Monday, October 08, 2012

The Vengeance of Achilles: The Impact of Viewing Context and Reception on Visual Narrative

The Vengeance of Achilles: The Impact of Viewing Context and Reception on Visual Narrative

By Rachel Lynne Starry

Undergraduate Thesis, University of Richmond, 2010

Achilles dragging the body of Hector. Attic wh...
Achilles dragging the body of Hector. Attic white-ground lekythos, ca. 490 BC. From Etreria. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Abstract: This paper attempts to prove the significance of the viewing context and reception of an image for the developments in the modes of narration used to depict a scene and subsequently that scene’s iconography. In particular, it will examine the iconographic and narrative evolution of images depicting the vengeance of Achilles in Late Archaic black-figure vase-painting as well as in a series of Roman artworks. It will additionally consider the viewing context and visual reception of those images and discuss the cultural significance for the use of certain modes of narration. Finally, it will compare the modes of narration utilized and the evolution of the iconography of the scene in the Greek and Roman case-studies.

Introduction: One of the most poignant scenes from Homer’s Iliad is Achilles exacting his vengeance as he drags Hektor’s defeated body behind his chariot in books 22 and 24. Instances of this scene’s depiction in Graeco-Roman art exist in a variety of media, including vase painting, metal-work, painted wall relief, and ceramic relief decoration. A direct relationship exists between the evolution of the standard iconographic representation of the scene and the gradual alteration of its narrative structure. Considerations of ancient narrative have generally disregarded the form and viewing context of the object or image as determinative of a given mode of narration. While numerous components like patronage, tradition, local style, and contemporary conventions factor into the construction of visual narrative, the intended function of a work played a principal role in the choice of the mode of narration for a few particularly interesting instances of the scene of the vengeance of Achilles in ancient art.

Click here to read this article from Harvard University