Ut Pictura Poesis

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[uut pik-too-ră poh-ees-is]

A phrase used by the Roman poet Horace in his Ars Poetica (c.20 bce), meaning ‘as painting is, so is poetry’. The phrase has come to stand for the principle of similarity between the two arts, an idea shared by many writers and artists of different periods and found in common metaphors of literary ‘depiction’ or ‘portrayal’. It held an important place in aesthetic debates of the late Renaissance and in the theories of neoclassicism, but was subjected to an important critique by the German dramatist and critic G. E. Lessing in his essay Laokoon (1766). The relationship between the two ‘sister arts’ is usually said to lie in their imitation of nature (see mimesis).

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art — Literature.

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