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Six - Numerals as Letters

Ludic Language in Chronographic Writing

from Part I - Hidden Writing

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 August 2021

John Bodel
Affiliation:
Brown University, Rhode Island
Stephen Houston
Affiliation:
Brown University, Rhode Island
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Summary

Paintings and other objects made in late medieval and early modern European sometimes contain what appears to be highly stylized ornamental writing, often reminiscent of contemporary Arabic scripts but seemingly devoid of linguistic content. Often called pseudo-kufic and now more commonly pseudoscript, these passages of apparently meaningless writing continue to vex historians of art. This chapter aims to advance our understanding of pseudoscript by examining its use in the paintings of the Florentine master Fra Filippo Lippi (c. 1406–1469). A close reading of Lippi’s pseudoscripts, including a few examples in which he surprisingly included legible content, emphasizes that while pseudoscript was a widespread phenomenon, it is perhaps best understood through careful consideration of its particular uses in specific contexts.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Hidden Language of Graphic Signs
Cryptic Writing and Meaningful Marks
, pp. 126 - 156
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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