GRAPHIKÉ: Writing/Drawing in the Ancient World
March 18 – June 11, 2006
Euphronios, Red-Figure Neck Pelike Fragment: Ephebe (Youth), c. 510 B.C.E., Earthenware with slip-painted decoration. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, The F.B. Tarbell Collection, 1967.115.287.
In art of the ancient world, the physical form of words incorporated into works of art relates closely to the artistic design of the object.
A painted, incised, or sculpted word may comment on the object in many different ways. It can name the figures represented, provide the artist's signature, suggest an interpretive context, or even be a nonsense word masquerading as a real one to add an aura of culture and refinement for an illiterate clientele. The inclusion of words in works of art may even recall the hieroglyphs and pictographs of earlier Near Eastern writing systems, which maintained a direct pictorial correspondence between a word and the object it represented. Even after Greek and Roman alphabets abandoned this direct correspondence, the important relationship between word and image continued to be seen in Greek and Roman art.
This exhibition of more than a dozen Greco-Roman objects from the Smart Museum also included several comparative Egyptian objects from the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago.