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Figure 11 Fama

How does this type of tapestry function in relationship to the text? Although it is a visual description of actual texts, it does not seem to me to be reverse actual ekphrasis in the same manner as, for instance, the Life of Stephen. The relationship is far more complex. Neither does it appear to function as a visual description of an imagined text, although it could be argued that it visually describes a non-existent allegorical text representing philosophical maxims. I call this third variety of reverse ekphrasis collagic. It is a visual description of a collage of texts represented, in turn, by a collage of dramatic tableaux constituting an intricate sub-text to a central idea; in this case, that the vicissitudes of fortune can be held in abeyance by good behavior.


My conclusion is more of a commencement than an ending. First a brief summary. My colleague and I found ourselves in need of a new way of organizing material in our course on early tapestry and text, so I created a taxonomy of narrative in tapestry based on how narrative texts were represented as three dimensional objects. I proposed three distinct styles: linear, non-linear and iconographic.

We also felt the need for a term that would describe the way tapestries functioned in relationship to text, and selected “reverse ekphrasis.” The tapestries functioned not as auxiliary illustrations but often as complex visual narratives, based on both actual and imaginary texts, requiring decoding. And just as there was a cognitive or interpretative element in a written ekphrasis, (for example, a poem about a tapestry) so was there a new or additional cognitive element in the deciphering of visual narratives in the tapestries. Finally I devised a third variety of ekphrasis, the “collagic,” to describe more accurately the relationship of tapestry to an assemblage of multiple texts.

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