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date: 02 February 2023



  • Robin Osborne


The identification of scenes in sculpture, painting, and the minor arts has long been a major activity of classical *archaeology, although it has traditionally been accorded less emphasis than the identification of artists' hands. In all the figurative arts conventional schemes were developed, sometimes under the influence of near-eastern iconography, for portraying particular mythological figures and episodes, and the use and development of these schemes can now conveniently be studied through the Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae ( = LIMC, 1981– ). Individual artists exploited conventional imagery not simply by replicating it, but by playing variations on a theme or by echoing the conventional scheme for one episode when portraying a different one. An extreme form of this is iconographic parody.The origins of particular iconographic schemes, and the reasons why the popularity of scenes changes over time, are rarely clear. Ceramic vessels may owe some of their imagery to lost gold or silver *plate, and some vases can reasonably be held to take over the imagery of lost wall-paintings or of famous sculptures, such as the Tyrannicides group (see aristogiton), although it is also possible in some cases that vase-painting influenced subsequent sculptural imagery.


  • Greek Material Culture
  • Roman Material Culture

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