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Intellectually, I really can understand the concise usefulness of ICONCLASS, especially for computerized iconographic indicies. It's a number/letter system for categorizing iconography, so as to standardize the terminology used to refer to it, and has been around a while now (in early forms, since the 1950s). Still, there's something fundamentally odd about describing a picture with it. For example, a 26B2 is a rainbow, while a 45K231 is a siege engine, and a 46A7 is a crowd or a mob. It's true,, it's much more coompact to say that a 26B2 over a 45K14 filled with a 46A7, and with a 45D21 and a 45K231 in the foreground is somewhat more compact than describing an image as containing a rainbow over a mob-filled fortified city with land-forces and a siege engine in the foreground is. But at the same time, it loses a certain immediate comprehensibility.

Its Libertas browser is accessible online if you'd like to have a play.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 19th, 2002 11:58 am (UTC)
I understand each of the individual words in that post, apart from Iconclass, which is obviously the key to having some idea of what the heck it's about. :)
Jun. 19th, 2002 01:26 pm (UTC)
This is clearly an example of one of my perennial bad habits: tunnel-vision when writing. Thank you for pointing it out, especially when I'm in editing mode and need to be on the lookout for exactly such problems! Iconclass is a made up work. It kind of even looks like some, from something like Iconographical Classification System. It's just the name of this particular system for classifying the bits and pieces of pictures which give them meaning in arthistoryland. I'm sure there are others.

This system in particular is used by the Princeton Index of Christian Art for labelling some of the highlights in the pictures they've classified, and is part of why it's easy for me to find the images in it I'm after. On the other hand, they've only bothered to label a couple highlights from each picture. In theory, they could have categorized the poor pictures to death and been much more thorough.
Jun. 19th, 2002 03:57 pm (UTC)
Actually I didn't mean that you should have had to explain it further, I was just having a bit of fun. I feel quite strongly that in my LJ I shouldn't have to write to any standard or reference but my own. Well, half the time I feel like that. The other half of the time my inner literary exhibitionist is fighting to open its raincoat.

The concept sounds very interesting. I hadn't realised that things had become so systematic/technological in the art history world, though that's because of my own English studies tunnel vision. When my degree is finished I'm going to sign up for an art history evening class here in London. I took one as an undergrad on the religious art of India and it was fascinating.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )