Seminar: Aniconism: Modern Concept, Early Modern Roots?


Monday, November 22, 2021, 6:00pm to 7:30pm


I Tatti / Zoom
Johannes Gerhard Scheffer, Lapponia: id est, regionis Lapponum et gentis nova et verissima descriptio, Frankfurt, Christian Wolff, 1673, p. 108

Speaker: Dario Gamboni (I Tatti / University of Geneva)

Despite its venerable etymology, “aniconism” is a modern term, coined in 1864 by the German archeologist Johannes Adolph Overbeck to characterize what he regarded as the earliest form of symbolization of the divine among the ancient Greeks, one at odds with mimesis and anthropomorphism. There are reasons to think that this terminological invention is related – directly or indirectly – to radical interpretations of the effect of the monotheistic Bilderverbot on the art of Judaism and Islam, one the one hand, and, on the other hand, to the growing rejection of naturalism and the promotion of “abstraction” as a superior form of expression in the decorative and, eventually, the fine arts. One wonders whether Early Modern encounters with non-Christian and non-European cultic objects and practices, in addition to the heritage of “pagan” Antiquity, contributed to the conceptualization and representation of “aniconism,” and may have provided antecedents of the notion and of its axiological dimension.

Dario Gamboni is Professor Emeritus of Art History at the University of Geneva and an Honorary Fellow of the Institut Universitaire de France. His research interests include iconoclasm, visual ambiguity, and museums created by artists and collectors. Among his books, translated into many languages, are The Destruction of Art (Reaktion, 1997), Potential Images (Reaktion, 2002), The Brush and The Pen (Minuit, 1989; Chicago, 2011), and The Museum as Experience (Brepols, 2019; Hazan, 2020; Wallstein, 2021). He is one of the editors of The Aesthetics of Marble (Hirmer, 2021).


This event is open to the public on a by-reservation basis, please sign up by clicking on the link below. Guests attending in person must be in possession of a COVID-19 green certificate. The use of face masks indoors is mandatory. 




These events will also be made available online via Zoom. Details:

Meeting Link
Meeting ID: 919 7231 9933
Password: 227467

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