University of São Paulo: Poetic and pictorial communication in the ancient world is the subject of a book

The various aspects related to the image in Antiquity are addressed in the book A Representação e Seus Limites – Pictura Loquens, Poesis Tacens , by professor Paulo Martins, current director of the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences (FFLCH) at USP. In it, Martins deals not only with the paintings displayed on walls and vases and with the stone and metal sculptures that the ancient world produced in abundance, but also with the images that emerged from classical literary works. “More than dealing with an author or a work, this book deals with a concept, an idea that permeates authors, works, genres and arts”, writes Martins in Prolegômenosof the work. “Its objective is to diachronically consider verbal and non-verbal imagery practices, that is, discursive and iconographic representations, which occurred in classical antiquity, thus attesting to the possible homologies between these – when and if they exist.”

With 368 pages and 13 chapters – in addition to an Excurso -, the book was originally written as a thesis of Martins’s professorship, defended in 2013 at the FFLCH. But the origin of the work is much more remote, as highlighted in the preface by Professor João Angelo de Oliva Neto, from FFLCH, who chaired the examining board of Martins’s professorship exam. “This is what I saw and heard: I was already a professor and Paulo Martins was a graduate student and, one afternoon after one of his graduate classes, he arrives and says: ‘Don’t you think that Aeneas contemplating the painting in the corner? I [of the Aeneid, by Virgílio] corresponds to the sensible world and progressively witnessing the world machine in canto VI corresponds to Plato’s intelligible world?'”, recalls Oliva Neto, reproducing an event that occurred in the early 1990s. I just wish I had that idea. I would have liked to have glimpsed that Aeneas contemplating the paintings is to the sensible world, just as he penetrates the infernal world and sees things themselves is to the intelligible world of Plato. And today I am proud to have told Paul exactly that, right then, and to have repeated it whenever I could.”

That idea was the starting point of the project that, progressively, turned into the thesis of professorship now turned into a book. As Martins explains at the end of his work: “This work was designed and should be read, above all, as an academic journey. At least, it was designed that way. Each chapter portrays the maturation of a thought constructed by two distinct and complementary paths: text and figurative art. Texts, speeches formulated as poetry or prose in all sorts of genres and species. The imagines , built in various media – sculpture or painting, intaglio or mosaic, coins or monuments – and dedicated to different purposes. Both texts and pictures, must be observed with the same eyes, despite the simultaneity inherent to the images and the temporal progression inherent to the discourses”.

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