We present a robust alternative to principal component analysis (PCA) ---
called elliptical component analysis (ECA) --- for analyzing high dimensional,
elliptically distributed data. ECA estimates the eigenspace of the covariance
matrix of the elliptical data. To cope with heavy-tailed elliptical
distributions, a multivariate rank statistic is exploited. At the model-level,
we consider two settings: either that the leading eigenvectors of the
covariance matrix are non-sparse or that they are sparse. Methodologically, we
propose ECA procedures for both non-sparse and sparse settings. Theoretically,
we provide both non-asymptotic and asymptotic analyses quantifying the
theoretical performances of ECA. In the non-sparse setting, we show that ECA's
performance is highly related to the effective rank of the covariance matrix.
In the sparse setting, the results are twofold: (i) We show that the sparse ECA
estimator based on a combinatoric program attains the optimal rate of
convergence; (ii) Based on some recent developments in estimating sparse
leading eigenvectors, we show that a computationally efficient sparse ECA
estimator attains the optimal rate of convergence under a suboptimal scaling.