The Interartistic Phenomenon

Through Montaigne’s Essays

by Vassilena Kolarova (Author)
©2018 Monographs 336 Pages


The book explores the term of «interartistic phenomenon» that Vassilena Kolarova introduces in the semiotic field of intermedial researches. The writer manifests the existence of the interartistic phenomenon which expresses the relation arising between arts at the time of an aesthetic perception of a work of art. Her concept of interartistic phenomenon differs from intertextuality since it affects arts. The semiotic analysis is concentrated on the works of Michel de Montaigne focusing the research on his famous «Essays» and «The Diary of Montaigne’s Travels». The aim of the research is to study the work of Montaigne as a work of art in first place. The varieties of the «interartistic phenomenon» which exist in the work of Montaigne are analyzed in light of the artistic vocabulary he is using to qualify his work. The author of the book takes notice of the interartistic conception in the work of Montaigne revealed by the convergence of nature and art, particularly in the diary of Montaigne’s travels. Here the author studies the interartistic phenomenon in the context of the Renaissance and its evolution from ancient philosophy (Horace – Ut pictura poesis, Philostrate – ekphrasis) through Renaissance (Leonardo da Vinci’s Paragone) to modern ideas whereas the research is done from a theoretical point of view.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • A Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Part One. The Theoretical Foundations of the Interartistic Phenomenon
  • Chapter I. The Interaction Between Literature and the Other Arts
  • The interartistic approach as methodology
  • The relationships of the arts in the text, the origin and evolution of this problem
  • The icon
  • Iconicity
  • Artistic origin
  • Iconography
  • The interartistic phenomenon and the intermediality of the arts
  • Etymological comment on inter and medium
  • The interartistic phenomenon
  • The overflow of shades between literature, the art of painting and music
  • The intertextuality and the interartistic phenomenon
  • From transtextuality to pure transcendence
  • Mixed genre
  • The artistic text
  • The interartistic mise en abyme
  • The rise of the interartistic phenomenon
  • Kant and the arts
  • Peirce and the Phenomenon
  • Polyvalence of the triangle…
  • The pyramid
  • The metaphor
  • The symbol and the sign
  • Etymology of the symbol
  • Cassirer and the conception of symbolic forms
  • Language and art as symbolic forms
  • The Divine and the symbolic form
  • Biblical origin
  • Geistesgeschichte
  • Distinctive feature of the artistic symbolic form
  • The artistic space and time
  • The pure form
  • Divine Love and Gifts
  • Sketch
  • Chapter II. The Specular Metaphor As An Interartistic Mise En Abyme
  • Interartistic figures of style
  • The meraviglia
  • The chiaroscuro
  • The mirror
  • The reflexion of the floating image or the metamorphosis of specular vitality
  • The passage…
  • The interpictorial mirror of rhetorical figures
  • Specular writing
  • Mirror in Colours
  • The revelation of God
  • Creation en abyme
  • The essence of metaphor
  • Intermusical painting of the reflexion of Narcissus and Echo
  • The aesthetics of interartistic symbolism
  • The scientific and artistic glass in symmetrical reflection
  • Part Two. Montaigne and the Rise of the Interartistic Genre
  • Chapter III. The Essay as Interartistic Genre
  • The essay as an interartistic phenomenon
  • Interferences of literary genres and artistic genres in the field of art theory – Similarities and parallels
  • The frivolity of an artistic spirit or the revelation of the universal interartistic?
  • The interartistic function of tropes: allegory, metaphor, symbol, comparison…
  • Diversity of the interartistic sketches of the “self-portrait” drawn by Montaigne
  • The baroque and the irregular pearl of the arts
  • Reading and writing – artistic activities
  • The relationship between the two levels of the sign in Hjelmslev and its meaning for the essay as an interartistic genre
  • Aesthetic constellations of the interartistic Configurations and polyvalences of the interartistic phenomenon in the field of literary theory: interpictoriality, intermusicality…
  • Ut pictura poesis by Horace
  • The paragon of Leonardo da Vinci
  • The parallel and the correspondence of the arts
  • The Divine Spirit
  • The Gesamtkunstwerk – work of art of the future, of eternity?
  • Part Three. The Interartistic Analysis
  • Chapter IV. The Spatio-Temporal Axis of the Self-Portrait
  • The varieties of the interartistic phenomenon and its manifestations in Montaigne’s works of art
  • The artistic dimension of time
  • The interartistic movement of the self-portrait
  • The interpictorial festoons of mannerism
  • The labyrinth of allongeails as interarchitectural elements
  • Intersculpturality
  • Intermusicality
  • Chapter V. The Garden of the Arts
  • The coloured sketch
  • Eternal colours
  • Interartistic vision through blue and yellow
  • The light of water
  • Illumination
  • Specular reflections in green
  • The blue of the earth
  • The Divine
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography

← 10 | 11 →


Necessity of the concept and the term interartistic phenomenon

The late Renaissance in France allows for an interdisciplinary approach to works of art. An exemplary work from this point of view, and baroque in the broadest sense of the term, is that of Montaigne. We bring together his two written works, the Essays and the Journal de Voyage, in order to explore traces left by Montaigne in the interartistic furrow of his writings. These are completed in most unusual fashion in the interdisciplinary context on the boundary between the arts. Undertaking the vision of this field of exploration opened up to the flow of the arts in the text, we broaden out to other authors approached by Montaigne in his texts or which refer to his written or implicit thoughts. We shall broaden out the scope of our argument on the interartistic to include works which reflect back in a mirrored fashion the mannerist literary reflexion of Montaigne which is inclined to metamorphose in pictorial, sculptural, architectural or indeed musical and cinematic terms. The authors quoted at the boundary of the commentary on Montaigne don’t explain his work in an interartistic way. They have the role of making his thought explicit and approaching his text with a view to throwing greater light onto the infinite wealth of his writing. This is why we situate the interartistic study of the text in the context of intermedial studies in order to see the links created and distance taken by the interartistic in relation to them.

In the context of intermedial studies and from an international point of view, it is becoming increasingly necessary to carry out research on the specific relationship between the arts, as a specific field of the interartistic domain arising from intertextuality.

The questions with which we are concerned here relate to a specific part of the overall study of intermediality – the artistic field. The term “intermediality” applies both to artistic activity and to the socio-cultural field, but it does not make an explicit difference between the intermediality of the arts and the generality of intermedial practice. We wish to highlight the specificity of the relationship between the arts through the interartistic, and propose the term “interartistic phenomenon” to clarify the relationship of proximity which exists between the arts. We wish to fill this gap in the scientific field which for its part calls for the constitution of a specific instance for the expression of the relationships between the arts and their modelling in the context of any art form.

We rediscover the interartistic phenomenon in genres at their origins, as in Montaigne’s essay. Being of interartistic origin, the essay drives creators to continue to work in this direction in later times, as is the case for the creators of artist books. ← 11 | 12 →

The most unique effect demonstrated by the interartistic phenomenon through the work of Montaigne is the combination of the arts in a single work. His work of art endlessly forms various configurations to the point of recreating in quite original manner the relationship between the arts at the moment of any interpretation of the Essays and Journal de Voyage. In the moment in which we interpret Montaigne’s work, the interartistic phenomenon manifests itself differently, in a single place and moment in time. Its first variations are interpictoriality and intermusicality… through which we grasp the infinite manifestations of the Spirit.

Research objectives

We have proposed to undertake this study for the following reasons: our interest has been aroused by the interartistic question:

This brief overview proves the great similarity between the arts, along with their shared foundation as means of expression of the soul, despite the differences observed between them and the preferences of artists for any particular field. From this point of view the study of art in general is very important for the literary work, following the pre-eminence of any art form in the text. As the field of exploration is broadened out, it is possible to stand back from the strictly literary analysis to seek for a deeper artistic approach (including the area of other art forms) which would allow for a greater knowledge of textuality, itself belonging to the artistic fabric.

Renaissance literature in particular, as distant in time as that of Montaigne, presupposes such a reading. We will return to this illumination of the idea in the chapter detailing the spatio-temporal axis of the self-portrait when we situate the work in time through the study of Daniel Arasse, along with the chapter defining ← 12 | 13 → the unpredictable contours of the Montaignian genre, because in the light of the aesthetics of reception, reading and writing turn out to be of a broader aesthetic and artistic order.


Since intermediality is linked to new techniques, the intermedial space is broadening and is presented as a general theory of the medium. Its possibilities are manifested in a network which allows a whole to be virtually discerned.

An object of such meta-theoretical scope cannot fail to call for a transdisciplinary methodology; this framework transcends the specific theories of relationships. This methodology ought therefore to be founded on the general theory of relationships1.

The methodology of the intermediality of the arts varies according to two main schools: the German, which insists on the indissociability of the media, because a given work of art is only a different expression of other works of art, and the Canadian, which includes the surrounding environment in the interpretation of the work of art because a work of art does not directly express other works or realities; it does so through the surrounding space.

The questions with which we are concerned here relate to a particular section of studies on intermediality, i.e. the artistic field. The term intermediality applies both to artistic activity and to the socio-cultural field, but does not make explicit the intermediality between the arts and intermediality in general. If we compare a video to a painting we will see that even where there are points of intersection at the artistic level, a divergence is established at the technological level. Nowadays we speak about remediation2 of the Montaigne’s portrait when visualized on video (or web page) or in the text of his books whereby the portrait is revived like a cinematic screen. In both cases the interartistic exists and it is essential.

We wish to highlight the specificity of the relationship between the arts through the interartistic by narrowing yet further the field of the intermediality of the arts. We would like to clarify the close relationship which exists between the arts in order to apply it as a methodology in the study of a work of art. We wish to fill a gap in the scientific field: the necessity of making felt the particular ← 13 | 14 → constitution of the relationships between the arts and setting out their interaction in certain works of art.

The study which we propose highlights the interartistic phenomenon in Montaigne’s literary work by also approaching partially this problematics of the work of art in general through the comparisons which relate his work to pictorial, architectural and sculptural works. We undertake a study dedicated to the artistic field in the Essays in order to shed light on the many aspects presented by it through the works quoted by Montaigne.

In the first instance we apprehend textuality as an artistic foundation. This idea flows from the fact that textuality is reduced to literary textuality. Here we follow the idea of Gérard Genette that literature is also an art form; this conception is present in Montaigne (III, 5) (“All magistrature, as all art, casts its end outside itself. Nulla ars in se versatur – No art has its end in itself”). We would like to bring an important precision on this subject, which is the particularity of the Essays as a Renaissance work situated it in the context of the baroque. There are two opposing visions of the work, i.e.:

1) the work is an end in itself

2) outside the work of art the end is not only a work; it can be something else, notably an idea which opens up the work in the direction of life

The second vision is ours and gives greater richness to the conceptualisation of the work of art which it contextualises as it situates it in a broader space. In this way it sets up the idea of a work of art which is not an end in itself. Literature is woven of artistic, life-giving threads; Montaigne indeed establishes the correlation between magistrature and art. Art opens up to life.

This fact would give us greater knowledge of literary textuality, being itself a part of the artistic fabric. It is for this reason that Genette encompasses works of art to reduce them to the work of art. He analyses artisticity in his work L’Œuvre de l’art showing that perception of any piece of art may vary significantly according to the recipient’s learning, memory, expectation, and attention. ← 14 | 15 →

Unlike artisticity, the interartistic phenomenon3 expresses a mixture of artistic hybrid fields. Here perception is shaped by the interaction of those artistic fields in the piece of art. Therefore it depends not only on the recipient, but mainly on the different artistic fields (literature, music, painting etc.) contained in the piece of art. In this way literature enters the framework of the artistic. This is the source of the difficulty in forming or identifying genres belonging to the same artistic fabric.

In the second instance the question of the perception of textuality as an interartistic element is situated in the context of a broader exploration of the problem.

In the Dictionnaire International des Termes Littéraires sur Internet, the term interart, including a list of terms referring to it, expresses as a reality of the first importance: the relationship between the arts. This is a definition of the first order. The list of terms close to it includes: miseen abyme, ekphrasis, artist book, hypertext, intermediality, media, cultural blending, photo, rewriting (which is in fact a recent activity, as a term)and so on. Given the broad field encompassed by intermediality in contemporary international studies, the field ought to be reduced to several areas, as has already been done in recent years in the scientific arena, where it is rather in the process of being defined. Several divisions have already been established, among which is intermediality, concerning the relationship between art forms, and which we name interartistic phenomenon, being precisely related to the relationships which bring the arts together. Several differentiations of the intermedial field have already been established, including the intermediality between the arts which we call by the concept and term of the interartistic phenomenon, like a new category in the intermedial field. The interartistic phenomenon refers to the relationship between the arts and arises in a single place and moment in the work of art when there is a confrontation between two or more art forms.

Methods of analysis

1. As the concept which we are studying has an overarching character, we analyse it in the first case from a symbolic and semiotic point of view; these two axes overlap and complete one another throughout our analysis.

2. The second prism through which we filter the present study is that of poetics and aesthetics, which are mixed at the semiotic level. We wish to draw conclusions in order to establish an interartistic approach in literary theory, and to uncover an intermedial structure of the arts through the corpus of ← 15 | 16 → works studied and the observation of the changing genre of works in time and space. We emphasise the particularity of the interartistic analysis of the Journal de Voyage and the Essays of Montaigne; his works are emblematic for the illustration in the artistic field in general of these multiple relationships between the arts. We would insist on the fact that from the interartistic analyses undertaken we propose to demonstrate the specificity of the essay as an interartistic genre, because we wish to demonstrate that the essay of Montaigne, as he founds the genre, arises from the multiple relationships between the threads of energy of the arts; consequently this is a newly conceived genre out of which the interartistic phenomenon can be discerned. Here are two important points to which we will draw the reader’s attention:

1. On the one hand the importance of Montaigne’s work as an interartistic work where the interartistic phenomenon is manifested in all its specificity, as an original work in the configuration of the structure being studied, and an emblematic work of art for the existence of the interrelation between the arts

2. On the other hand, Montaigne’s work insists on that which is not valid for any work being studied for the configuration of the interartistic phenomenon as it changes from one manifestation to another, even though the wealth of interpretations which it permits is limited to the presence of the arts in a work which becomes the receptacle for several art forms in their interaction. The interpretation of the work of art being studied, which flows from it once this delimitation is established, proves to be endless.

This is because art is endowed with an undefinable possibility for meaning. The interartistic analysis of the Essays is distinguished by the rise of a genre, which at its foundation is interartistic. Of course, Montaigne affirms the essay both for posterity and to our modernity and post-modernity. This new genre is rich in connotations which allow a large range of possible interpretations. Essays are written after him on other subjects than art, for example on ecology or any other subject free from limits in time and space. This is the advantage of the productive approach which he offers in his steps as a free thinker, modelling his work in order to construct an exemplary work of art which would drive others after him to follow the spirit and tone of his discovery. He opens the door on a multiplicity of interpretations of the essay, even when attention is not given to this vital element of its constitution as a genre particularly interartistic at its origins. Little attention is granted to it because the essay is promulgated as literary ground, a recipient of thought displayed as content, a pleated cape with countless turns of thought. Thought floats like a flood of ideas which pours out over an ever unfinished page… However, if the outlines of the essay were imagined as a genre from a theoretical point of view, and this is what we wish to highlight, from a ← 16 | 17 → point of view of form, we would see that it represents an interartistic phenomenon par excellence. This is of the utmost importance for two precise reasons:

o to discover Montaigne’s essay as a genre which is interartistic from the outset and which allows a similar interpretation for other later authors… Thus to demonstrate the abundance of ideas which it brings about.

o to demonstrate the possibility of interpreting a genre of literary theory as interartistic and consequently to deduce that the interartistic is a part of it. It is a constitutive part of aesthetic and literary knowledge as a methodology for interpreting figures of style and genres with an interartistic colour if they engage the arts in interaction.

For the reasons mentioned above, we consider that it would be preferable to focus on Montaigne’s essay rather from a theoretical point of view, to see how he himself speaks of it, of this side which is hidden to the unwary reader. At its origins the essay takes the form of an interartistic phenomenon, because Montaigne variously qualifies it as a cento, a painting, marquetry, rhapsody… It changes its interartistic form, so fluid and fluctuating is it, like the later thought of an essay. However, whether they are interartistic or not, the foundation of all later essays is interartistic. Like any literary genre, the essay in general is not always interartistic, but certain genres or figures of style may be constantly or in certain cases, according to the context under study and the point of view from which they are taken. Figures of style like hypotyposis are always interartistic; others like anaphora sometimes are, because the intermusical or interpictorial effect is neither obligatory nor always obvious. There are others which are by no means meant to be interartistic like irony or litotes, unless they are set into a discourse in images. Others like pleonasm or anacoluthon (non-tropes according to Fontanier’s classification), periphrase, autonomasia (tropes for Fontanier) are not supposed to be. On the other hand a figure of the image like metaphor is always interartistic, dazzling in a whirl in all its manifestations. We discover its possibilities, which turn out to be endless, through the work La métaphore baroque4, which poses the question of metaphor as a figure of incandescence, which does not fix rhetorical moulds but on the contrary always drives their continued creation. From this point of view of the extension of meaning and the application of metaphor, Emanuele Tesauro provides an innovative vision of metaphor. This conception of metaphor, essential to baroque aesthetics, allows an interartistic approach and presupposes an original vision of interpictoriality. It is this which makes the approach absolutely interartistic in relation to Montaigne’s work, because the fluidity which belongs to metaphor promotes creation. It is always in movement, liable to metamorphose. We attempt to bring to light the convergence of the concetti of Tesauro and the unfettered imagination of Montaigne in the best ← 17 | 18 → sense of the term; it is in this way that he unsettles the empire of common places of old rhetoric, in order to construct another in absolutely original fashion; its consequences are interartistic, as is its vision. Montaigne’s metaphor overwhelms the text, and moves it in the manner of an aquatic dream.

Through the study of the works of Montaigne taken in their chronological succession, we propose an interartistic analysis, undertaken as an interartistic methodology of the interdisciplinary field of the arts, which clearly demonstrates the evolution of his original interartistic thinking. His work is exceptional for his specific and multiple relationships with his vision of art which is likened to that of Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci, but in literature.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (December)
literature art semiotics montaigne Interartistic phenomenon
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018. 336 pp., 18 fig. col.

Biographical notes

Vassilena Kolarova (Author)

Vassilena Kolarova graduated Arts and Languages from École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, in Paris, 2010 and holds a Ph.D. in Literature. She introduced the term of interartistic phenomenon in the semiotic field, exploring the relations between arts in work of many artists from different ages: from Jean-Paul Sartre, Kandinsky, Claude Monet and Marcel Proust to Michel Butor and George Badin. Her publications are theoretical and develop the interartistic analysis with interpicturality, intersculpturality, and other terms derived from the concept of the interartistic phenomenon.


Title: The Interartistic Phenomenon
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336 pages