"La Rivista di Engramma (open access)" ISSN 1826-901X

128 | luglio/agosto 2015


Kicking the Habit?

Approaching Image and Text in Graeco-Roman Antiquity*

Michael Squire

Italian abstract

Figure 1: Advertisement for Silk Cut cigarettes, part of a marketing campaign managed by Saatchi and Saatchi between 1983 and 2003.

A sheet of rippling purple silk with a central vertical incision: that is what Figure 1 most obviously seems to depict. But for the vast majority of those who originally saw this advert in the glossy Sunday supplements of the British broadsheets in the 1980s and '90s, the significance of the picture was abundantly clear. The image advertised not a band of cut silk, but a brand of cigarettes – Silk Cut.[1]

A 'metonym' is how semiotic theory might label the image.[2] As the iconic representation of a missing name, the picture directly associates the signifier (cut silk) with the signified (Silk Cut). On first impressions, the choice of communicative strategy might seem relatively straightforward. The advertisement followed growing popular and governmental pressure for companies to avoid depicting the actual tobacco products manufactured. Rather than associate a particular sort of cigarette with a particular sort of identity – a Marlboro manhandled by the strong but wistful Marlboro county cowboy, for instance – Gallaher Group, who owned the Silk Cut franchise, masterminded less overt ways of figuring their product.[3]

The advertising campaign, managed by Saatchi and Saatchi, proved a resounding success. By the early 1990s, Silk Cut had become the best-selling brand of cigarettes in the UK. What Saatchi and Saatchi knew, indeed what they quite literally cashed in on, was that the image superseded any single metonymic function ascribed to it. Certainly, viewers make sense of the image in terms of a textual reference-point (both the brand name which they had to supply and the government health warnings below); and the image surely does remind viewers of the verbal metaphor – that, far from inducing bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer, smoking Silk Cut actually leaves our throats feeling smooth as silk. But the picture could not be reduced to a textual caption; it conjures up other thoughts and reflections, mediated at once by verbal and visual means.

Figure 2: Advertisement for Cadbury's Velvet – 'the irresistible hot chocolate'.

For one thing, this is no ordinary silk: it is dyed a luxurious shade of purple. The image depicts something not just rich and exclusive, then, but something imperially so; indeed, the image brings to mind other associated adverts, using its textured material to evoke a world of 'irresistible' lavishness [cf. e.g. Figure 2]. In the case of this particular image, the associations are further complicated by the incision in the centre of the picture. For is this just a 'metonymic' reference to a brand? Or does it allude, for example, to the 1986 restrictions imposed on tobacco advertisements, and hence to Silk Cut (as it were) 'cut'? To answer that question, we need to remember that this picture was just one in a series of images advertising the product, all designed in the familiar tricolour of black, white and purple. Most showed not the 'cut' itself, but the potential – or rather threat – of incision: a knife perched over a silk thread, a chainsaw draped with purple silk, a silhouetted pair of scissors projected over a silk sheet. These adverts were all designed to suggest an incision that is yet to come. Far from suggesting some innocent 'trim', however, these 'cuts' promised a particularly violent series of slicings, slittings and slashings (themselves 'censored' here). Among the most striking parallels depicts the silhouetted profile of a shower-head behind a purple silk curtain [Figure 3]. The allusion is to the iconic shower scene of Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film Psycho, in which viewers saw the psychotic motel-owner, Norman Bates, commit the rape-cum-murder of his unwitting victim, Marion Crane. And yet the reference to this most sensuous and sadistic of Hollywood scenes can leave little doubt: we are dealing with 'Silk Penetrated', so to speak, as much as with 'Silk Cut'.

Figure 3: Additional advertisement for Silk Cut.

How innocent, then, is the incision with which we opened [Figure 1]? Are those really ripples of silk? Or are they the contours of a face, its left cheek gashed? On further inspection, is this really a gash, or are we staring at a pair of lips – perhaps even at the suggestive form of a vagina against the tantalising curves of a female body ('Silk slut' – even, dare one say it, 'silk cunt'?)?[4] As the allusion to Pscyho confirms, such images seem to sell both sex and death simultaneously. Even the compulsory government warning below is subsequently turned into a luring selling-point: the pictures appear to make a seductive fantasy of the violent fate verbally prophesied below ('SMOKING WHEN PREGNANT HARMS YOUR BABY', 'SMOKING CAN CAUSE LUNG CANCER, BRONCHITIS AND OTHER CHEST DISEASES', 'SMOKING KILLS').[5]

Figure 4: Additional advertisement for Silk Cut.

Whatever else we make of these various 'iconotexts'[6], it is clear that the marketing minds behind them were privy to a profound truth: while processes of finding meaning in pictures can be macro-managed – steered for the purpose of financial profit – they cannot be confined. Saatchi and Saatchi traded upon the image's refusal to be reduced to some fix-all 'meaning' – the special power of the visual to manipulate our thoughts and actions, even to the extent of our subsidising a painful and premature death. If these marketing gurus understood how images work, however, they also knew that, in a world of ever-tightening societal pressure and governmental legislation, they could hide behind a very different rhetoric. A sliced loaf of bread in a purple silk bread-bag [Figure 4]; a purple silk cloth decked out with domestic table knives; an iron with spiked studs beside a purple sheet [Figure 5]: did these images not merely denote a brand rather than connote a lifestyle? Does the picture not just signify 'cut silk'? Was anyone who said otherwise not simply over-'reading' things?

Figure 5: Additional advertisement for Silk Cut.

Figure 6: Additional advertisement for Silk Cut.

The power of such imagery is confirmed by its appeal to a particular target audience: women. These pictures, precisely as pictures, promised to fulfil a variety of fantasies that viewers might bring to them. Anyone who smokes Silk Cut (or indeed who smokes any brand?), it seems, can hope to escape the humdrum of their desperate housewife existence: just imagine the orgiastic bloodiness of true sexual release; succumb and take a dance with death. Not for nothing does one image show the familiar Silk Cut scissors merging into Can-canning fantasies – into surrealist dancers whose sexual prowess threatened the patriarchy with the ultimate snip [Figure 6]. And yet, as the Psycho reference confirms, this visual rhetoric could hold seductive appeal for male viewers too – in promising to fulfil some of their deepest and darkest desires.

Figure 7: One of fifteen warnings legally required to accompany tobacco products sold in the U.K. from October 2008.

When pitched against such powerful visual subliminals, the written health warnings below could have little deterring effect. Because images and texts work together in an embryonic matrix of signification, the enticing visuals control the precautionary verbals as much as the verbals control the visuals: successful advertising can displace, even subvert, verbal admonitions. The British government recognised as much in 2007, when it ordered tobacco companies to display on their products shocking images of smoking and its effects – cancer-ridden lungs, monstrous tumours  [Figure 7] or (revealingly) pictures of sexual impotence. Images, they realised, had to be combated with images, since pictures do things that texts cannot.[7] The problems surrounding smoking, we might say, are therefore symptomatic of a deeper-lying societal malaise: we are addicted, it seems, to a certain set of visual habits.


My 2009 book, Image and Text in Graeco-Roman Antiquity began with this case study not because it dealt with the workings of a global tobacco industry, nor because it was concerned with mass marketing (or for that matter the foibles of modern advertising).[8] Rather, my concern was with the ways in which images and texts function, configured around parallel questions of power, manipulation and resistance. While my interest was a historical one, I looked to ancient Greek and Roman material in an effort to correct a number of fundamental modern western assumptions about 'words' and 'pictures' – about their function, the mechanics of their interaction, and indeed the strict separation between the two in the first place.[9]

So why begin with images advertising tobacco? Simply put, I saw the scenario to bring home the larger stakes of my project. We all know the statistics about smoking: when I published the book, an estimated 364,000 people were admitted to U.K. National Health Service hospitals each year because of smoking-related illnesses; likewise, some two thirds of all teenagers who began smoking were predicted to die as a direct consequence of their tobacco addiction. Of course, it would be wrong to blame advertising alone: other social factors are certainly involved. But there can be no doubt that the appeal of smoking has relied on a visual campaign that glamorises the act of doing so (cf. Slade 2001). In this sense, at least, our fatal tobacco habit could be said to stem in significant part from a fatally habitual naivety about images and how they work.[10] We continue to suffer from what Anne Marie Seward Barry astutely diagnosed as a lack of 'visual intelligence'.[11] Despite (or rather because of) what another critic has called the 'pictorial turn' of our twenty-first-century 'information age',[12] with its relentless recourse to images as a means of constructing and manipulating our thoughts and actions, and its increasing mediatisation of world events, we are still much better at consuming images than at critically engaging with them.[13] And as I set out to demonstrate, our naivety in dealing with images is itself bound up with a larger set of assumptions about how the visual relates to the verbal.

In this sense, we might say that a residual logocentrism pervades the academy: there remains an assumption that pictures are less valuable, less active as cultural determinants, and less worthy of critical interrogation (indeed even study) than texts; what's more, there lingers an unspoken hypothesis that, since 'l'histoire des mentalités' is constituted by texts alone, responses to images must follow verbally determined patterns of cultural response.[14] John Dillenberger nicely summarises the point when he states that 'the visual as the Bible of the illiterate and the unlearned… has been transformed into the visual illiteracy of the learned'.[15] It is not only traditionally text-centred disciplines – subjects like History, English and Comparative Literature, as well as Classics – that have often been guilty of the charge. As Donald Preziosi has argued, art history too has often tended to work within a similarly 'logocentric paradigm of signification'.[16]

It is with that tradition of logocentrism that my book aimed to take issue. It was by no means the first to draw attention to the logocentric bias of so much art history (Classical and otherwise).[17] Where this book aimed to be different, rather, was in its historicist concern with the origins and derivation of such academic logocentrism, and above all with the cultural (and indeed theological) remove of Graeco-Roman antiquity.[18] Asking where these attitudes come from, when they took shape, and how they have influenced our thinking, the opening section (and first two chapters) of Image and Text in Graeco-Roman Antiquity began by locating the immediate genesis of our assumptions about texts and images in the 'visual theology' of the sixteenth-century Reformation.[19] Modern presumptions about the hegemony of the text and the servitude of the image, I suggested, are grounded in what we might broadly call 'Lutheran' ideas about knowing God – the claim that the divine could be experienced not by material means, but by 'faith alone'. Of course, Martin Luther emerged to be famously tolerant of images, much more so than a number of the theologians who followed in his wake (Ulrich Zwingli, Philip Melanchthon, John Calvin etc.; cf. Squire 2009, 23–41). But that tolerance came at a substantial price. In resisting the art of the Renaissance Christian tradition, embodied in not only the painting and sculpture of Catholic Italy but also the arts of Catholic Flanders, recently turned mimetic, Luther prescribed a new set of working assumptions about what images are and how they (should) function; he sealed this visual ontology with an apparently God-given authority, implicating it within a new set of Christian devotional rituals.[20]

Fundamental to Luther's ideas about visual communication was the separation between a picture's 'internal' qualities – its composition, stylistic texture and colour – and the 'external' ideas about its subject, content and meaning according to which viewers make sense of it. This was not a wholly new critique, nor was Luther's separation between the 'inside' and 'outside' of the image without earlier parallel. To some extent, at least, a related ideology can be found in Plato, in an intellectual history of the 'idea' as a 'concept in art theory' first probed by Erwin Panofsky in 1924.[21] But Luther alone managed to turn this visual ontology into habitual ritual practice – into something so natural to the western modern mindset as to deceive it into thinking that it holds true for all other times and places. Even when the church pews stand empty, the residual Lutheran presumption remains, whereby word is privileged over image, and image is treated as word.[22]

Because it is theologically grounded, the Lutheran ontology of words and images is also historically, socially and culturally contingent. One of the aims of the first chapter in my book was therefore to explain how these ideas have come to exert so powerful an influence on our collective modern attitudes, analysing first their rationalisation in German aesthetic theory, and second their institutionalisation in art historical practice (Squire 2009, 15-89). But the chapter also set out to refute the Lutheran position, demonstrating why the ascribed Lutheran ontology of the visual will always fail the image. We have in fact already witnessed this failure. The magical power of the Silk Cut image, after all, lies precisely in the truth that visual signifiers cannot be reduced to invisible signifieds. But we have also seen the command of this conventional Lutheran rhetoric. In arguing that it was 'content' that mattered, not 'form', Saatchi and Saatchi could look to a much longer tradition of aesthetics, ultimately descended from a theological imperative.

The recourse to theological history in Image and Text in Graeco-Roman Antiquity made for a wide-ranging introductory frame, and deliberately so. But what did this cast of unabashedly modern critics, philosophers, and indeed theologians have to do with my particular historical subject – with 'image and text in Graeco-Roman antiquity'? To be sure, my opening section on 'Protesting Protestant Art History' was intended to extend my arguments beyond the cultural study of Graeco-Roman antiquity, tackling a still larger intellectual history. At the same time, however, I remain convinced that it is only after contextualising and problematising our own ideas of 'images' and 'texts' that we can hope to interrogate Graeco-Roman ideas in historical perspective. As always, understanding the past coalesces with understanding the present: no exploration of how images and texts engaged with each other in antiquity can afford to overlook the extent to which modern epistemological scaffolding continues to prop up the framework of the questions that we ask. Looking at antiquity, in short, involves cross-examining our own working assumptions.

It was to this issue of historical perspective that my book's second chapter explicitly turned (‘Towards an older Laocoon: Reviewing the “limits” of painting and poetry in the Graeco-Roman world’: Squire 2009, 90-193). After surveying the Lutheranism of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's classic distinction between 'poetry' and 'painting' in his Laocoon, this chapter looked back to Graeco-Roman antiquity itself. While Lessing's eighteenth-century analysis literalises the Lutheran segregation of form from content, wrenching the 'formal' art of painting apart from the 'meaningful' realm of poetry, his Laocoon grounds this distinctly Lutheran venture in a misinterpretation of ancient polytheistic thinking and cultic practice. What we might call, following Keith Hopkins' memorable phrase, the ancient 'world full of gods' was dominated by a very different mode of configuring images and texts, one in which 'form' and 'content' were fundamentally aligned.[23] After exploring in further detail the historiography of Classical scholarship on 'illustration' and 'ecphrasis', the chapter sketched a different mode of approaching visual and verbal relations in the Graeco-Roman world.

The second and third parts of Image and Text in Graeco-Roman Antiquity teased out the ramifications of my hypothesis through explicative demonstration. I turned first to ancient images that were physically combined with texts (chapters three and four), and second to texts and images that did not cohabit a single space, but which nevertheless worked through and against each other in related ways (chapters five and six). This made for a decidedly selective survey. Throughout, however, the objective was to show how images work both differently from texts (as the first chapter explains), and yet also alongside them (as laid out in chapter two).[24]

The challenge of the book – as I later came to realise – lay in the diverse makeup of its intended audience. Each section of the book was intended to be read either separately or together with the others: the first part was intended to lay out the conceptual foundations for the analyses that follow, engaging with the institutional and epistemological origins of (Classical) art history as a discipline; the second and third sections, by contrast, were demonstrative, perhaps speaking to Classicists more than to art historians. To my mind, though, that juxtaposition was important: the aim was to demonstrate why art historians should care about the Classical material, and conversely why Classicists need to consider the larger art historical framework of the topic.

But why turn to Classical antiquity in the first place? Why not choose some other period? Better still, why not dispense with the confines of periodisation altogether? In looking to Graeco-Roman subject matter, my rationale was partly influenced by the fact that this material has always been the subject of the western aesthetic debate: from the writings of Winckelmann, through Riegl to Danto, and from the images of David, Picasso and Klein, the cultural critique of 'art' has classically been constructed around Classical material. In this sense, it is only by getting to grips with Graeco-Roman antiquity that we can hope to excavate the archaeology of our own cultural mindsets.

And yet there was another reason besides. It was not just the weight of the 'Classical' tradition that took me to Graeco-Roman antiquity. Rather, I think, this material provides us with an opportunity – a chance to rebuild some intellectual bridges. All too frequently squeezed out of art history departments, especially in Britain, where it is often taught in different buildings, to different students, and sometimes within wholly different epistemological frameworks, Classical art history has much to contribute to art history at large (and vice versa); but it also has much to teach to Classical philologists – capable of providing so much more than the powerpoint slideshow to conventional survey courses on Greek and Roman history.[25] Because of its removal from modern western orthodoxies of 'text' and 'image', Classical antiquity can offer a cultural historical critique on us, just as we can offer a cultural historical critique on Classical antiquity. The interaction between ancient visual and verbal worlds, then, not only sheds light on our own theologically grounded ideologies of 'texts', 'images', and assumed 'text'-'image' relationships. True to the best tradition of cultural history, antiquity also illuminates the finite parameters of our own cultural horizons. It enables us to imagine otherwise.

Italian abstract

Il contributo costituisce una rielaborazione e un aggiornamento dell’introduzione a Image and Text in Graeco-Roman Antiquity (CUP 2009). La monografia si propone di indagare i rapporti tra testo e immagine nell’antichità classica secondo una prospettiva storicistica: l’autore ripercorre l’eredità post-riformata della cultura occidentale, considerata all’origine dello squilibrio, nella storia degli studi classici, verso posizioni logocentriche a scapito dell’iconocentrismo, ed esamina una serie di casi di studio ricavati da letteratura, storia dell’arte e archeologia greca e romana, di quali emerge la produttiva dialettica instaurabile tra immagine e testo nei processi creativi e di significazione. L'approccio è icasticamente enucleato attraverso un’analisi semiotica dei meccanismi di produzione e fruizione di iconotesti nel sistema dell’advertisement contemporaneo (una campagna pubblicitaria britannica a promozione di una marca di sigarette).

English abstract

The contribution constitutes a reworking and updating of the introduction to Image and Text in Graeco-Roman Antiquity (CUP 2009). The monograph aims to investigate the relationship between text and image in classical antiquity from a historicist perspective: the author traces the post-reformed legacy of Western culture, considered at the origin of the imbalance, in the history of classical studies, towards positions logocentric to the detriment of iconocentrism, and examines a series of case studies drawn from Greek and Roman literature, art history and archeology, of which the productive dialectic that can be established between image and text in the creative and signification processes emerges. The approach is icastically enucleated through a semiotic analysis of the mechanisms of production and use of iconotexts in the contemporary advertising system (a British advertising campaign promoting a brand of cigarettes).


keywords | Image and Text in Graeco-Roman Antiquity; Book; Literature; Archeology; Art History; Advertisement .


*The following text has been reproduced (in lightly revised form) from the introduction of my 2009 book on Image and Text in Graeco-Roman Antiq​uity (Squire 2009, 1–12), reissued in paperback in 2015. Sincere thanks to Fabio Lo Piparo and Monica Centanni for the invitation to publish the piece in Engramma.

[1] My analysis in the following paragraphs has learnt from the insightful mini-lecture on Silk Cut advertisements given by Robyn Penrose in David Lodge’s fictional novel, Nice Work (Lodge 1988, 220–224), together with the full discussion of the psychology of Silk Cut images in McIntosh 1996. I have also benefited, more generally, from Barry 1997, 273–279 (on the emotional appeal of American cigarette advertising), Hilton 2000 (on smoking in British popular culture), and Tinkler 2006 (on some of the gender issues evidently at play).

[2] For a user-friendly introduction, see e.g. Chandler 2007, 129–133. Bogdan 2002, especially 1–22 and Crow 2003 provide two attempts to formulate systems of visual semiotics.

[3] Vaknin 2007 provides a basic picture-guide to the history of tobacco advertising in the twentieth century: Silk Cut advertisements are discussed on 99–101.

[4] With this in mind, note how subsequent posters reversed the colour arrangement, showing a purple slit now shown against a white background…

[5] My argument here follows that of McIntosh 1996, who reads such images in terms of the Freudian associations of eros and thanatos. Of course, such government health warnings also served as familiar points of reference, associating the more esoteric images that developed with a recognisable genre of advertising imagery. But the ‘official’ reproduction of these health warnings in Times font and block capitals would here seem to backfire: when seen against such imagery, the warnings smack of something officious, impersonal and therefore unimportant.

[6] For the term, see Wagner 1995, 12, and Idem 1996, 15-17.

[7] After a public ‘Consultation on the introduction of picture warnings on tobacco packs’ by the Department of Health between May and August 2006, the policy was introduced in October 2008: by the end of September 2010, visual warnings were displayed on all tobacco products sold in the UK. Canada was the first country to implement this strategy (in June 2000).

[8] Though in that connection, note my conclusion to Image and Text in Graeco-Roman Antiquity (Squire 2009, 429–32).

[9] For a related attempt to situate the study of Classical visual culture within postmodern visualities, see Giuliani 2003, 9-18. In retrospect, I now see how my concerns in Image and Text in Graeco-Roman Antiquity aligned with numerous other aesthetic and academic currents – as especially reflected in Gumbrecht 2004 (which I only read after the book was in proofs).

[10] The British government arguably recognized as much when it finally passed the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act in 2002 (spurring Silk Cut’s most infamous final advertising image, showing a – blow-up? – opera-singer clad in a purple dress marked with a single slit, and playing on the English adage that ‘the show is not over until the fat lady sings’…). While the European Union has effectively banned such advertising in Europe, tobacco remained the second most heavily marketed consumer product in the United States when I wrote Image and Text in Graeco-Roman Antiquity: over 15 billion dollars were spent on tobacco advertising in the United States each year.

[11] Cf. Barry 1997, 338: ‘What is needed to achieve visual intelligence is a paradigm shift in our thinking away from logocentric bias…’. For one attempt to articulate how these issues relate not only to contemporary religion and art, but also a post-Enlightenment tradition of science, see Latour 2002.

[12] On the ‘pictorial turn’, see Mitchell 1994, 11–34, and ibid., 106 on ‘the increasing mediatisation of reality in postmodernism’; cf. Idem 2002, 240–241, as well as Boehm 1995. The classic positive assessment of this ‘visual turn’ is Baudrillard 1981, but compare also Stephens 1998 on both the attractions and dangers of moving from a predominantly verbal to a predominantly visual culture.

[13] Cf. Schroeder 2002, especially 160–172, concluding that ‘I do not agree that consumers have become visually literate from exposure to images. To me this is like claiming that someone who eats a lot ultimately becomes a good cook due to exposure to good food’ (p.165).

[14] Cf. Squire 2009, 15–17. My talk of logocentrism derives from Derrida 1974, an invective against the traditional western philosophical bias towards signified over signifier. I use it to refer both to the literal privileging of verbal over visual communication, and more generally to the mistaken predisposition to differentiate between ‘referent’ and ‘sign’, valuing the former over the complex hermeneutics involved in responding to the latter.

[15] Dillenberger 1999, 19. Dillenberger’s dictum relates to St Gregory the Great’s early seventh-century defence of images in terms of their ability to make known the Gospels to those unable to read: see Squire 2009, 29–30 (with further bibliography).

[16] Cf. Preziosi 1989, 15–16: ‘Coincident with the implicit notion that the work of art is in some way a revelation of Being or of a Truth that is already present (in the mind, in culture, and in society) is the notion that the artwork’s modus operandi is that of saying: the work reveals, expresses, re-presents some prior meaning or content. Indeed… the art of art history is inextricably grounded in a logocentric paradigm of signification, and the business of the discipline is addressed above all to the task of reading objects so as to discern produced meaning, to hear the Voice behind what is palpable and mute’.

[17] One thinks in particular of the work of James Elkins – especially Elkins 1998 and Idem 1999.

[18] Compare e.g. Elkins 1999, 257–259, which explicitly avoids commenting upon the origins of what it calls the ‘hysteria’ of so much contemporary art history.

[19] See Squire 2009, 15–193, especially 15–89 (‘Protesting Protestant art history: The Lutheran debts of a discipline’); as the book made clear, my thinking owed a particular debt to (among others) Koerner 2004 – and not least conversations with Jaś Elsner. My concern with ‘visual theology’ also corresponded with the recent explosion of interest in what might be called ‘theological aesthetics’ – the intersection between visual culture and religion. If, as Morgan 1998, 3 argues, ‘the act of looking itself contributes to religious formation and, indeed, constitutes a powerful practice of belief’ (cf. also Morgan 2000), it seems clear that ‘religious formation’ and ‘practices of belief’ have also affected certain modes of viewing. Thiessen (ed.) 2005 provides a useful guide to the most important writings on the subject within a Christian tradition, while Brent Plate (ed.) 2002 offers a stimulating cross-cultural reader. On art history’s historical reluctance to engage with issues of theology, cf. Squire 2009, 430–1.

[20] In situating the genesis of ‘Modernism’ in the Reformation, Image and Text in Graeco-Roman Antiquity in one sense set out to add a further intellectual historical dimension to the ground-breaking political economic and sociological analysis that Max Weber wrote in the early twentieth century (see Weber 1985, with helpful commentary in Bataille 1991, 129–132). To oversimplify, Weber’s thesis was that modern rational capitalism is itself the product of the Reformation, and specifically Calvinism – that our own modern western market economy stems from a reformed Protestant model of spending, whereby, in contrast to the inflated expenditure of Catholicism, productivity was high and consumption low. Like Weber’s argument, my own ideas ultimately descend from Hegel – specifically, Hegel’s thesis that the Reformation emancipated ‘art’ from religion. Rather than viewing the Reformation as some Idealist final chapter in the unfolding of some ‘Absolute Spirit’, however, I argued that Hegel diagnosed a historical phenomenon only to operate within it – and that Hegel thereby essentialised the Lutheran conceptual framework that he surveyed (cf. Squire 2009, especially 58–71).

[21] For a translation, see Panofsky 1968. Although deeply sensitive to theological issues, Panofsky conspicuously downplays the specific contributions of Reformation theology; cf. Squire 2009, 117–20.

[22] Cf. Braider 1993, 13, on the ‘deep ambivalence towards the incorrigible “carnality” of visual art reflected in the way Western culture has consistently privileged the spiritualizing scriptural Word, the simultaneously hieratic and aristocratic intelligibility of the Text, over the vulgar visibility of idolatrous pictures’.

[23] Cf. Hopkins 1999, with Squire 2009, 111–20. My thinking here owed much to discussions with Verity Platt – as now developed in Platt 2011.

[24] I have since developed my thinking in connection with a variety of ancient case studies – not least the fascinating ‘Iliac tablets’ (Tabulae Iliacae) alluded to in Image and Text in Graeco-Roman Antiquity (Squire 2009, 134–9), but subsequently explored in a separate monograph (Squire 2011b).

[25] On the place of Classical art history within the disciplines of both Classics and art history, see Donohue 2003, especially p. 4: ‘The study of ancient art exists uneasily in a disciplinary no-man’s land. Within art history it holds a marginal position; within textually based disciplines it is seen as irrelevant; and within many forms of archaeology it is variously condemned as effete, exclusive, destructive, or simply lacking validity’; cf. Eadem 2005, 1–14. More optimistic than I was about the contested role of Classical art history within the discipline were Meyer and Lendon 2005, 255, suggesting that ‘the study of Greek art in the context of Greek culture is now accepted and established, tenured and cosseted in the universities, as comfortable and complacent as a sherry-sipping vicar in Trollope’: this might be true of a certain mode of studying Classical ‘Art’ (capital ‘A’ firmly understood…), at least in some North American universities; but my own experiences in both the UK and the US suggested a rather different picture. For an excellent overview of some of the ‘paradigm shifts’ in British Classical art history at the end of the twentieth century, see Tanner 1994, along with Ridgway 1994 (on the study of Greek sculpture) and Kampen 2002 (on Roman art history); compare also Elsner 2007a, a keen-sighted review of the current state of Classical Archaeology in the UK, and my comments in Squire 2011a, especially xi–xv and 2012.

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Per citare questo articolo: Kicking the Habit? Approaching Image and Text in Graeco-Roman Antiquity, M. Squire, “La Rivista di Engramma” n. 128, luglio/agosto 2015, pp. 37-52 | PDF dell’articolo

doi: https://doi.org/10.25432/1826-901X/2015.128.0003