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these had to competewith the noise-likeaccidentsand irregularities of a groundwhich was no less articulated than the sign and could intrude upon it. We do not know just when this organizationof the image field was introduced. highly variable forms. establishingmore firmlythe axes of the field as coordinatesof stabilityand movementin the image. they do not have to be learned for the image to be understood. like the frame. 223-42.made * This paperwas originallypresentedat the Second International I Certainof these observations. perhaps. The inventiveimaginationrecognizedtheir value as grounds. presentedin my coursesat ColumColloquiumon Semiotics. a field with a distinct plane (or regularcurvature)of the surfaceand a definiteboundarythat may be the smoothededges of an artifact."New York(ColumbiaUniversity) I940. as one makes fires year after year on the same hearth over past embers.Poland. as occupying on the wall a place reserved for successive paintings because of a special rite or custom. the irregularities of earth and rock show through the image. Miriam S. in contrastto the prehistoricwall paintingsand reliefs. the art of representationconstructs. as if it were invisible to the viewer.It might have come about through the use of these artifactsas sign-bearingobjects. The new smoothness and closure made possible the later transparencyof the withoutwhichthe representation threeof picture-plane dimensionalspace would not have been successful. yet though obviously conventional.Throughthe closure and smoothnessof the preparedpicture surface.The horizontalsof this boundaryare at first supportinggroundlines which connectthe figureswith each other and also divide the surface into parallel bands. pp. It is not clear to what extent these elements are arbitrary and to what extent they inhere in the organic conditions of imaging and perception. In scrutinizingthe drawings of children for the most primitive processes of image-making. The artist worked then on a field with no set boundaries and thought so little of the surface as a distinct ground that he often painted his animal figure over a previously painted image without erasing the latter. spacing and grouping.[First bia Universitythirty yearsago. students have given little attention to this fundamentalchange in art which is basicfor our own imagery.the imageacquireda definitespaceof its own. "Space in mediaevalpaintingand the the kind permissionof the authorand publisher. are historically developed.one forgets that these drawings.1 With this new conception of the ground. will be found in the doctor'sthesis of publishedin SemioticaI (I969). I have said. Bunim. The cave paintings of the Old Stone Age are on an unprepared ground. in harmony with the form of the object like the associated ornamentof the neighboringparts. We take for granted today as indispensable means the rectangular form of the sheet of paper and its clearly defined smooth surface on which one draws and writes.September1966. he did not regard this place as a field in the same sense in which later artists saw their figures as standing out from a suitably contrasting ground. It accompanies the development of polished tools in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages and the creation of pottery and an architecturewith regular courses of jointed masonry. the rough wall of a cave.] . The smooth prepared field is an invention of a later stage of humanity. and reprintedhere with my pupil. Certain of them. The student of prehistoric art knows that the regular field is an advanced artifact presupposing a long development of art. they may even acquire a semantic value.Mouton & Co.the film and the televisionscreen. of Hague.even for the photograph.and in time gave to picturesand writingon smoothed and symmetricalsupports a corresponding regularityof direction. Or if he thought of his own work.often with a distinct color of the reserved background. But such a field corresponds to nothing in nature or mental imagery where the phantoms of visual memory come up in a vague unbounded void. The forerunners perspective.9 On some problemsin the semioticsof visual art: field and vehicle in image-signs* MeyerSchapiro My theme is the non-mimetic elements of the imagesign and their role in constituting the sign.Kazimierz.

He no moresees them as partsof the picturethan we see a painter'ssignature in the lower partof a landscapepaintingas an object in the foregroundof the representedspace. The wall-paintings of Hierakonpolisin Egypt (ca.often with a varietyof colors. after the phase of lallation.is a productof domestication. It is an experimentthat a civilized society makeswiththe animalas it experiments.But the field of the image is not always inviolate even in a work preservedwith reverenceas a preciousobject. but this idea must remain hypothetical. even defacingan existing picture.They admit at least some of the preparatory often tentativeforms and as a permanently visible and integrated part of the image.The groundof the imagewas hardlyfelt to be partof the sign itself. too. their solid fillingof the background reflectsthe picturesthey have seen. figure and grounddid not composefor the eye an inseparable unity.We understand as anotheraim than the overlayof image on image in prehistoricart. since the Renaissance. It is possiblethat the unprepared groundhad a positive meaning for the prehistoricpainter.the influenceof a culture. The spontaneous graffition the walls of ancient Roman buildings are.these are valuedas signs of the maker'sactionin this producingthe work. the continueduse of the moreprimitivegroundin later cultures including our own.IO MEYER SCHAPIRO on rectangular sheets of smoothed paper. but it is worth noting as the source of a similarvisual effect reached from an altogether different point of view. with the child in eliciting from him the speech and other habitsof his community. unenclosed surfaces.of course.No doubt that the monkey'sactivityas an artistdisplaysimpulsesand reactionsthat are latent in his nature. inherit the results of a long culture.while aimingat a stricter unity of a picture-a unity that includes the interplayof the figure and the reservedshapes of the ground-offers also examplesof the deliberatelymade fragmentor sketch as well as incomplete work that is prizedfor qualitiesof the unfinishedstate.howeverspontaneousit appears. in this respect.One can suppose that the artistidentifiedwith the rock or cave throughthe primordial roughness of the ground of his picture.sensitive to the smallestinflectionof a brushstroke its and place in the picture. too. If it seems to us naturalto create a smooth delimited ground for the image as a necessity of clear perception. 3500 Bc) recall in their scatteredunboundedgroups the cave and rock images of the Old Stone Age. A connoisseur in looking at an admired work couldregardthe emptygroundandmarginsas not truly partsof the painting.as the readerof a book might see the marginsand interspacesof the text as open to annotation.A Chineseartist. and manyprimitivepeoplescontinue to draw and incise their pictures on untreated. It is clearthat the sense of the whole dependson habitsof seeing which may vary.is not disturbedby the writingand sealsaffixedto the originalwork.which means. It is we who elicit those fascinating results by putting paper and colorsin the monkey'shands.the represented bodiesof kingsandgods were sometimes incised with writing that crossed the outlines of the figures. who probablyknowsthe old rockpaintingsof his nativeandcherishedCatalonia.Joan Miro. has felt the attractionof the irregularsurface of the enduringrock and used it as a ground on which to paint . In Assyrian art. I haveno doubtthat the modernpracticedisposes us to see the prehistoricworksas a beautifulcollective palimpsest. The character the oldest image-fieldsthatwe know of -untreated and unbounded-is not just an archaic phenomenonof the past. not differentfrom those drawntoday. which alreadypossessed a preparedand enclosedground. like the modern ones they disregardthe field they have usurped. Modernart. In a reverseorder and from other motives artists in ourown time preserveon the paperor canvasthe earlier lines and touches of color which have been applied successivelyin the process of painting. and their choice of colors presupposesan adult's palette. just as their simple speech. A modernartist.but like his selfbalancingadjustmenton wheels the concreteresult on paper. a system of tones acquired through a The remarkable exlong experienceof representation. shows elements of an alreadydeveloped phonetic system and syntax. In Chinawherepainting was a noble art the owner did not hesitate to write a comment in verse or prose on the unpainted background of a sublime landscapeand to stamp his seal prominentlyon the picturesurface. pressions of the monkey-paintersin our zoos should also be consideredfromthis point of view. Their forms are soon adaptedto the artificialrectangularfield in importantrespects.we must recognize.just as we get monkeysin the circus to ride a bicycle and to performother feats with devices that belong to civilization. and even the paintingof a smallpartof the fieldwithoutregardto the voids aroundit.in a sense.

Others have painted on pebbles and on found fragments of naturaland artificialobjects. even where the main object is contingent centered. The croppedpictureexists as if for his momentaryglance ratherthan for a set view. with a tangiblypaintedsurfacewhetherof abstractthemes or with a representation which is predominantlyflat and shows the activityof the artistin the pronouncedlines and strokes or the high arbitrarinessof the selected forms and colors.a still indeterminate bearerof the image. exploiting the irregularities of the groundand the physiognomyof the objectas part of the charm of the whole. the framedpicture appears II to be moreformallypresentedandcompleteandto exist in a worldof its own. In medieval art this violation of the frame is common.the canvasnow stands out from the wall as an object in its own right. The frame belongs then more to the virtual spaceof the imagethanto the materialsurface. More recently paintingshave been hung altogether unframed. The framebelongs then to the space of the observerrather than of the illusory. The picture seems to be arbitrarilyisolated from a largerwhole and broughtabruptlyinto the observer'sfield of vision. A relatedmodern practice:the cropped rectangular picture. It is not commonlyrealizedhow late an invention is the frame.helps us to see more clearly anotherrole of the frame.The framelessmodernpictureexplainsin a sense the functionsof the framein older art. Without a frame.On some problemsin the semiotics of visual art his directly conceived sign-like abstractforms. as if unbounded in his motion. A parallelto the frameless paintingis the modernsculpturewithout a pedestal. without frameor margin. Such cropping. the framesets the picturesurfacebackinto depth and helps to deepen the view. It was precededby the rectangular field divided into bands.The frameappearsthen not as an enclosurebut as a pictorialmilieu of the image. and in their simplicity they assert also the respect for franknessand integrityin the practiceof the art. as in modernstyles. Although it is in keeping with this aspectof modernpainting. Degas and ToulouseLautrecwereingeniousmastersof this kind of imagery. There are picturesandreliefsin whichelementsof the imagecross the frame.the conventionis naturalized an elementof the picturespace as ratherthan of the observer'sspace or the space of the vehicle. If the painting once recededwithinthe framedspace.as if the framewere only a part of the background and existed in a simulated space behind the figure. but there are examples already in classical art. And since it may serve to . three-dimensional world disclosed within and behind. They arethin discreetbordersoften flushwith the planeof the canvas. it is like a window frame through which is seen a space behind the glass. a homogeneousenclosurelike a city wall.the unframedcanvashas not become universal even for new art. in the practice of cutting the foregroundobjectsoddly at the frameso that they appearto be close to the observer and seen fromthe side throughan opening. Apparentlyit was late in the second millenium BC (if even then) before one thought of a continuous isolating frame around an image.By interceptingthese objectsthe frameseems to crossa representedfield that extends behind it at the sides.brings out the partial. But the strips of wood or metal that now frame many paintingsare no enclosuresthat longerthe salientandrichlyornamented once helped to accent the depth of simulatedspace in the pictureand conveyedthe ideaof the preciousnessof the workof art throughits gilded mount. But the framemayenteralsointo the shapingof thatimage. a figure representedas moving appearsmore active in crossing the frame. Besides the prepared ground we tend to take for grantedthe regularmarginand frameas essential featuresof the image. Our conception of the frame as a regularenclosure from the surroundisolatingthe field of representation ing surfaces does not apply to all frames.but also. But I incline to think that the prehistoricsurfacewas neutral. now common in photographic illustrations in books and and magazines. When salient and when enclosing pictures with perspective views. the horizontals as ground lines or strips connecting and supporting the figureswere more pronouncedvisually than the separateverticaledges of the field.the paintingappearsmore completelyand modestly the artist's work.and innot only throughthe contrastsand correspondences cited by its strong form. especially in architectural sculpture.Such crossingof the frameis often an expressive device. The frame wasdispensablewhenpaintingceasedto representdeep space and became more concernedwith the expressive and formal qualities of the non-mimetic marks than with their elaborationinto signs. it is either suspendedor placeddirectlyon the ground.the fragmentary in the image. In comparisonwith this type. It is a finding and focussingdevice placed between the observer and the image.

A B B A .we can understand an opposite device: the framethat bends and turns inwardinto the fieldof the pictureto compressor entangle the figures(the trumeauof Souillac. of I have used the word "neutral"to describe Although the untreatedsurface. the independenceand energyof the sign areassertedin the detoursforcedupon the frameby the image (V6zelay). When stationedin the middle it has anotherquality for us than when set at the side. and imaginethe samefigureon a broaderthough still irregularsurface. The same propertiesof the field as a space with a latent expressiveness are exploited in printed and painted verbalsigns. as in cave paintings and unframedimageson rocksor largewalls.it must be saidthatthe unpainted empty field around a figure is not entirely devoid of expressive effect even in the most casual unbounded representations.The effectis all the strongersince the self-constrainedposture and other elements of the image work to reinforcean expressionof the broodingand withdrawn. The differencecan be illustratedby the uninvertibility of a whole with superposed elements of unequalsize (see diagram). The qualitiesof upper and lower are probablyconnected with our posture and relation to gravity and perhaps reinforced by our visual experience of earth and sky. Here the frame accents the forms of the signs rather than encloses a field on which the signs areset.The tendency to favor an off-centerposition has been noticed in the drawingsof emotionallydisturbedchildren.Where there is no boundaryof the field.12 MEYER SCHAPIRO enhancethe movementof the figure.the ImagoHominis in the EchternachGospels. We learnfrom these worksthat althoughthe strictly frameseems naturaland satisfies enclosingrectangular a need for clarityin isolatingthe image for the eye. we center the imagein our view. in the boundedfield the centeris predetermined the boundariesor frameand the isoby lated figure is characterized part by its place in the in field.in the second he stands in a space that allows him more freedom of movement and suggests the potential activity of the body.left and right. 9389). which also satisfy some need or concept.but no one of them is necessaryor universal. It is no longer a pre-existing featureof the image-vehicleor groundbut an addedone that depends on the contents of the image. Besides these variantsof the frame-fieldrelationin art I must mention anotherthat is equally interesting: the frame is sometimes an irregularform that follows the outlines of the object. Bibl. The form can be varied to produce quite opposite effects. For the aestheticeye the body.encroachment isolation. The image comes first and the frameis tracedaroundit.yet this appearance may be a deliberatelysought expressionas in a portraitby Munch in which the introvertedsubject standsa little to the side in an emptyspace.upperand lower. It is clear that the picture field has local properties thataffectour senseof the signs.They show the freedom of artistsin arbitrarily constructingeffectivedeviations fromwhatmight appearat firstto be inherentand immutablea prioriconditionsof representation.but also as belongingto the body and contributingto its qualities.These aremostobvious in the differencesof expressivequality between broad and narrow.and the figure appears anomalous. Nat. Paris.centraland the peripheral. Imaginea drawnfigureon the narrow of a piece of fieldstonethat confineshim between space edges close to the body. All these types are intelligibleas devicesof orderingand expression. As in the examples where the figure bursts through the frame.like the and intervalsof space in an actualhumangroup.then the intervalsbetween them producea rhythmof bodyand void anddetermine effectsof intimacy. and indeed any object.even spirituallystrained. even if balanced then by a small detail that adds a weight to the larger void. lat.displaced.The participation the surroundingvoid of in the image-signof the body is still moreevidentwhere severalfiguresarepresented. In the first he will appearmore elongatedand cramped. cornersand the restof the space. A visual tension remains. it is only one possible use of the frame. In the hierarchyof words on the title pageof a bookor on a posterthe morepotentwords are not only enlarged but often isolated on a ground which is more open at the sides. seemsto incorporate emptyspacearoundit as a field the of existence. The spacearoundit is inevitablyseen not only as ground in the sense of Gestaltpsychology. ms. Let us returnto the properties the groundas a field.

he faces and moves . and the dominant content of the I3 art at an early stage. But this is only an experimentalabstractionof one aspect. abstractpainterstoday discover new possibilities through that inversion. fromthe observer'spoint of view. Whetherthe choice of the left leg depends on a superstition concerningthe firststep in marchingor on some naturaldisposition.Though it becomesa convention. the technique. The same ordergovernsthe downwardverticalsequenceof horizontalwriting.I cannotsay. it will be placed at the top. particularlyif it is presentedin profile whetherat rest or in action. Juan Gris. There is then a prevailingdirection in certain pictures. even a preferred form. The requirementof directednessin successive contiguousscenes admitsa choice of direction.The same effect holds for single elements. the cubist painter. The compositionis noncommutative. A familiarexample is the Egyptian striding figure in relief and painting.this idea inspiredhis paintings of diversand swimmers. as in the mosaicson the two navewallsofS. ApollinareNuovo in Ravennawith processional figuresadvancingto the East end. However.Verona). remarkedthat a patch of yellow has a different visual weight in the upper and lower parts of the same field. in One can find also representations boustrophedon order. The problemof directionmayarisealso for the single isolated figure. even if they are given to the eye as a simultaneouswhole. artistsoften invert the paintingin order to see the relationshipsof forms or colors. We live more in the horizontal dimensionthan the verticaland we are not surprised to learn that the same line looks shorter when horizontalthan when vertical.when transposed to the field of paintingor relief. The priorityof the upperpartof a fieldwith superposed is representations not a strict rule.it is not an arbitrary choice. it arises and fromthe transitivenatureof the objectsrepresented an order of time in an order of the task of expressing space. Nevertheless. the unity is finally judged in a scrutiny of the workin its propermimetic (or non-mimetic)orientation.they accommodatethe scenes to an architectural symmetryor a liturgicalfocus. as in imagesof the life of Christ. the image may be extended in broadand superposedbandswhich have to be readlike a written text.This principle may be reconciled with the strict rule governing the figurein the round by our assumingthat the latterwas conceived from his right side. if it faces right. of The representation movementcallsinto fullerplay a cryptesthesiawith respectto qualitiesof the different axes and directionsin a field. One may note.seen from above.the rigidityof this rule suggests that the posture has a conventional meaning. too. their balance and harmony. as architects recognize in designing a facade. Less a matterof conventionis the sequencefromtop to bottom in series of extended horizontalscenes. Directedness as such is not conventional. that we see a vertical line or a column as moving upwards. However. for we sometimesrecognizein the directionchosen a good solutionof a technicalor artisticproblem. Withineachseriesleft-to-rightand rightto-left have an identicalgoal and connotation. and has an obvious applicationin a floor mosaic. The late Fernand Leger conceived as a goal of figurativepainting an image equally valid in all positions of the rotatedcanvas.The felt space of everyday experienceis anisotropicthough we learnto use the metric properties of an objective uniform space in accommodating physicalobjects to each other.In both cases. were probablydeterminedby special conditionsof the field.without referenceto the objects represented.The varying ordersof left-to-rightor right-to-leftandeven of downward verticalalignment in pictorialart. There are examplesin which leftwardand rightwarddirectionscoexist in the same work of narrativeimagery. it is the right leg that is advanced. however.if it faces left. One can point to medieval sculptureson doorwaysof churches with a narrativesequence proceeding from the lower panelsupwards(Moissac.On some problemsin the semiotics of visual art Though formed of the same parts the rectanglewith smallA over largeB is expressivelynot the same as the one with the same B over A. in judging their work. which must be distinguishedfrom the verticalorder of the signs in Chinese and Japanese writing and of the single letters in certain Greek and Latin inscriptionson picturesafter the 6th centuryCE. the fartherleg.beginningleft-to-rightand returningin a second registerfrom right to left (ViennaGenesis).In some worksthis order is motivatedby the content. while the Gospel scenes above them proceedfrom East to West. the choice of leg to advanceis determinedby the directionof the profiled body. is Where representation of figuresin movementand of successive episodes. the left leg is broughtforward. is the one chosento representmovement. where the climactic scene in a verticalseries is the finalone. as in writing. When representedin the round such a figure always stands with the left leg advanced.

a peculiarityof one side of the face of the portraitsubjectis enough to limit the choice. i. Everyoneis awareof the vital importance of left and right in ritual and magic. from the observer'sviewpoint..unconditionedby a of controllingcontext. The of significance the deity'sor ruler'srightside in pictures and ceremony as the commonly. the predominance the left profile has been explainedby a physiologicalfact. Grundlagen der dgyptischen Rundbildnerei und ihre Verwandschaft mit denen der Flachbildnerei. the particularprofile is selected becauseof some valuedqualityfound in this view. more favoredside.The leftward profileof the head. as appearsalso in the freehanddrawingof circles: righthanded persons most often trace the circle counterclockwiseand left-handed.the natural. the freelychosenand the arbitrary the use of left and in in the image field brings us to a largerproblem: right whetherthe left andrightsidesof a perceptual fieldhave differentqualities.) But often an internalcontext determinesone or the other directionin profileportraits. determines. In both cases the parts of the field are potentialsigns.othersconnect them with culturalhabit in readingand writing and a customaryorientationin space.whetherinherentor acquired. to the left. though not universally. Pertinentto semioticsis the factthatleft and rightare already distinguished sharply in the signified objects themselves.clockwise. A particulardominant contentmay also influencethe feeling for left and right in images. In the Middle Ages one debated the significance of the variable positions of Peter and Paul at the left and right of Christ in old mosaics in Rome (Peter Damian).a repre2 See Heinrich Schafer. p.the othershort(as in the diaalterstheirappearance grambelow).(See the workof Zazzoon children'sdrawings. sentationin which. as the fartherleg.proper and deviant. Where the artist is free to choose any position of the face.A literature grownup has inherently on the subject.and that of the represented objects. whichis also preferred that of the self-imagein the mirror.reversal noticeably.one tall. it is supposed.however.the left and right translation.theirmetaphorical extensionsin everydayspeech as terms for good and evil. We still lack a comparativeexperimental study of the reactionsto reversalof picturesin different culturesand especiallyin those with differentdirections in writing.is a good example of the conflict that may arise between the qualitative structureof the field.2 In the stationaryisolatedfigure. is advanced. . correct and awkward.the viewer'sleft and right determineby direct ratherthan by reflection. Where there is no dominantcentralfigureto which left and rightmust be referred. These observationson the conventional. but the field is open to reversalin submittingto an orderof values in the context of the representedobjects or in the carrierof the image. 27. of the field. owes its greaterfrequency to the easier movement (pronation)of the artist's right hand and wrist inward.e.I4 MEYER SCHAPIRO rightwardand hence his left leg. some authorsaffirmingthat the unlike qualities and irreversibilityof the two sides are biologically innate and arise from the asymmetryof the organismand especiallyits handedness.This reversalin the field. The lateralasymmetryof the field may be illustrated by anotherpeculiarityof pictures and of buildings. just as in actuallife. which has influencedthe meaningof thesetwowords. If we pairtwo forms.the left part of the picture surface is the carrier of the values. Leipzig I923.

If the diagonal from lower left to upper right has come to possess an ascendingquality. the delicate and precious. the size of the field and the size of different componentsof the image relativeto real objects which they signify and relativeto each other.Or a sign may be exceedingly small to satisfy a requirementof economyor easeof handling.(These differentfunctions of size may be comparedroughlywith the functionsof volumeand length in speech. By format I mean the shape of the field. like the earlyengraversof wood blocks.the boundaries. We distinguish. size as a function of value and as a functionof visibility. its proportions and dominantaxis. It is an assertionof spontaneity. Yet in the reversalof a picture new qualities emerge that may be attractiveto the artistand many viewers. whereobjectsof quite different size in reality are representedin the same work.for the dominanceof the humanfigureover the environmentappears independently in the art of many cultures and among our own children in representing objects." wherethe two elementsdifferdecidedly in size or form or color.the positions and directions-we must consider as an expressive factor the formatof the image-sign. and have not bothered to anticipate it by first reversing the drawing on the even the reversalof plate.On some problemsin the semiotics of visual art Like the verticallyjoinedunequalrectanglesconsidered earlier.effortful quality to the ascent.Apparentlythe difference in qualityof the two diagonaldirectionsis not enoughto fix the correct one firmly in mind without continued motor practice. In asymmetrical compositionsof figuresor landscapesthe choice of one or the other side for the more active or denser part of the picture affects the expression. The buildings.and considersize. have been indifferent to the reversalof an asymmetricalcomposition in the printingof an etched plate. signify the greatness of their subjects. just as the pair Father and Son has a quality lackingin Son and Father. Here value or importanceis more decisivefor virtualsize thanthe realphysicalmagnitude of the objects represented.Colossalstatues. while the reversedcounterparthas a descendingeffect. the frequentreversalof capitalN asymmetrical and S in the writingof childrenand unpracticed adults. is adjunctive. But size may also be a means of makinga sign visible at a distance. or it may be small likea miniaturepaintingand utilize the limitedspaceto expressdifferencesof valuein the figuresby differences of size.the reversalgives a strangeaspect to the whole.The andin "A and B. as well as its size. which may be more than the shockof reversalof a familiaror habitualform.the lateralgrouping is non-commutative. a colossal statue serves both functions. trees and mountainsin archaicartslookno largerthanthe human figures and sometimes smaller.two sets of conditions in the size of visual signs: on the one hand. If we grant this difference. on the other hand. the problemis whetherthe dominanceof one side in the visual field is inherent or contingent.I am not sure that this is a convention. I shall pass over the role of proportions and shape of the field.One can doubt that the artist would accept the reversalof a carefully composedpainting. Reversalof the compositionwill I5 disturb or weaken this effect. apartfromthe valueof the content.) How shallwe interpretthe artist'stoleranceof reversal if left and right are indeed differentin quality? In certaincontextsthe choiceof the supposedlyanomalous side may be deliberatefor a particulareffect which is reinforcedby the content of the representation.not conjunctive. and are thereby subordinatedto them. A workmay be large like a lengthy picture scroll becauseit represents so manyobjectsall of averageheight. madeall the morereadilyas the valueof a drawing or printhas come to be lodgedin its energyand freedom and in the surpriseof its formsratherthanin the refinement of detail and subtlety of balance. an artistwho represents figuresascendinga slope drawnfrom the upper left to the lower right gives therebya more strained. (I may note here as an evidence of the sophisticated and acquiredin the perceptionof the differentvisual quality of the leftward and rightward directions in wholes. These same two letters are also often reversedin early medievalLatin inscriptions. and the tiny formatmay express the intimate. Besides these characteristicsof the field-the preparedsurface. One does not suppose that the artistis .at any rate. Yet it must be said that some good artists in our time.as on the film screen and in the giganticsigns in modernpublicity. The size of a representationmay be motivated in differentways: by an externalphysicalrequirement. which is a vast problem.or by the qualitiesof the object represented.) It is obviousthat they are not unconnected. Picassohas often disregarded his signaturein the print. and the position in the field expresses this relation. painted figureslargerthan life. In manystyles of art. they are shown as of equal height.

Of the four symbols which are distributed in the narrow space between the prophets and Christ. highest. depends on its distance from the picture plane. enlarged the big man but re-drew the small man as before on the large sheet. In pictures after the I5th century the size of a painted object. it varies also with the signified qualities. This is a reversal of the normal etiquette of picture space in which the powerful individual is often represented as a large figure elevated above the smaller figures around him. The relation of the size of the sign to the size of the represented object changes with the introduction of perspective-the change is the same whether the perspective is empirical as in Northern Europe or regulated by a strict rule of geometrical projection as in Italy. The first is a perspective only metaphorically. Paris. Nat. it corresponded to a further humanization of the religious image and its supernatural figures. illumination. and the prophets are busts in the incompletely framed medallions that open at the four angles of the lozenge between the evangelists.. It is a common opinion that the two systems. Greatness. Size as an expressive factor is not an independent variable. is an expressive coefficient of the parts of the field as places of the graded figures. posture. were expressed then through other means such as insignia. does not mean that the significance of the various parts of the field and the various magnitudes is arbitrary. Here it is evident that size. For a content that is articulated hierarchically. The sizes of things in a picture express a conception that requires no knowledge of a rule for its understanding. In the perspective system the virtually largest figure may be an accessory one in the foreground and the noblest personages may appear quite small. and lesser figures would be placed in the remaining spaces. the evangelists in profile or three-quarters view fill the quadrants of the four corners. the eagle of John is at the top. lat. Its effect changes with the function and context of the sign and with the scale and density of the image. the evangelists are second in size. the symbols are the smallest of all. And it would seem to us natural that the photographs are of a diminishing order of size from the center to the periphery. appearing especially in religious art. even when applied to such intangibles as wisdom or love. costume. the hierarchical and the geometric-optical. etc. as experienced in the real world. while they hold books. their number and range of types. In contrast to the medieval practice. I have no doubt that some designers would hit on the medieval arrangement in which the founder is in the middle. It ignores the . with the natural size of the objects. This was no devaluation of the human. In an image of Christ in Majesty with the evangelists. in accord with the higher theological rank of this evangelist. The association of size and a scale of value is already given in language: the words for superlatives of a human quality are often terms of size-greatest. Bibl. and place in the field. human or natural. perspective imposed a uniform scale on the natural magnitudes as projected on the picture surface. are equally arbitrary perspectives since both are governed by conventions. relative to its real size. An interesting evidence of the qualitative non-linear relation of the size of the sign to the size of the signified object is given in an experiment: children who were asked to draw a very little man and a big man together. it is also distinguished from the other symbols by carrying a roll. his chief disciples at his sides. To call both kinds of pictures perspectives is to miss the fact that only the second presents in its scale of magnitudes a perspective in the visual sense. employed systematically. social or spiritual importance. as one might suppose. their symbols.16 MEYER SCHAPIRO unaware of the real differences in size between man and these objects of his environment. above or below according to their relative importance. ms. these qualities of the field become relevant to expression and are employed and developed accordingly. I). and the prophets of the Old Testament (the Bible of Charles the Bald.e. Christ sits frontally in the center within a mandorla framed by a lozenge. The fact that the use of these properties of the sign-space is conventional. Given the task of mounting separate photographs of members of a political hierarchy in a common rectangular field. Christ is the largest figure. It is built on an intuitive sense of the vital values of space.. A corresponding content today would elicit from artists a similar disposition of the space of a sign-field. the prophets smaller. In Western medieval art (and probably in Asiatic too) the apportioning of space among various figures is often subject to a scale of significance in which size is correlated with position in the field and with posture and spiritual rank. indeed. In certain systems of representation-which depend on systems of content-the distinctive values of the different places of the field and the different magnitudes reinforce each other. i. first on a small and then on a large sheet of paper.

(In sculpture the distinction between the modeled or carved materialand the same substanceas a field raisesspecial problemsthat I shall ignore here.While fromthe viewpointthat fixes on the to drawingas a sign everypartof this line corresponds a part of the object represented-unlike the parts of a word for that object-from the aestheticpoint of view the line is an artificialmarkwith propertiesof its own. the subtle and gradations strongcontraststhat bringout the volume.On some problemsin the semiotics of visual art variations both the apparentand the constantsizes of of in reality and replacesthem by a conventional objects orderof magnitudesthat signifytheirpoweror spiritual rank. these elementshaveproperties differentfrom the objectsthey represent.have no mimetic meaning in themselves. and a semi-circlemay be a hill. discoversthrough such elementsof executionanotheraspectof size in the image-signs. Produced by different techniques.The picture-signseems to be throughand throughmimetic. but above all. the partsof the line will be seen as small materialcomponents:dashes.To speakof Alexanderas the Greatand to representhim as larger than his soldiers may be a it convention.the variablescale of correspondence. the I7 medium or the technique. just as a written word is the same in differentcolored inks. an eye-brow. The picture will always be recognized as an image of that face in different portraits. a cap. or an arch. Distinctive for the picture-sign. The blacknessand thicknessof the outlineof a represented face need not correspondto particular attributes of that face.a button. continuous or broken.They may be thick or thin.it is true.which is specificto picturesas signs. yet when repeatedin great numbers in the proper context vividly evokes a .The correspondence the sizes of the objects in of the second system to their apparentsize in real threedimensionalspaceat a given distancefromthe observer is not arbitrary. The correspondenceof the sizes of the figures in the hierarchical kind of pictureto the roles of the figuresis indeedconventionalin a sense.) With respectto denotationby resemblance. All these assume a value as distinctsigns once they enterinto certaincombinations.the dot may be a nail-head. but the conventionrests on a naturalassociation a scaleof qualitieswith a scale of of magnitudes. andthis is the sourceof manymis-readingsof old works of art. curves.is the pervasivenessof the semanticfunction.There is in the hatchedlines a small unit that does not representanything by itself through its form. and theirqualitiesas markscontributesomethingto the of appearance the represented objects. The fine hatching of the grey tones and shadows in an engravingcorrespondsto no such networkon the object.Accordingto the contextof adjoiningor neighboringmarks. Taken out of the image.but to the imagination is naturaland selfevident. like the cubes of a mosaic.on a represented object in a drawingor print many lines which are not viewed as signs of the realobject and its partsin a morphological sense. dots which. Yet when seen at a properdistance.it is readily understood by the untrainedspectatorsince it rests on the same cues that he respondsto in dealing with his everydayvisual world.regardlessof the style.the handle of a pot. if the image-signwereoutlinedin whiteon a blackground. It would still denote the same face for us. Just as the small map shows nothing of the irregularities of terrainbelowa certainsize. the signs for these qualities may vary greatlyin their small and large structureand still form a whole that correspondssufficientlyto the natural One recognizable appearance. so in a picturethe technicalartisticmeansof suggestingmodelingand illumination affect the scale of correspondence.There are. modelingand illuminationof the object. I turn now to the non-mimeticelements of the picture that may be called its sign-bearingmatter.Consider as examplesthe drawnline of the pencil or brushor the incisedline producedby a sharptool in representing the sameobject. without our seeing these qualitiesas peculiaritiesof a realor imaginedface. the imagesubstanceof inkedor paintedlines and spots. The thick blackoutline is an artificialequivalent of the apparentform of a face and has the same relationto the face that the color and thickness of the outline of a land mass in a map has to the characterof the coast. to discriminate and judge the qualities of the picture substance in itself. The artistand the sensitiveviewerof the workof artare characterizedby their ability to shift attention freely from one aspect to the other.even with the arbitrarinessof the qualities of the image-substance. or the pupil of an eye. The same face can be representedin many differentwaysand with quite variedpatternsof the lines or spots that denote the features.however. if the representationoffers the minimalcues by which we recognizethe designated facethroughall its variations positionand lightingin of actuallife. it renders degrees of light and dark.

Georges Braque. having in mind the figurativein poetic language.uninterpreted ties and formalrelationshipsof the precedingmimetic art. to indicate briefly the far- . In assertingwith the supportof scientists thatthereareno lines in natureand thatwe see only colors. with a consequent increasein the relative size of the units.the ancientandthe modern.they owe their development and varietyin great part to their servicein representation. though the following generationof artists found Impressionismtoo realistic.has of spoken paradoxically the representedobjects in the still life pictureas the poetryof painting. i. to the semblance of things and if it introduced into new signs for aspectsof naturesuch as picture-making and atmosphereand the interactionsof colorsthat light could not be representedin the older styles.certainspotsof colorin the image correspondto sensations. The tree-sign as a whole is recognizedas a tree. are not altogetherseparatefromthe qualitiesof the representedobjects. Impressionist painting. A thicker outline makes the figure look more massive. a thin line can add to its delicacyand grace. often throughits context. Perspectivevision discernssuch objectsthroughthe broadsilhouette. These variations of the "medium" constitute the poetry of the image. On the other hand. forms of objects. is already a step toward modern abstract painting. The Impressionisthas choof sen to representa particular appearance the realtree in which the anatomical partslook indistinctas if fused with each other and with neighboringobjects.the tone and context.as every artist knows.These are material-technithan the cal componentsof the image no less arbitrary firm blackoutline of the primitivesand the Egyptians. of enterinto the visualmanifestation the wholeandconvey peculiaritiesof outlookand feeling as well as subtle meaningsof the signs. Here the paintingseems to approacha feature of verbal signs. spots and colors assume the aspect of objects in unexpectedways. We are often charmedby his inventivenessin makingthe stronglymarked structures of painted lines. it required a picture-substance and one that in severalfeatures too. If the elementsof the vehicleand their propertiesare rootsof the aestheticof the work.affecttheir meaningand in particular expressivesense..We can understand this remarkthroughhis own work. An extensive objectspace. in Impressionistpaintings fairly large elements have acquired a non-mimetic aspect. I have noted severalways in which the ground and frame.Yet no basic change has taken place here in the semantic relationof imageto object. in conclusion. relativeto the whole complex sign of which they are a part.Both polesof substance. The qualitiesof the image-substance.e. they undertookto represent the visible world moretrulybyjuxtaposing patchesof colorwithoutdefinBut if their system was defended as truer ing outlines. althougheveryinflection of the line representsa known and recognizable partof its object.a brokenline opens the form to the playof light and shadowwith all theirexpressiveimplications for the concept of things. its musical rather than mimetic aspect. I wish. It is this shift of interestto anotheraspector content of realitythat led paintersto criticize the arbitrariness of the outline as a distinctentity.of its intimateformal structureand expression. and converselyhis objects appearas the surprisingcarriers or sourcesof originalpatternsof form.conceivedas a non-mimeticfieldforthe elements their of imagery.a landscape.and some of these are not of the localcolorsof objectsbut areinducedcontrast colors and effects of illumination.strokes and spots and certainways of combiningand distributing them on the field have become availablefor arbias of traryuse withoutthe requirement correspondence The formsthatresultarenot simplifiedabstracted signs.is representedon a small field. In a corresponding waythe visible patchingof pigmentin an Impressionist workcontributesto the generaleffectof luminosityand air. This importantconnection is overlookedby those who regardabstractpaintingas a kind of ornamentor as regressionto a primitivestate of art. In abstractpaintingthe system of marks. without discriminatingdetails.MEYER SCHAPIRO particularquality of the object. In the picture the parts of the painted tree are flecks without clear resemblancein shape or color to the partsof the realtree. as is as arbitrary the archaicblackoutline-I mean the visibly discretestrokesof paint and the relief of crusty pigment which violate both the continuityand texture of the representedsurfaces. Though they do not clearlyresembleobjects. but the parts are hardly like leaves and branches.in which the parts have been freed from the to ruleof detailedcorrespondence the partsof an object. They havebeen experiencedin natureas distantthings veiled by the atmosphereand as variationsof light and color ratherthan as shapes. yet the elements applied in a nonwhole retainmanyof the qualimimetic. But a great modern painter.

the intervals of the picture surfacebetween the figuresbecome space in which signs of a continuousthree-dimensional the componentsowe their virtualsize. The ground line.especiallyat the sides but also aboveand below. In these regular.too.yet open. I have alreadyremarked.It may cut figures. to their distance from the transparent pictureplane and the eye of an implied observer. Mondrian constructed a grid of vertical and horizontallines of unequal thickness. being intercepted by the edge of the field. The uniformbackground surface. The conceptionof the picture-fieldas corresponding in its entirety to a segment of space excerpted from a largerwhole is preservedin abstractpainting.On some problemsin the semiotics of visual art reachingconversionof these non-mimeticelementsinto positive representations. unbounded and contingentas a whole. their foreshortened shapes. by the introductionof perspective. formingrectanglesof which some areincomplete. is transformed as representation. elementarycomponents. The boundarythen is like a window frame through which one glimpsesonly a partof the spacebehindit. . into an elementof The boundary. Finally.Their functions in representation in turn lead to new functions of expressionand constructiveorderin a laternon-mimeticart.a terrainof rocksand hills.but alsoa modelof one aspectof contemporary thought:the conceptionof the worldas law-boundin the relationof simple.becomes an element of landscapeor architecturalspace. will appearas a representedwall or enclosureof space. as Degas' figures are cut by the frame.In this constructionone can see not only the artist'sideal of orderand scrupulousprecision. Its upper edge may be drawnas an irregularline that suggestsa horizon.though not obviouslycommensurable.the patternof the rest is not deducible from the fragmentary sample which is an odd and in some respects ambiguous segment and yet possesses a striking balance and coherence. In older I9 artthis allusionto an actualboundedfield of a spectator was most often made by representingwithin the picture-fielditself the stableenclosingpartsof an architecture-doorways and window ledges-that defined a real and permanentframe of vision in the field of the signata. their tonal values. thickenedinto a band and colored separately.throughornament or a color that sets it off sharplyfrom the groundband.While no longer representingobjects. formswe seemto behold only a smallpartof an infinitelyextendedstructure. in such a way as to representthe real boundariesof a proximatespectator'svision of the originalscene.

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