W6: Iconography and Iconology – Erwin Panofsky and Othmar Keel in Dialogue

Organizer: Hans Ulrich Steymans (Université Miséricorde Fribourg)

Erwin Panofsky defined iconography as research into the subject matter or meaning of objects of art. Iconography describes and classifies images. In order to identify the topic of the image, it is dependent on cultural knowledge and literary sources. Iconography only functions when we know from texts or general background what message the image is intended to transmit. However, we often do not have such knowledge when dealing with ancient Near Eastern images. There are not many texts that can be identified as explaining motifs of images. Therefore, Othmar Keel, the founder of the Bible+Orient collections at Fribourg, adapted Panofsky’s methods for interpreting ancient Near Eastern images by stressing the necessity to view the image as a source of knowledge in its own right. Nevertheless, the relationship between texts and images remains a problem as well as the question how to corroborate the interpretations of images without external information about the message that the artists wanted to encode by their work. This workshop will compare Panofsky’s and Keel’s approach and address the means by which one can interpret motifs and scenes in ancient Near Eastern images as well as identify their cultural setting through iconology.

Contact: hansulrich.steymans@unifr.ch