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Ancient Art & Architecture : Comparanda

What are comparanda?

Ancient objects often lack a title and aritst's names are rare. Likewise the culture and date can be unclear.  Researchers get around these obstacles by finding as many similar pieces, or comparanda, possible; as the number of similar objects increases so does confidence in the attribution of date, location, and subject. 

How to find comparanda:

1. Start with the collector or the museum

2. Search museums with major Egyptian, Roman or Greek collections

3.  Search other reliable image collections

Allen Memorial Art Museum

For objects in the AMAM check their collection catalogs, listed in the Allen Memorial Art Museum Objects research guide and especially their "E-Museum" catalog (select "Collection" in the search box).  Some objects are accompanied by essay, bibliographies, etc.; follow links labeled More Information or View PDF :

Museums with major collections of ancient art

Areas of comparison

Find comparanda that share one or more of the following characteristics with your object:

1. What?    What type of object?     What materials were used?

2. When?   Century / decade / year?     Dynastic/Stylistic period?

3. Where?  Geographic location?  Culture (ex: Upper Rhine, Egyptian Rome)

4. Subject / Iconography? 

Identify attributes and then their meaning:  
TYPE (ex: satyr)
THEME or SUBJECT (ex: 12 labors of Hercules),
MOTIFS or SYMBOLS (ex: Head of Janus)

What is iconography?

Iconography is the process of identifying, gathering and interpreting themes, motifs and symbols. In western European art Iconography, (interpreting the meaning of subjects and symbols), begins with the ancient period; the study of ancient iconography is important for iconographic research throughout western art. 

Useful image collectons