Between describing and drawing: a "transcription error" in the illustration of the monstrificate fanciulle in the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

Linda Barcaioli


What does it happen when, in a verbal-visual text, images break free of textual constraints and deliver their own message? In Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, Aldo Manuzio’s work dated 1499, the images that have a narrative function are spatially tied up to the text fragment that describes the relevant action. Conversely, images with a descriptive function serve as a graphic summary of the numerous details recorded by the main character. All except one: illustration number 73. It portrays the decorative pattern of a well in the temple of Venus Physizoa. The text’s author describes the image in great detail. Instead the illustrator draws some features, omits others and goes as far as to add a few details on his own initiative. This errand creates a de facto hybrid image: a 2.0 mermaid.


Iconography; Hypnerotomachia Poliphili; Aldo Manuzio

Full Text:

PDF (Italiano)


Calvesi 1996 = Maurizio Calvesi, La pugna d’amore in sogno di Francesco Colonna romano, Roma, Lithos, 1996.

Colonna 1980 = Francesco Colonna, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, edizione critica e commento a cura di Giovanni Pozzi e Lucia A. Ciapponi, Padova, Antenore, 1980, 2 voll.

Colonna 2010 = Francesco Colonna, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a cura di Marco Ariani e Mino Gabriele, Milano, Adelphi, 2010, 2 voll.

Muratova 2015 = Ksenija Muratova, Sedurre tra le onde. Le sirene nella miniatura, «Alumina», 13 (2015), n. 50, p. 42-49.

Pozzi 1993 = Giovanni Pozzi, Sull’orlo del visibile parlare, Milano, Adelphi, 1993.

DOI: 10.6092/issn.2283-9364/9502


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2019 Linda Barcaioli

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported License.

ISSN 2283-9364 – ISSN-L 2280-7934
The journal is hosted and mantained by ABIS-AlmaDL [privacy]