Whatever Luca Giuliani writes is usually worth reading. Image and Myth, a translation and revision of his Bild und Mythos (Munich, 2003), is no exception. This monograph engages with a topic germane to the origins and development of classical archaeology – the relation of art to text. Giuliani begins, rather ponderously, with an exposition of G. E. Lessing's 1766 essay Laokoon, ‘on the limits of painting and poetry’. Lessing, a dramatist, predictably considered poetry the more effective medium for conveying a story. A picture, in his eyes, encapsulates the vision of a moment – likewise a statue. The Laocoon group, then, is a past perfect moment. A poet can provide the beginning, middle, and end of a story; the artist, only the representation of a fleeting appearance. Giuliani shows that this distinction does not necessarily hold – works of art can be synoptic, disobedient of Aristotelian laws about unity of place and time (and scale). Yet he extracts from Lessing's essay a basic dichotomy between the narrative and the descriptive. This dichotomy dictates the course of a study that is most illuminating when its author is being neither narrative nor descriptive but analytical – explaining, with commendable care for detail, what we see in an ancient work of art. But is the distinction between narrative and descriptive as useful as Giuliani wants it to be? One intellectual predecessor, Carl Robert, is scarcely acknowledged, and a former mentor, Karl Schefold, is openly repudiated; both of these leave-takings are consequent from the effort on Giuliani's part to avoid seeking (and finding) ‘Homeric’ imagery in early Greek art. The iconography of Geometric vases, he maintains, ‘is devoid of narrative intention: it refers to what can be expected to take place in the world’ (37). In this period, we should not be asking whether an image is ‘compatible’ with a story, but rather whether it is incomprehensible without a story. If the answer is ‘no’, then the image is descriptive, not narrative. Thus the well-known oinochoe in Munich, clearly showing a shipwreck, and arguably intending to represent a single figure astride an overturned keel, need not be read as a visual allusion to Odyssey 12.403–25, or some version of the tale of Odysseus surviving a shipwreck. It is just one of those things that happens in the world. Well, we may be thinking – let us be glad that it happens less frequently these days, but double our travel insurance nevertheless. As Giuliani commits himself to this approach, he is forced to concede that certain Geometric scenes evoke the ‘heroic lifestyle’ – but, since we cannot admit Homer's heroes, we must accept the existence of the ‘everyman aristocrat’ (or aristocratic everyman: either way, risking oxymoron). Readers may wonder if Lessing's insistence on separating the descriptive from the narrative works at all well for Homer as an author: for does not Homer's particular gift lie in adding graphic, descriptive detail to his narrative? And have we not learned (from Barthes and others) that ‘descriptions’, semiotically analysed, carry narrative implications – implications for what precedes and follows the ‘moment’ described? So the early part of Giuliani's argument is not persuasive. His conviction, and convincing quality, grows as artists become literate, and play a ‘new game’ ‘in the context of aristocratic conviviality’ (87) – that of adding names to figures (as on the François Vase). Some might say this was simply a literate version of the old game: in any case, it also includes the possibility of ‘artistic licence’. So when Giuliani notes, ‘again we find an element here that is difficult to reconcile with the epic narrative’ (149), this does not, thankfully, oblige him to dismiss the link between art and text, or art and myth (canonical or not). Evidently a painter such as Kleitias could heed the Muses, or aspire to be inspired; a painter might also enjoy teasing his patrons with ‘tweaks’ and corrigenda to a poet's work. (The latter must have been the motive of Euphronios, when representing the salvage of the body of Sarpedon as overseen by Hermes, rather than by Apollo, divergent from the Homeric text.) Eventually there will be ‘pictures for readers’, and a ‘pull of text’ that is overt in Hellenistic relief-moulded bowls, allowing Giuliani to talk of ‘illustrations’ – images that ‘have surrendered their autonomy’ (252).