The world of objects in visual art as subject of semiotics can be regarded as integral system, with its own structure, hierarchy, laws of combination of parts, features and functions, as well as the ability to change and “to be transcoded”. In this context the “world of objects” is defined as a set of objects of the material world, depicted in works of art. Whereas the world of objects is a sign system, we can talk about the language of objects (representation) in art and its communicative function.
The semiotic approach makes distinction between the object in its usual meaning and the depicted object as part of the sign system.
The aim is to identify the range of issues in semiotic interpretation of the world of objects and to identify the features, functions and structure of the system, based on the semiotic studies of Yuri Lotman, Roland Barthes and other scholars.
The world of objects represents a subsystem in the system of visual arts. It can play a major or subordinated role in different genres and be of various relevance for the semantics of particular image. For example, the insignia and marks of honour depicted in a portrait indicate the status of the portrayed person. The set of objects may create a semantic field: skull, clock and fading flowers in a still life stay for vanitas, but in genre painting clock may not have memento mori meaning. Thus an important factor is the context, overlapping and interpenetrating elements of adjacent systems in terms of semiosphere.
According to Yuri Lotman, any part of the semiotic structure bears the mechanism of reconstruction of the entire system, therefore analysis of objects depicted in a particular case can produce a basis for understanding the general principles in representation of the world of objects. In our case study we will examine the world of objects in satiric graphics by William Hogarth, both in the context of Rococo and British Enlightenment.