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NCCR Mediality

Die Nationalen Forschungsschwerpunkte (NFS) sind ein Förderungsmittel des Schweizerischen Nationalfonds.
SR. Senior Researchers
SR.2. Metaphorical Operations in Early Modern Pictures: Mary, Cleopatra and the Queen of France

Broadly, the project approaches the problem that an art historical concept of (visual) metaphor is still lacking. Nonetheless we encounter many different pictorial operations that could be intuitively addressed as “metaphoric”. In this project, cognitive theories of metaphor, focusing on interaction, mapping and blending, are explored and discussed facing ‘real’ pictures, not just preselected illustrations of theoretical claims. At the centre of the analysis are pictures of powerful women. They must be explicated through additional, allusive strategies of representation – thus far unlabeled or lumped together under umbrella terms such as “symbolic”. By scrutinizing pictures of the “Queen of Heaven” Mary, the “royal whore” Cleopatra and finally the queen dowager Maria de’ Medici of France, a contemporary ruler somewhere in between, the metaphor-dependent realms of sacred mystery, sexuality and political representation come into play as well. In the course of the study different types of metaphorical operations, more or less dependent on the visual means employed, will emerge. With respect to the historical context and the complex embeddedness of our phenomena we are also able to gain insight into specific functions, i.e. the medial quality of culturally working metaphor. Especially interesting from a perspective of media theory is the tension between a treacherous transparency (the oversimplifying quality of concrete metaphor for complex issues) at one pole and the disturbing opacity of a puzzling metaphor at the other. Is trite evidence or further reflection generated by the use of metaphor, and how does this interrelate with the fuzzy nature of pictorial representation as such? A second point of special interest is the intermedial transport of the verbal into the visual through metaphor.