Effictio

An Introduction to Effictio

Effictio (etymologically from the Latin word effingere, literally “to fashion”), is the word portrait inventory or overall description from head-to-toe of a person’s corporeal appearances which are often compared to precious materials or objects.

Effictioexclusively consists in representing and depicting in words clearly enough for recognition the bodily form of some person.

According to the Rhetorica ad HerenniumOpens in new window, effictio “consists in representing and depicting in words clearly enough for recognition the bodily form of some person.”

As a concept, Effictio can be traceable to Maximian'sOpens in new window portrait of Helen of TroyOpens in new window in the sixth century. It usually takes as its subject ideal feminine beautyOpens in new window, although an effictio of the Green KnightOpens in new window appears in Sir Gawain and the Green KnightOpens in new window and therefore applies to verdant masculine beauty.

In the late Middle Ages, this subgenre of description is related to the ancestor of the medieval and Renaissance blazonOpens in new window, and most often features in medieval courtly literature. The effictio also makes an appearance in ChaucerOpens in new window’s Miller’s TaleOpens in new window, 3233 – 70 (perhaps 3312 – 38 as well) and the Book of the DuchessOpens in new window, (817 – 1014).

Further Readings:
Silver Rhetoricae, Figures | EffictioOpens in new window
Ad Herennium 4.49.63