Envoi: Framing ‘Antiquity’

Rebecca Zorach*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


One of the hallmarks of the discourse on the ‘frame’ is the mobility of the term: objects are framed and reframed; we imagine ‘original’ frames for them, whether natural or proper, but we also recognise that we too frame objects and their surrounds. A frame might simply be a conventional cutting up of more complex and chaotic reality to facilitate a particular form of attention, but what governs those conventions, what else informs that attention? Figure and ground, text and context, monument and document, mark and re-mark: all these terms refer to an object (whether concrete manufactured thing or object of attention) and some penumbra that, from some point of view, somehow surrounds it. As the volume's introduction explains (pp. 47–52), the problem lies at the heart of Derrida's response to Kant in La vérité en peinture (translated into English as The Truth in Painting). For such pairings are prone to flip, to switch places: suddenly, it is the object framing the ‘frame’. What we might think of as the object that is framed can equally or primarily be the adornment of what frames it – as in the case, for example, of architectural sculpture, or figures painted on a vase. Even sculpted drapery (to quote another of Kant's examples) can be conceptualised as what the body frames. When the body becomes the medium for ornament – as in the Maori tattoos that bothered Kant – which is the frame and which is the picture? The frame may ground or it may supplement; it may establish a focus for the viewer's attention, or risk distracting it. To think in terms of temporality, the frame is precisely what must precede the object – or what can only follow it. Here, in The Frame in Classical Art: A Cultural History, temporality is important indeed. Our very talk of ‘antiquity’, after all, is premised upon particular framed views of the ‘ancient’ and ‘antique’: any later framing of something called ‘antiquity’ is defined not only by space but also by time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Frame in Classical Art
Subtitle of host publicationA Cultural History
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781316677155
ISBN (Print)9781107162365
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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