The Veil of Timanthes: 
Aposiopesis Between Ethics and Aesthetics

Auteur / Author: 
Massimo LEONE (Philosophy Department, Università degli studi di Torino, Italy)
Vendredi 26 Août 2011 - 9:00


Numerous Latin and Byzantine authors relate that, in his representation of the sacrifice of Iphigenia, Timanthes, the famous Greek painter, chose to depict the visage of Agamemnon covered by a veil. Starting from its Latin reception, this anecdote becomes a foundational myth of Western art, a myth that writers, painters, and philosophers interpret in different ways in order to determine their position vis-à-vis the relation between transparency and opacity of pain and its representations, between ethics and aesthetics.

Through the semiotic analysis of a series of verbal sources (Cicero, Valerius Maximus, Quintilian, Plinius, Eustathius of Thessalonika, medieval encyclopedists, Du Bellay, Montaigne, Agrippa d’Aubigné, Renaissance authors of art treatises, Marino, Lessing, and so on) and visual representations (from the tomb Claus Sluter sculpted for Philip II of Bourgogne until Michael Haneke’s Funny Games), the paper will try to illustrate the ways in which, through the myth of Timanthes, Western rhetoric and art have elaborated several conceptions of the unimaginable in order to regulate the relation between ostentation and occultation of passions.