The Matter of the Image: For a Material Aesthetics between Ontology and Linguistics


  • Anna Montebugnoli



matter and form, material aesthetics, metaphysics and ontology, metonymy and metaphor, Pavel Florensky, Roland Barthes, Arcimboldo, anachronism, icon


This essay aims at understanding the role of matter and outlining material aesthetics in the age of the digital image. To do so, it first analyses the traditional link between matter and form within the framework of classic ontology and aesthetics, according to which matter is the passive principle of reality subdued to the action of form and its logos. It then attempts to rethink this relationship through the activation of matter in its metaphysical, as well as aesthetical and linguistical dimensions. Such activation is outlined through the analysis of the concept of “concrete sense” and “concrete metaphysics” developed by Pavel Florensky in his inquiry into the Orthodox icon, and through that of “vital semantics” defined by Roland Barthes in his essay on 16th century Italian painter Arcimboldo. The argument is that these two concepts allow for a different relationship among art’s praxis, ontology, and linguistics, leading to the first formulation of a material aesthetics, while also rethinking the temporality of both traditional and digital image.


Article received: April 30, 2020; Article accepted: June 23, 2020; Published online: September 15, 2020; Original scholarly paper


Author Biography

Anna Montebugnoli

University of Bergamo,

Anna Montebugnoli graduated in Aesthetics and Theoretical philosophy at Sapienza University of Rome in 2014, with a thesis on the relation between the concept of matter and the generation of the mother. In 2018 she obtained a Ph.D. in Intercultural Humanistic Studies at the University of Bergamo with a thesis on the archeology of the representation of punishment. She is currently studying for an MA in History and Philosophy of Art at the University of Kent. Her research interests range from the history of aesthetics and ancient philosophy to feminist theory and the contemporary aesthetic debate – themes on which she published different articles and essays. She recently published a monography La rappresentazione del supplizio. Per un’archeologia dello spettacolo punitivo (Università degli studi di Bergamo, 2020).


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How to Cite

Montebugnoli, A. (2020). The Matter of the Image: For a Material Aesthetics between Ontology and Linguistics. AM Journal of Art and Media Studies, (22), 85–97.



Main Topic: Vertigo Aesthetics: Between Art – Resistance –Technology – Politics