: a literary description of or commentary on a visual work of art
Although “ekphrasis” (also spelled “ecphrasis”) is a relatively new entry in our dictionary, the practice of using words to comment on a piece of visual art is an ancient one. One of the earliest and most commonly cited forms of ekphrasis occurs in The Iliad, when Homer provides a long and discursive account of the elaborate scenes embossed on the shield of Achilles. It should be no surprise, then, that the term ekphrasis derives from Greek, where it literally means “description” and was formed by combining the prefix ex- (“out”) with the verb “phrazein” (“to point out or explain”). “Ekphrasis” first appeared in English in the early 18th century.