- the physical properties of the work such as its materials and the techniques used to work the materials; its shape, size, and texture; the way the artist has used key elements such as color, line, values of light and dark, the construction of space, proportions, scale, and so forth
- the way in which the artist has represented his/her subject matter, in other words, whether "according to nature" or "abstracted from nature"
- the specific way in which these characteristics and properties are handled determine the "style" of the work
- what is it, and how?
Iconography (Greek eikōn: image; graphia: writing). The term initially referred to a discipline auxiliary to archaeology, which identified, among other things, portraits on antique coins. From the 19th century onwards, however, the meaning of iconography was extended to cover the entire descriptive and classificatory investigation of subject matter in the arts. Since all art bears a theme or a motif, iconography is potentially applicable to works from any given period, and thus forms one of the most fundamental branches of research in the history of art. A straightforward use of iconographical analysis might for instance be the identification of a saint through his or her attributes, but equally much more complex programmes such as the elaborate allegories of a BAROQUE ceiling fresco can be decoded. Apart from classifying themes, motifs, attributes, allegories, and symbols, iconography also traces their historical development, focusing for example on the perpetuation of certain visual traditions and the resulting standardization of image formulas. Mesoamericans developed a distinctive 260-day ritual/divinatory calendar, which was certainly in use by the Late Formative Period. The 260-day Mesoamerican ritual/divinatory calendar, consists of 20 named days alternating with the numbers 1 to 13 (there are 260 possible combinations of day names and numbers--13 numbers x 20 day names=260 combinations). In Yucatec Maya, the ritual calendar is known as the tzolk'in; in Nahuatl, the Aztec language, the ritual calendar is named tonalpohualli.
The 260-day ritual/divinatory calendar is divided into 20 "weeks" of 13 days each, which are known as trecenas, from the Spanish word trece, thirteen. Each time the number 1 repeats in the cycle, a new trecena begins. Because there are 20 day names, the number 1 occurs 20 times in the cycle, and each trecena begins with a different day name.
In addition to the 260-day ritual/divinatory calendar, Mesoamericans used a 365-day vague year calendar. In Yucatec Maya, the 365-day vague year calendar is called the ha'b, and in Nahuatl, the xiuhpohualli ("year counting"). The vague year calendar consisted of 18 named months of 20 days each (18 months x 20 days each=360 days), known as veintenas, from Spanish veinte, twenty, plus a period of five inauspicious days known as the uayeb in Yucatec Maya and in Nahuatl as the nemontemi ("does not fill itself," "useless"). In Nahuatl, these 20-day months are known as meztli (literally "moon").
Each 365-day year took its name from that of the day of the ritual/divinatory calendar on which it began. Because of the sequencing, only 4 of the 20 day names of the tzolk'in/tonalpohualli could fall on the first day of the 365-day ha'b/xiuhpohualli; these four days are known as "year-bearers." And, because each of the four day names cycled with the numbers 1 to 13, 4 x 13=52 years had to elapse before a year name repeated. In other words, 52 years separate a 1 Ik' year from the next one of the same name. This period of 52 years is known as a Calendar Round.
In addition to the tzolk'in, the ha'b, and the Calendar Round, the Maya used a system for recording and situating time known as the Long Count or Initial Series. The Long Count begins dating from fixed point in past, for the Maya of the Late Formative and Classic Periods, 18.104.22.168.0. 4 Ahau 8 Kumk'u (11 August, 3114 BCE), is the date of creation of the then present era (a new cycle/era began on 23 December 2012 CE). In fact, the Classic Period is defined as the span of time during which Long Count dates occur on stelae in the Maya region. Usually five quantities are measured; in ascending order and with the names commonly used in scholarship, they are: the kin, 1 day; the uinal/uinik, 20 days or 20 kins; the tun, 360 days or 18 uinals; the katun, 7,200 days or 20 tuns; and the baktun, 144,000 days, or 20 katuns. A full Long Count date will also specify the day in tzolk'in (for example, 4 Ahau) and the ha'b (for example, 8 Kumk'u).