καθάπερ οὖν καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γραφῆς, ὅταν τις τοῖς χρώμασι τὸ μὲν ὅμοιον ποιήσῃ τῷ πόρρω τὸ δὲ τῷ πλήσιον, τὸ μὲν ἡμῖν ἀνακεχωρηκέναι δοκεῖ τῆς γραφῆς τὸ δὲ προέχειν, ἀμφοτέρων αὐτῶν ὄντων ἐπὶ τῆς αὐτῆς ἐπιφανείας

[...]So also in the case of painting, when one reproduces similarly in colours what is far away and what is close at hand, the former seems to us to retreat from the picture and the latter to stand out, though they are really both on the same surface. (Trans. Hett 1936)

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[...] De même, en peinture, quand quelqu'un présente sur le même tableau tel objet de loin, tel autre de près, le premier nous paraît comme reculer, le second comme avancer de la peinture, bien que tous deux soient peints sur une seule et même surface. (Trans. Reinach 1921)

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Commentary

  1. The treatise De audibilibus (On things heard) belongs to the Corpus Aristotelicum, although it was not authored by Aristotle. Instead, the author is believed to be a member of the Peripatetic School, such as Straton of Lampsakos, which means that the text would have been written sometime around the beginning of the 3rd century BC (Gottschalk 1968, pp. 453-455; Klein 1981, pp. 200-207). "De Audibilibus" deals with the mechanics of sounds, especially sounds made by the human voice, and shows a close connection with Problems 11 (Hett 1936, p. 49; Gottschalk 1968, pp. 437-440; Klein 1981, pp. 171-173; Louis 1993, pp. 1-6).
  2. This passage essentially compares a painter's technique with the way in which sounds are perceived. To explain, some sounds seem to be “closer” while others seem more “distant,” even if they originate from the same place. Similarly, in the case of painting, some colours appearing on a single surface seem to 'go back' (anachoréo) while others 'stand out' (proekein), and this interplay creates an impression of depth. According to Plutarch (De Gloria Atheniensium 346a), this technique was the specialty of the painter Apollodorus of Athens, who was nick-named the "skiagraphos" (literally: "shadow-painter." Usual meaning: "perspective-painter'). On Apollodoros of Athens and "skiagraphia," see texts 194 and 195.
  3. The technique of creating depth through the use of colours was used in Hellenistic painting and mosaic art. Examples of this include the painting decor of the 'Throne of Eurydice' and the 'Tomb of Persephone' (Vergina-Aigai, Macedonia), the 'Tomb of the Judgment' especially the metopes of 'the Battle of the Centaurs and Lapiths' (Lefkadia Macedonia), 'The hunt' at the 'Tomb of Philipp II' (Vergina) or the mosaic signed Sophilos in Thmuis (Maybe a portrait of the queen Berenice II, Egypt). All of these aforementioned works of art use the contrast between darker and luminous colours to suggest an effect of volume and depth (on this specific technique, see Brécoulaki 2006, pp. 439-450; 2007; Miller 2014, pp. 226-227; at Vergina-Aigai: Brécoulaki 2006, pp. 53-56, 66-76, pl. 7-9 and 93-96, pl. 11-23, pp. 103-128, pl. 26-43; at Lefkadia : Bruno 1981; Brécoulaki 2006, pp. 204-217, pl. 74-76; mosaics: Guimier-Sorbets & Nenna 1995; Guimier-Sorbets 2007).
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Bibliography

Aristoteles, De audibilus. 1981, translated by Klein, U., Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt;

Aristotle, Minor Works, 1936, translated by W. S. Hett, , Loeb Classical Library 307, Harvard University Press, Cambridge;

Brécoulaki, H. 2006, La peinture funéraire de Macédoine : emploi et fonction de la couleur, IVe-IIe siècles av. J.-C., Fondation nationale de la recherche scientifique, Athènes : Centre de recherches de l'antiquité grecque et romaine;

Brécoulaki, H. 2007, "Suggestion de la troisième dimension et traitement de la perspective dans la peinture ancienne de Macédoine" in Descamp-Lequime, S. (dir) Peinture et couleur dans le monde grec antique, Actes des journées, Auditorium du Louvre, 10 et 27 ,mars 2003 Musée de Louvre, Paris, pp. 81-93;

Brécoulaki, H., 2015, "Greek Painting and the Challenge of Mimesis" in Destrée & Murray (eds) A Companion to ancient aesthetics, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 218-236;

Bruno, V. 1981, " The painted metopes at Lefkadia and the problem of color in doric sculptured metopes" in American Journal of Archaeology 85, pp. 3-11;

Gottschalk, H.B. 1964, " The De coloribus and its author" in Hermes 92, pp. 59-85;

Gottschalk, H.B. 1968, " The De audibilibus and peripatetic aucoustics" in Hermes 96, pp. 435-460;

Guimier-Sorberts, A.-M. and Nenna, M.-D. 1995, "Réflexions sur la couleur dans les mosaïques hellénistiques : Délos et Alexandrie" In Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénistique, 119 (2), pp. 529-563;

Guimier-Sorbets, A.-M. 2007, " De la peinture à la mosaïque: problèmes de couleurs et de techniques à l'époque hellénistique" in Descamp-Lequime, S. (dir) Peinture et couleur dans le monde grec antique, Actes des journées, Auditorium du Louvre, 10 et 27 ,mars 2003 Musée de Louvre, Paris, pp. 205-217;

Miller, S. G. 2014, "Hellenistic painting in the Eastern Mediterranean, mid-fourth to mi-first century B.C." in Pollitt J.J. (ed) The Cambridge History of painting in the classical world, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 170-237;

Rouveret, A. 2014, Histoire et imaginaire de la peinture ancienne (Ve siècle av. J.-C.- 1er siècle ap. J.-C.), 2d edn., École Française de Rome, Rome.

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