Om innehåll och utehåll i bilder

  • Bo Ossian Lindberg Art History, Åbo Akademi University, Finland


Title: About content and ‘extent’ in pictures
Despite the criticism levelled at it over the years, it is difficult to imagine a better tool for interpreting the meaning of images than Erwin Panofsky’s iconographic-iconological method. However, it is far from infallible. Above all, one tends, like Panofsky himself, to equate the results of interpretation with the content of the image (“intrinsic meaning or content”). But the meaning of an image is not synonymous with its content. Only that part of its meaning visible to the viewer can be described as content, the rest is added by the viewer in the interpretation process. The meaning of most images is actually inaccessible to pure observation. To denote those aspects of an image that are not included in the work but which reside only in the viewer’s head, the term ‘extent’ (Swedish: ‘utehåll’) is introduced, i.e. something that changes with time, place, culture and prior knowledge. The article illustrates the consequences of not distinguishing between what can actually be seen in images and what the viewer brings to them. It concludes with a critical examination of Panofsky’s own interpretation of Michelangelo’s Moses in S. Pietro in Vincoli.

How to Cite
LINDBERG, Bo Ossian. Om innehåll och utehåll i bilder. ICO Iconographisk Post. Nordisk tidskrift för bildtolkning – Nordic Review of Iconography, [S.l.], n. 2, p. 65-85, oct. 2021. ISSN 2323-5586. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 05 dec. 2023.