université Laval, Québec
The libelli of ordines and the pontificals which were composed in the Carolingian Empire from
the ninth century display new ornamental trends in their representation of church dedications.
Concomitantly, the ritual of dedication had become a multi-sensorial event, transforming the
building through the articulation of circuits; by means of gestures of inscription, unction, and
aspersions; by multimodal vocalisations of performative words; and by sequences of unveiling,
visualisation, and integration. The ritual inscribes the corporal presence of Christ in the
consecrated building, and this imaginary incarnation is reified by the signs, gestures and sounds
performed during the ritual. The narrative description of such ceremonial is imprinted with the
performative value of the ritual. The ordo of the dedication, which frequently opens the liturgical
book, is visually enhanced by graphic signs: the colour of the ink, varying sizes of letters,
musical notes, letters’ ornamentations and images, all of which invite to poetize and visualize the
literal meaning of the text. The purpose of this paper is to consider this figurability of the
scripted ritual in some English and German pontificals and sacramentaries produced between the
end of the tenth and the beginning of the twelfth century.
Didier Méhu is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Laval University in
Quebec. He teaches history and art history of the middle ages, and focuses his research on
rituals, images and discourses of the church, especially from the ninth to the thirteenth century.
He has published books and articles on the history of Cluny, on papal voyages during the
Gregorian Reform, on the dedication rites of the church, on the relationships between texts,
images and the edification of the church in the eleventh and twelfth century. He is now preparing
a book on the images, signs and figures created by the dedication rites of the church between the
tenth and the thirteenth century, principally in France and England.
Islamic Calligraphy between Representation and Text
İrvin Cemil Schick
Istanbul Şehir University
Received opinion holds that Islamic calligraphy arose in response to a purported ban on
representational art. This widely held (and thoroughly modern) view is problematic both because
it naturalizes the history of visual arts in Europe as the norm and because it fails to account for
the presence of representational art in numerous media, from textiles to miniatures and even
(albeit rarely) wall paintings. In this talk I shall describe the relationship between calligraphy and
image not as the former substituting for the latter, but rather in terms of the value-added provided
by form to textual content. While the presence of figurative calligraphy in the Middle East and
South Asia is well recognized, my focus will be on the ways in which meaning has been
inflected by the shapes of letters even in what might appear at first sight to be plain text. In this
fashion, I hope to suggest the need for a multi-layered approach to Islamic calligraphy as both
script and image.
İrvin Cemil Schick obtained his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1989.
He has taught at MIT and Harvard University, and is currently with İstanbul Şehir University.
His most recent book, Writing the Body, Society, and the Universe: on Islam, Gender, and
Culture (2011, in Turkish) examines the place of writing—understood both literally and
metaphorically—in Islamic culture. He is also the author of The Fair Circassian: Adventures of
an Orientalist Motif (2004, in Turkish) and The Erotic Margin: Sexuality and Spatiality in
Alteritist Discourse (1999), as well as the editor or co-editor of Calligraphy in Islamic
Architecture: Space, Form, and Function (forthcoming), Women in the Ottoman Balkans:
Gender, Culture and History (2007), European Captive Women and their Muslim Masters:
Narratives of Captivity in “Turkish” Lands (2005, in Turkish), The M. Uğur Derman 65th
Birthday Festschrift (2000), and Turkey in Transition: New Perspectives (1987).
Text in Sculpture, Text on Sculpture: Cases of the Ancient Near East
Irene J. Winter
Manifold instances of the use of Script in conjunction with Image and Script as Image were
employed in the ancient Near East well before the Common Era. In the context of the present
symposium, it seems useful to outline several cases over several millennia in order to present a
variety of solutions to the text::image issue currently under interrogation. Unlike ancient Egypt,
where hieroglyphic signs were not infrequently anthropomorphized by added legs and arms as if
animate themselves, in Mesopotamia cuneiform was applied to image as complementary, additive,
or indeed guide for significance with respect to the visual carrier/message. When on official works,
the cuneiform was rendered in a regular manner that may be identified as a “lapidary style.” What
the typology of such regular juxtapositions seems to have been, how the style of the script conveyed
meaning to the literate and the non-literate, and who would have been the audience for such
scriptural interventions can be examined through several exempla over a period of three millennia. It
is argued that the content and putative agency of the inscription must be studied independently of
any associated imagery before the relationship between the two categories of representation can be
understood and the role of text as image made clear.