‘Style is like a rainbow’. The need of a system of formal relations in digital art history


17-10-2021 14:00 - 16:00 GMT+1 || Join us on Zoom



  • Charles van den Heuvel - Huygens Institute for History and Culture of the Netherlands, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Veruska Carretta Zamborlini - Technological Center of the Federal University of Espírito Santo (UFES), Vitória, Brazil



In his seminal work The Shape of Time (1962), the art historian George Kubler compared style with a rainbow to stress that it can only perceived on a coincidental moment in time and place. In a later publication “Period, Style and Meaning in Ancient American Art”, Kubler stated “style pertains to timelessness” to elaborate on the limitations of this concept for periodization. For Kubler not only the history of style, but also descriptions of meaning of art (such as iconography) were too limited.  Instead, he proposed seeing art (in the widest sense of man-made object) “as a system of formal relations”.  In a previous study [1] we explored the implications Kubler’s replacement of style by “solutions” as input for modeling and visualizing periodization.  However, our model needs to be worked out in more detail not only in the linked data paradigm, but also to get a grip on computer vision of art using artificial intelligence. In this presentation – building on the previous study Hypericonics of Gerhard Jan Nauta (1993) - the unpublished classification system  developed by Henri van de Waal (the inventor of Iconclass) in the 1960/70s called Beeldleer (Iconology/Iconics) will be explored as a potential framework to describe structural forms and formal relations in “the making of art” in addition to/separable from symbolic expressions of meaning and of connoisseurship.

[1] Charles van den Heuvel and Veruska Zamborlini, ‘Modeling and Visualizing Storylines of Historical Interactions. Kubler’s Shape of Time and Rembrandt’s Night Watch’. In Richard Smiraglia and Andrea Scharnhorst (eds.), Linking Knowledge. Linked Data for Knowledge Organization and Visualization. Baden-Baden: Ergon Verlag 2021, pp. 99-141.


Charles van den Heuvel

Charles van den Heuvel is Head Research of the Department Knowledge and Art Practices of the Huygens Institute for History and Culture of the Netherlands in Amsterdam and professor Digital Methods and Historical Disciplines at the University of Amsterdam. He has a background in history of art specialized in the history of town planning, fortification, and architecture of the Early Modern Period (16th-17th Centuries) and worked in several cultural heritage institutions. Recent research interests are digital humanities, history of knowledge (in particular of knowledge circulation in the Republic of Letters) and history of library and information sciences. Currently, he is the principal investigator of the NWO-Large Investment Project: Golden Agents: Creative Industries and the Making of the Dutch Golden Age, The NWO-Smart Culture, Big Data and Digital Humanities Project: Virtual Interiors as Interfaces for Big Historical Data Research and the NWO-NWA science communication project: Through the lens of Antoni: How do you represent what you cannot see?


Veruska Carretta Zamborlini

Veruska Zamborlini is assistant professor at the Department of Informatics at the Technological Center of the Federal University of Espírito Santo (UFES). She received the Barchelor in Computer Science degree in 2008 from the Federal University of Espirito Santo (Vitoria, Brazil) and the Master in Informatics degree in 2011 from the same institution. She has a PhD degree from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) in the Knowledge Representation and Reasoning Group (KR&R). She recently was a post-doctoral specialist in ontologies at the University of Amsterdam. She has experience in Knowledge Representation and Conceptual Modeling, acting on the following topics: ontologies, UFO/OntoUML, semantic web, OWL, DL, LOD, Prolog, temporally changing information, medical informatics and digital humanities.

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