Vico Contest

Who doesn’t like a good game of “interpret-that-frontispiece”?

Below is the frontispiece for The New Science, by Giambattista Vico, about which Vico writes, in the helpfully titled opening section, “EXPLANATION OF THE PICTURE PLACED AS FRONTISPIECE TO SERVE AS INTRODUCTION TO THE WORK”, that “As Cebes the Theban made a table of moral institutions, we offer here one of civil institutions.  We hope it may serve to give the reader some conception of this work before he reads it, and, with such aid as imagination may afford, to call it back to mind after he has read it.”

Vico discusses the meaning of just about every object in this image, as well as the significance of the relative positions of each item vis-a-vis the other items near it.

Try your best to interpret each of the following – your only hint (other than the above) is that the whole forms an elaborate allegorical representation of the main arguments of The New Science, and the descriptions Vico gives of each item prior to setting forth its meaning explcitly:

(1)  “The lady with the winged temples who surmounts the celestial globe or world of nature”

(2) “the luminous triangle with the seeing eye”

(3)  “The belt of the zodiac which girds the celestial globe [and] the two signs of Leo and Virgo”

(4) “The ray of divine providence illuminating a convex jewel which adorns the breast [of the lady]”

(5) The reason “the jewel is convex”

(6) “The statue of Homer”

(7) “an altar”

(8) “upon the altar, at the left… a lituus, the staff with which the augurs took auguries and observed the auspices”

(9) “On the altar near the lituus.. the water and fire, the former contained in a jar”

(10) “the torch lit from the fire on the altar and leaning against the jar”

(11) “a cinerary urn, placed to one side within the forest”

(12) “from the forests  … a plough [which] stands forth”

(13) “at the left side of the altar a rudder”

(14) why “the rudder bows at the foot of the altar”

(15) why “the rudder is at some distance from the plough”

(16) “in front of the plough… a tablet inscribed with an ancient Latin alphabet”

(17) why “the tablet lies near the plough and far from the rudder”

(18) “the tablet [showing] the first letters of the alphabets [that] lies facing the status of Homer”

… it goes on for like another 15 pages so I’ll just leave it at.

Only rules: no internet help, no reading Vico’s introduction.

Not sure how many (if any) entries will come in.  Prize to be determined.

Place your guesses in the comments.

Answers will be forthcoming at some point.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *