Prof. Dr. Adem Genç (*)


“Intertextuality in painting” refers to far more than the influences of painters on each other. Rather, it is primarily associated with certain artists who deliberately adopt, inherit or take over iconic subject matters from the famous masters of the past. This paper presents an innovative approach to representational paintings that depict iconic figures which are acquainted with certain feelings, opinions, beliefs and judgments of the time in which they were produced. Situating the term “intertextuality” within the communicative context, this research focuses on pictorial representations of conventional images in western art. In this sense, it is assumed that the work presented here will have profound implications for future studies of art history and criticism.


Materials and methods:

Producing and gathering information from the written sources and studies on particular cases and individual observation. Individual research on iconic paintings, (such as Papal portraits) with the attempt to understand where, when, how and under what circumstances the works have been produced.


Türkçe Özet:


Etkileşim ve Metinlerarasılık

Resimde metinlerarasılık, bir ressamın diğer bir ressamdan etkilenmesinden daha karmaşık bir olguya işaret eder. Terim temelde, sanat tarihinde öne çıkmış kimi sanatçıların, daha önce yaşamış ünlü bir sanatçıdan bilinçli olarak alıntı yapmaları, aynı konulu eserlerini, kendi tarzlarına uyarlamalarıyla ilintilidir. Bu bildiri, figüratif resme yaratıcı bir bakış diyalektiği önermekte; Batı sanatında ikonik figürleriyle bilinen ünlü bazı sanatçıların, belli duygu, düşünce, inanç ve estetik yargıları ortaya koyan eserlerini incelemektedir. Metinlerarasılık, iletişimsel bağlamda, yapıtların etkileşimsel yönüne atfen kullanılan bir terimdir. Bu düşünceyle, bu bildiride, Batı sanatında, ikonik figürleriyle öne çıkan ustaların aynı konulu belli yapıtları üzerinde durulmaktadır. Bu açıdan, burada sunulan fikirlerin, sanat tarihi ve eleştiri alanında yapılan ve bundan sonra yapılacak olan çalışmalara önemli bir akıl yürütme yöntemi oluşturacağı da düşünülebilir.


Kaynaklar, konu maddesi ve yöntem:

Bireysel araştırma, gözlem ve yayımlanmış kaynaklardan bilgi üretimi. İkonik resimlerin (Papa portreleri gibi) ne zaman, nasıl, ne maksatla ve hangi koşullarda üretildiklerine dair bireysel analiz ve karşılaştırmalar.



In this paper, the term “intertextuality” is used primarily in association with the following senses:

– Saussure’s idea of stressing the importance of the relationship of signs and pictorial images

– Structuralist semiotics’s approaches to treat the individual text as discrete.

– Creativity and expressiveness under the influence of prominent artists of the past.

– The semiotic notion of intertextuality; Julia Kristeva’s ideas of shared codes which underline that “every text and every reading depends on prior codes” (Chandler, 2004). 111


*Professor of Art PhD, Beykent University / Istanbul


Many art works produced in accord with the postmodern sense of intertextuality are simply interpreted as attacking iconic and traditional art in order to promote some avant-garde movements and ideals. For example, Marcel Duchamp’s well known ready-made “L.H.O.O.Q” (Figure 1) is a pun. It is a humorous use of words aimed to create several possible meanings. It is generally assumed that he (Duchamp) decided to use his ready-mades not only to critique established art conventions, but also to force the audience to discard their preconceived ideas and look at something with a completely different point of view. Moreover, by making the gender of the Mona Lisa ambiguous, Duchamp presents his audience a new perspective on a classic work of art.

Figure 1: Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q. (1919), “Elle a chaud au cul”, (Eng. “There is fire down below)” 1919. Ready-Made, Museum of Modern Art, New York. The name of the piece, L.H.O.O.Q., is a pun (humorous use of words) since the letters when pronounced in French form the sentence stated above.


At the same time, the key words or “core terms” of this paper “influence” and “intertextuality” may have some common denominators in the history of criticism. But in fact, they are fundamentally different in a number of ways. The word influence, has a Latin origin, and is often used to denote a sense of the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or any direct exercise of command.


1 Daniel CHANDLER. (2004). Semiotics the Basics. First ed.. Routledge. London.


But the term, “intertextuality” is certainly not a simple term used in a stylish way when talking about allusion and influence. It can refer to the artist’s interpretation of another artist’s work of the past with a conscious citation of compositional structure, and configurations as well as the author’s borrowing and transformation of prior texts.


The questions of how various subjects have been taken by different artists, how they have been altered in the course of time and how specific changes were envisioned by individual artists can also be investigated by a historical approach to intertextuality.


Works of art -especially paintings- are not only produced in response to social reality. The main governing point (or rather governing motivation) in many cases are the codes and conventions established by the previous works of art. Therefore inter-textual analysis is a contribution towards understanding all that is most historical about works of art.


As a reflection of actuality as for instance, an effective portrait of a seated model regressing inward and can sustain many alternative interpretations when produced by another artist with an approach and understanding of the sense of classical intertextuality.


Perhaps the first inter-textual relations in post-modern terms can be derived clearly from the version of Papal portraits during the Renaissance. (Kaminsky:80-83) 2 For example, before the16th century, all Papal portraits presented the Pope in prayer. In many occasions the Pope was painted in a kneeling position together with his cardinals in a narrative context. In 1511 however, Raphael abruptly broke this tradition. He depicted Pope Julius II in a moment of introspection, sitting alone in an armchair.

Figure 2 : Raphael, Pope Julius II, c.1511, oil on wood, 108×80.7 cm.

National Gallery, London


Julius II belonged to the della Rovere family. He was a forceful ruler, who reasserted his power over the Papal States by military action. He patronized the arts and ordered the rebuilding of St Peter’s in Rome. The painter and biographer Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574) wrote of Raphael’s early years in Rome: ‘And at this time… he also made a portrait of Pope Julius in a picture in oils, so true and so lifelike, that the portrait caused all who saw it to tremble as if it had been the living man himself.’ The painting seems to have been displayed in the Roman Church of Santa Maria del Popolo which had been redecorated at the expense of the della Rovere family. The format was to be exceedingly influential on subsequent papal portraiture. (

2 Marion KAMINSKI (1998). Masters of Italian Art / Titian. Könemann


Raphael’s pioneering pose — the three-quarter view of the seated Pope with his eyes looking down and his forearms resting on the papal throne — defined the style of papal portraits for centuries to come. In scientific parlance, Raphael’s contribution was the key breakthrough in the field of papal portraiture. (Figure 2).


The next advance did not come until 1546. Titian was sent from Venice to Rome to paint Pope Paul III. He adopted Raphael’s general model in terms of pose and the mood of the seated Pope without a hat (Figure 3a,b).



Figure 3a: Titian,

Portrait of Pope Paul III

  1. 1543. Oil on canvas, 106×85 cm.

Cathedral Museum, Toledo


Figure 3b Titian

Pope Paul III and His Grandsons Ottavio and

Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. 1545-1546. Oil on canvas.

Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples


Titian adopted Raphael’s general model in terms of pose and tenor, but departed from it in a radically original way. Firstly, he used a bare minimum number of hues: Red and white. He applied these two colours in pleasantly ingenious gradations so as to give a convincing soft feeling to the drapery and clothing.


One hundred years after Titian’s masterpiece, the Velázquez, (Spanish painter of the 17th century) journeyed to Rome. His style changed considerably as he traveled in Italy and absorbed the influence of the Venetian masters (Cumming,1998:46)3. He closely observed Titian’s seated portrait of Paul III and then requested permission to paint Pope Innocent X.

3 Robert CUMMING (1998) Great Artists, DK Publishing Inc. N.Y.


Innocent X in those days was arguably known as the worst of all Popes. He was hot-tempered, paranoid, and ruthless.

What is remarkable about Velázquez’s portrait is how he paints Innocent X in the Raphael-Titian tradition: Velasquez satisfied his demanding client with a flattering portrait, but at the same time he conveyed a hint of the Pope’s explosive personality and corrupt character.


The influence and intertextuality in this painting are evident: The composition of the enthronement itself is strikingly similar to Raphael and Titian. The use of opposing elements, such as colours, forms, or lines in proximity to produce an intensified effect in the works are almost identical with Titian (Figure 4).


Figure 4, Velasquez Portrait of Innocent X, c. 1650

Oil on canvas, 141×119 cm

Galleria Doria-Pamphilj, Rome


But it is marked by many artists that Velázquez’s crimson tints are so marvelously orchestrated in tonal harmonies. Reynolds, the influential 18th century English portrait painter, thought Velázquez’s Innocent X to be the finest painting he had ever seen.

Maurice Serullaz, Curator in chief of the Cabinet des Dessins, Musée du Louvre stated the following in his bibliographical outline on Velasquez:


Comparison of this masterpiece with Titian’s Pope Paul III, and his Grandsons Alessandro Cardinal Farnesse and Ottavio Farnesse (Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples) is especially significant and Velasquez’s use of colour and his sensitive touch call to mind the Venetian painting technique that is more specifically characterized as “Titianesque” (Serullaz, 1981:10×2)4

For the next three centuries, the field of papal iconography, both conceptually and technically did not change much. Raphael’s model was followed by Titian and Titian’s model was followed by Velázquez until British artist Francis Bacon’s interpretation of Pope Innocent X in 1953.


Francis Bacon took the subject matter in a similar posture and sitting angle. But his placement of the Pope on a throne resembles somebody sitting in an electric chair. The enthronement in this case looks ghastly and horrific as cordoned off by yellow hexagonal railing and enchased in vertical lines that run up and down in the picture like the iron bars of a prison cell in a style appropriate for Expressionism. The difference in brightness between the light and dark areas of a picture and the use of opposing elements in Bacon’s interpretation of enthronement, such as colors, forms or linear construction in proximity intensify the graphic expression and the aura of the work in general (Figure 5).



Figure 5 Francis Bacon. Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X. 1953.

Oil on canvas. 153 x 118.1 cm.

Nathan Emory Coffin Collaboration, Des Moines Art Centre, Tate Liverpool.


Bacon’s screaming pope shakes people out of their traditional way of thinking and touches them at their very core.

4 Maurice SERULLAZ(1981) Velasquez, Harry.N. Abrams, Inc. Publications N.Y.


Francisco Goya would have almost certainly known Venetian painter Tiepolo since Goya left the Rococo far behind and turned away from Baroque devices in his works. So, he was a realist when he depicted the war the way it really was (Figure 6 and 7). Tiepolo tended to glorify war in remote allegorical approaches seen in his famous fresco “Aeneas”. But Goya’s approach was different. Perhaps, he was the first artist to see war for the horror that it is and to depict it in its true colors: in its full inhumanity without heroes (Carpenter, 1982: 220-221)5.



Figure 6/a Giambatista

Cupid Dressed as Aeneas 268×347 Tiepolo

230 x 240 cm, Fresco, Villa Valmarana

Figure 6/b Goya,

The Third of May 1808,

Prado, Madrid


In 1680 Spanish painter Juan Carreno de Miranda, court artist to Charles II, painted two decorative oils of an overweight female dwarf “La Monstrua”, both nude and clothed. (Figure 7/a, b)


According to Sarah Simon’s comprehensive account which places Goya within the context of his Spanish heritage, “La Monstrua” came to Spanish court in the same year that Carreno painted her. Her real name was Eugenia Martinez Vallejo and her portrait was commissioned by the king who provided the gorgeous red, white and gold dress she wears in the clothed “La Mostrua” painting below.


At six years of age she weighed more than two full grown women and was precociously developed. In the nude painting, she is given the identity of the classical god of wine, Bacchus, probably to mask her nudity with a decorous mythological disguise.

5 James M. CARPENTER (1982) Visual Art, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc, London


Figure 7/a

Goya, Juan Carreno de Miranda,

La Mostura (Nude), c.1680

Oil on canvas, 165×108 cm,

Museo del Prado, Madrid


Figure 7/b

Goya, Carreno de Miranda,

La Mostura (Clothed), c.1680

Oil on canvas,165×107 cm,

Museo del Prado, Madrid

During his stay on the Duchess Alba’s estate, Goya had made drawings of nude and clothed women. He is pictorially consistent in the elaboration of the clothed Maya’s face with rouge, powder and kohl while leaving the nude Maya’s face pale. Clothed Maya wears Turkish trousers, golden Turkish slippers and an embroidered waistcoat. Under the influence of Orientalism, such attire, together with satin bed coverings, was the standard accompaniment of Turkish style portraits in England and France. In the late 18th century similar Eastern style figures entered French painting in the early nineteenth century such as fashionable nude “Odalisque” whose supreme portrayer was Jacques Louis David’s pupil, Jean August Dominique Ingres .


Figure 8/a Goya, Nude Maya, 1798-1800

Oil on canvas, 97X190 cm.

Museo del Prado Madrid


Figure 8/a Goya, Clothed Maya, 1798-1805

Oil on canvas, 97X190 cm.

Museo del Prado Madrid


For this reason, it is arguable that, Francesco Goya’s famous “Nude Maya” and “Clothed Maya”, (Figure 8/a, b) may have their influential root in the seventeenth century.


These two famous paintings have come to symbolize Goya’s life and art almost as much as his other famous other pair of paintings “The Second of May 1808 (Figure 9) and “The Third of May 1808”. They (the Mayas) date from the period of the artist’s life when having created the Caprichos, he continued to analyze, in his personal drawings, the sexual freedoms and sensuous attraction of young women (Symmons, 1998:212)6


Figure 9 Goya, The Second of May 1808 (The Charge of the Mamelukes)

Oil on canvas, 1814

266 cm × 345 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid





  1. In classical and postmodern sense, intertextuality has a long tradition in European painting.


  1. 2. Many works in the history of art, especially in the history of Western painting, are not only produced in response to the social reality: Perhaps, the main governing points (or rather governing motivation) in many cases are the codes and conventions established by the previous works of art. Therefore inter-textual analysis is a contribution towards understanding all that is most historical about works of art.


  1. These shared properties of association cannot easily be perceived without expert knowledge and keen discrimination in matters of taste to discover and decipher these codes and relations.


  1. Any convention or tradition encoded by an artist in his or her work requires a sophisticated cognitive logic, to discover the sum of all the attributes and thought related to the meaning of the art work in question.


  1. Finally, Turkish painting in the Western art traditions has not been analyzed in this article for a reason. Even though the work of 19th century’s most prominent academic artist Jean Leon Gerome has influenced some Turkish painters towards depicting bathing nudes as subject matters, it is not quite possible to detect any artists sequentially borrowing their subject matter from predecessors of the stated Western trends.





1- Daniel CHANDLER (2004). Semiotics the Basics. First ed. Routledge. London.


2- Marion KAMINSKI (1998). Masters of Italian Art / Titian. Könemann.


3- Robert CUMMING (1998). Great Artists, DK Publishing Inc. N.Y.


4- Maurice SERULLAZ (1981). Velasquez, Harry.N. Abrams, Inc. Publications N.Y.


5- James M. CARPENTER (1982). Visual Art, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc, London


6- Sarah SYMMONS (1998). Goya, Phaidon.


*Professor of Art PhD, Beykent University / Istanbul


1 Daniel CHANDLER. (2004). Semiotics the Basics. First ed.. Routledge. London.

2 Marion KAMINSKI (1998). Masters of Italian Art / Titian. Könemann

3 Robert CUMMING (1998) Great Artists, DK Publishing Inc. N.Y.

4 Maurice SERULLAZ(1981) Velasquez, Harry.N. Abrams, Inc. Publications N.Y.

5 James M. CARPENTER (1982) Visual Art, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc, London

6 Sarah SYMMONS (1998). Goya, Phaidon .


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