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Document Details :

Title: Language, Metaphor, and the Semiotics of Roman Art
Subtitle: Some Toughts on Reading the Mosaics of Mausoleum M in the Vatican Necropolis
Author(s): HIJMANS, Steven
Journal: BABESCH
Volume: 75    Date: 2000   
Pages: 147-164
DOI: 10.2143/BAB.75.0.563187

Abstract :
A few years ago Paul Zanker noted that in the study of ancient art the perspective of the ancient viewer has been largely ignored until recently. In his opinion ‘scholars have simply put themselves in the place of the ancient observer of any given historical period’, and as a result ‘the viewer is often only an ideal construct and tends to be imbued with knowledge of all antiquity, frequently acquired from sources such as the Roscher mythological lexicon or the Pauly-Wissowa encyclopedia’. Zanker’s comments are a reminder that the Greeks and Romans were real people viewing art within the context of their own experience and knowledge. In effect his remarks challenge the longstanding practice in the analysis of ancient art to assume that any information that seems relevant to us can de facto be deemed relevant to the problem at hand. Thus Zanker touches on a sore spot when he suggests that if our analyses are to have any weight, we must immerse ourselves in the perspective of the ancient viewer, rather than assume that it somehow coincided with our own.

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