|Trans||Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften||0. Nr.||August 1997|
|Goals of Culture and Art||
Kim H. Veltman (Maastricht)
In the previous section we outlined briefly two fundamental goals of pre-literate societies. In this section we shall turn to consider somewhat more closely four further goals in literate cultures: imitating, matching, mixing, exploring. While our examples will rely mainly on the European context, the concepts are of interest for two reasons. First they provide a framework which takes us beyond the naïve notion of a single goal of art. Secondly and more significantly these general goals lend themselves to being extended for a global map of culture.
The primitive mind which saw images as connecting with a magical world beyond, believed in an identity of image and god. A next stage in civilization denied this identity and recognized that the two were separate: that the image was at best an imitation or representation of the god involved. If this distinction between the two mentalities was logically simple, psychologically the distance between them was enormous and occurred gradually during the period between c. 4000 and c. 500 BC.
The shift from connecting to imitating was closely linked with the emergence of literacy in the cultures of Akkad, Babylon and Egypt. Thus far the connecting function had been limited to sacred images. Now it spread to sacred texts and those who controlled them. In Egypt, for instance, the Sacred Book of the Dead became a repository of these magical connections as did the pharaoh. This posed new problems for the production of images. On the one hand, if an image of the pharaoh was to function as a (living) image rather than a representation, it had to become fully realistic and lifelike. On the other hand, this very realism undermined the statue's connecting function, which linked it with an other-worldly realm. Instead of being recognized as an immortal figure, it now risked being seen as representing an all too mortal figure. One protection against this was to control viewing conditions: placing the statue in a dark place, laden with other-worldly atmosphere under ambiguous conditions, which is precisely what the Egyptians did. The statue in the doorway of the Mastaba of Mereruka at Saqqara comes to mind.(24)
These principles, designed for a supposedly immortal pharaoh, were inevitably extended to others in his midst. By c. 2580 B.C. these included members of the royal household in the form of reserve heads at Giza (now Cairo, Egyptian Museum). By c. 2400 B.C., they included mortals, such as a seated scribe from Saqqara (Paris, Louvre). As this repertoire of mortal images increased, the need to recognize them as representations rather than (living) images became more acute. The crisis or so-called revolution came in Greece. In Sir Ernst Gombrich's account:
when classical sculptors and painters discovered the character of Greek narration they set up a chain reaction which transformed the methods of representing the human body--and indeed more than that....Narrative art is bound to lead to space and the exploration of visual effects.
For this reason he believes that it was:
surely no accident that the tricks of illusionistic art, perspective and modelling in light and shade, were connected in classical antiquity with the design of theatrical scenery. It is here, in the context of plays, based on the ancient mythical tales, that the re-enactment of events according to the poet's vision comes to its climax and is increasingly assisted by the illusions of art.(25)
According to this account, an interplay between literature and art sparked the Greek revolution in art, introducing a form of imitation which amounted to matching objects in the visual world, i.e. perspectival representation. Thereafter the Renaissance was little more than "the return to the classical ideal of the convincing image."(26) As we have claimed elsewhere the situation was more complex. Mimesis or imitation meant at least five different things. We shall examine each in turn to show that none of them was synonymous with matching in the perspectival sense.
A first meaning involved imitation of verbal narrative. If we accept Gombrich's fundamental insight that narrative texts inspired much of Greek art, we must also accept the consequences. Representations of verbal descriptions of visual objects were not direct records of the visual world. They were imitations, via a verbal filter, of Greek literature which, as Auerbach(27) has shown, had no clear sense of reality when compared to the Judaeo-Christian tradition. The resulting art may have had visual effects or the appearance thereof, yet it remained non-visual in terms of its sources. It never aimed at recording visual reality directly and as such was never concerned with perspective.
A second meaning involved imitation of ideal concepts of objects and persons. There is a well-known story of the Greek sculptor commissioned to do a statue of Venus who studied different virgins and the combined their features in producing his ideal statue. Here again there was no interest in recording an individual visual record. This was imitation via the filter of a mental visual image based on a universal concept of Venus which, it will be noted, amounted to much the same thing as a verbal filter. Both mental visual and verbal filters were universal and ultimately opposed to the individuality of a perspectival record. Hence this second kind of imitation was equally non-visual.
A third meaning entailed imitation of objects in isolation. The same principles which had led in Egypt to detailed images of the pharaoh and isolated members of his court were extended in the second millenium B.C. to isolated animals and birds such that we find in an otherwise primitive scene, a lion or some geese of striking realism.(28) This attempt to copy simple objects precisely continued in Greece but usually in terms of statues rather than paintings. It was presumably to this end that Polycleitus developed his famous canon, a statue which served as a model for others. Pliny also recounts the story of illusionistic grapes by Zeuxis, which fooled the birds and the illusory curtain by his competitor, Parrhasius, which in turn fooled Zeuxis.(29) These again involved isolated objects rather than contexts, and not unlike similar effects in ornament, depended on some simple tricks of light and shade rather than principles of perspective in order to achieve their results. More significantly we are told that this type of realism represented an early stage: that artists first represented objects as they were and later as they appeared.(30) Had the Greeks discovered perspective it would have been in the later period. But as will be shown, this period also had goals inimical to perspective.
A fourth meaning involved imitation of objects using optical adjustments. This was a possibility, against which Plato complained in his Sophist.(31) It entailed adjusting the original proportions of statues in order that they appear correct. Based on a theory of visual angles, this method imposed on an object a mental concept of how it ought to appear. For it sought to integrate effects of size and distance in the object and keep the image constant. This was a goal fundamentally different from Renaissance perspective, which began with the premise that objects remained constant and sought to record visually effects of size and distance on images. For this reason the visual angles method was paradoxically non-visual in the Renaissance sense of the image. It did not visually record, but rather it physically adjusted objects, so that no change in the visual appearances would be noticeable. As we have suggested elsewhere, the same mentality applied in astronomy.(32) Saving the appearances was more important than the actual causes governing them. Subjective appearances dominated over objective.
An important shift had begun. The primitive mind had projected magical qualities onto its images. The semi-civilized mind projected its theory of appearances onto images while the civilized mind has attempted(33) to produce images devoid of these psychological projections. And the domain of study shifted accordingly from an unseen, magical world beyond to a conceptual world of appearances and finally to a perceptual, visual world of objects. As long as psychological projection onto images continued, study of their perspectival aspects could not yet begin in earnest.
A fifth meaning of imitation involved illusionistic effects of stage scenery using optical adjustments methods, which were also affected by this problem of psychological projection of a theory of appearances onto objects. But here there was also a deeper problem on which we touched in our analysis of the famous Vitruvian passage elsewhere.(34) The stage settings were illusionistic in a special sense. They involved hypothetical buildings, which never have existed in the physical world. Nor could the space they appeared to represent. Unlike perspective, which permits a measured relation between pictorial space and real space, here the buildings and spaces produced a fictive world closed onto itself.
Hence mimesis was many things, and the Greek revolution introduced approaches to art as representation, which resembled matching. But ultimately these involved imitating distorted by a mental(35) visual or a verbal filter. There existed as yet no systematic quest to record the visible world passively, rather than imposing adjustments on it actively.
The subtle shift from imitating to matching became a conscious programme during the Renaissance when, as Vasari noted, artists:
sought to reproduce what they saw in Nature and no more and thus they came to consider more closely and understand more fully. This encouraged them to make rules for perspective and to get their foreshortening in the exact form of natural relief.(36)
It is important once more to stress how gradual was this process. If, for example, we consider some of the chief themes open to artists we could list at least eight basic visual themes in the natural world: portraits, human figures, persons at work, persons at war, persons at play, animals, landscapes, man-made objects, and four other verbal-visual sources deriving from literature (myth, literature, religion, history). Most images in the Renaissance and the chief instances of perspective were inspired not by the visual themes (1-8), but by religion, and specifically, the Bible, and a few books on lives of the saints. Or to put it slightly differently, matching could involve the visual world; the visual world illustrating verbal sources, i.e. manuscript illustration; and the visual world illustrating implicit common verbal sources, as in books such as the Bible, which were so much a part of a general cultural heritage that their basic themes could be taken as implicit and requiring no explanation. It was the final of these alternatives which inspired the most striking cases of Renaissance perspective. To understand this we must return to the problem of narrative.
In terms of narrative, it was precisely the best known stories which generated the classic examples of perspective. For instance, in the life of Christ, it was particularly the Annunciation (e.g. pl. 83.1-4) or the Last Supper which became topics of perspective, although other themes included the Birth, Adoration of the Magi, Flight into Egypt, Preaching in the Temple, Marriage at Cana, Flagellation, Crucifixion, Emmaus and the Resurrection. Why should the best known stories become the most perspectival ones?
A contrast with conditions of primitive connecting and Greek imitating is instructive here. In pre-literate societies the statue of a god, as an object which members of a tribe had in common, helped to define the group's communality. As already mentioned, this limited potential variations since deviations from the norm involved risk that the statue would no longer be recognized. With the advent of literacy, this changed. Texts recorded the characteristics of a given god or Deity, thus providing a corpus of what persons knew and had in common, a sense of communality, and since this burden no longer lay with the image, it could now be varied. The more famous a story became through texts, the more liberties could be taken with its representation. Perspective was a key to varying images. Hence the best known themes also became the best examples of perspective.
With respect to the Greeks, it will seem that we have contradicted ourselves. For if Greek narrative precluded perspective, why then should Biblical narrative involve perspective? As Auerbach has shown(37) the two traditions had fundamentally different approaches to reality. The Homeric tales were fictions guided by rhetorical ends of story telling, conflating myth and history, leaving no clear relation to reality. The Biblical stories, by contrast, were based on a belief in creatural realism, and were historical, such that their temporal and spatial coordinates were usually clear. The interpretation of Biblical narrative given by the Franciscan movement stressed this creatural realism. The birth of Christ was not merely treated as a story: a real child was laid in a manger and local peasants re-enacted the role of Mary, Joseph and the shepherds.
This was fundamentally different from the Greek theatre, which had developed impossible spaces setting it apart from the physical spaces of real architecture and everyday life. In the Franciscan movement, the story of life became a direct extension of the story of Christ and the narrative space in Christ's story could, and implicitly had to be extended into the space of real life. As Christian artists of the latter Middle Ages explored this narrative space, these connections with physical space became ever more explicit until the possibility, even the necessity of matching pictorial and physical space became explicit also.
Both primitive connecting and Greek imitating had been constrained by magical and ideal considerations, which acted as filters limiting art to universals of invisible and verbal worlds. The new concept of matching opened the horizons of artistic representation to the particulars of the visible world, which expanded even more through the prospect of varying.
In the case of the Annunciation, this process of varying had begun even before the rules of perspective had been formally established, as is evidenced by Pietro Cavallini's Annunciation (Rome, Santa Maria in Trastevere), or Ambrogio Lorenzetti's version (Siena, Accademia, 1344), generally accepted to be the first painting in which all the lines of the tiles converged to a single vanishing point. After Alberti's first treatise on perspective (1434), and particularly after the advent of printing in the 1450s, variation increased in scale. Some examples, such as the unknown fifteenth century painter in Santa Maria Novella, continued to produce rough empirical versions. Fra Angelico produced several variants using an open colonnaded space (e.g. Madrid, Prado), thus developing a form used earlier by Nicolo di Pietro Gerini (New Haven, Yale University Collection, 1375); or another with a portico opening into a garden (Florence, San Marco), a theme which Domenico Veneziano (Cambridge, Fitzwilliam) also explored. Sometimes the scene was inside on a regular pavement, as in the anonymous Annunciation in the Gardner Collection. Sometimes it was outside on such a pavement, as in the version by Francesco di Giorgio and Naroccio di Landini in the Yale Collection. At other times it was outside in a green garden as in the versions by Filippo Lippi (London, National Gallery) and Leonardo da Vinci (Florence, Uffizi).
Crivelli, by contrast, developed a spatial example from Bellini's Sketchbook in his Annunciation (London, National Gallery), which was at once symbolic of Christ's coming and at the same time a record of a papal grant by Innocent III to the citizens of Ascoli Piceno concerning certain rights in self government, which reached the town on the feast of the Annunciation, 25 March 1492. He thus combined information from a biblical text, a sketchbook and historical record. More complex textual sources called for a more complex picture, which required complex spatial arrangements made possible by perspective.
Any attempt at classifying the full range of variants on the Annunciation would be a large book in itself. For our purposes it will suffice to note how every region developed its own variants on a subject. In Florence, Annunciations inside homes were the exception (e.g. Pollaiuolo's version in Berlin, Staatliche Museum). By contrast, Flemish versions were normally indoors: sometimes in living rooms, as in Robert Campin's version in the Metropolitan, sometimes in bedrooms, as in Rogier van der Weyden's version in Munich, Alte Pinakothek, or in the apses of churches, as in Jan van Eyck's version in Berlin, Staatliche Museum. In Germany, Annunciations were also frequently in bedrooms, as in Dürer's woodcut, and in churches as in Grünewald's Isenheim Altar (Colmar, Musée d'Unterlinden, 1510-1515), but with very different uses of space. Meanwhile, other Flemish versions had combined elements of the living room, bedroom and church interior in a single, rather unlikely space as, for instance, in the Annunciation attributed to Henri met de Bles (Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum). Variants of this composite spatial arrangement became popular in Spain as witnessed by Alejo Fernandez' version (Seville, Museo de Bellas Artes) or in Berreguete's Annunciation (Burgos, Cartuja de Miraflores).
This tradition of using perspective to create unexpected variants of a familiar theme was further developed in the seventeenth century, by which time varying went hand in hand with explorations of scale. In the case of Saenredam, for instance, nine of the eighteen construction drawings for his famous interiors involved a single church, St. Bavo, in Haarlem, which was further studied by De Witte, while Berckheydye depicted its exterior from different points of view.
In terms of narrative, varying had a two edged effect on the story-telling process. On the one hand, it made a theme such as the Annunciation immensely rich in its many representations. On the other hand, in focussing so much attention on a key theme, it undermined, and even prevented interest in other elements of the story. Perspective which grew out of narrative thus posed a threat to a story's continuity. This was not only due to varying. It was caused also by a second feature of perspective, which we shall term emphasizing.
Perspective emphasized scenes in particular ways. It exaggerated the geometry of the man-made environment, thereby drawing a viewer's eye into a spatial scene, while at the same time reducing individual figures therein to a diminutive size. This was no problem in the case of idealized cities such as the Urbino, Berlin or Baltimore panels, but proved inconvenient in a Christian tradition, which focussed on Christ, Mary and various saints. A compromise thus ensued. Individual figures continued to dominate the main panels while perspectival scenes relating to their lives were relegated to the predellas. Once the laws of perspective began to be understood in the 1430s, artists gradually discovered means of keeping figures in the foreground of perspectival settings. Domenico Veneziano's Annunciation (Cambridge, Fitzwilliam) was an early example. Piero della Francesca's Flagellation (Urbino, Galleria Nazionale dell Marche, c. 1460-1470) marked an important next step leading to the most famous cases of the high Renaissance: Leonardo's Last Supper (Milan, Santa Maria delle Grazie, c. 1495-1497) and Raphael's School of Athens (Vatican, Stanze, 1510-1515).
In cases such as the Last Supper, there were psychological factors which combined to augment this process of emphasizing. Just as in portraits where eyes looking out of the picture continue to follow a viewer as they move to the side, perspectival pictures with alleys, corridors, rooms or any regular spatial features also follow a viewer as they move to the side.(38) For this reason we can look at perspectival settings in theatres and movies, which are an extension of perspectival principles, from a number of seats. Michael Kubovy, who has recently explored this phenomenon, has termed this the robustness of perspective.(39)
Artists such as Leonardo obviously realized that the Last Supper would work even though its vanishing point was at a height above that of any ordinary observer. Indeed, precisely because it could be looked at without undue distortion from anywhere within the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie, was a major reason why it was worth emphasizing this painting to the exclusion of others. The same applied in the case of Bramante's fictive arch in Santa Maria presso San Satiro in Milan, and Tullio Lombardo's scenes from the Life of St. Mark in Venice. The fictive depth involved might be small, as in Piero della Francesca's Brera altar, or large, as in Masolino's version of Herod's palace at Castiglione d'Olona. The effects remained the same. And, as in the case of the varying function, the emphasizing function of perspective focussed attention on key episodes of a narrative thus serving also to undermine the continuity of a story. Yet a third factor contributed to this process.
In representing a story with many episodes painters were faced with a problem of individuating scenes. Frames were of some help, but these could not give many clues concerning the order in which scenes were to be read. Here perspectival treatment of certain features helped to relate scenes while at the same time separating them. The problem is clearly evident in Duccio's Maestà (Siena, Museo del Duomo, 1288), if we consider it in more detail. On the reverse side of the altar, the story begins in the bottom left hand corner with Christ's entry into Jerusalem, moves in an up-down sequence towards the right, then returns to the upper left hand corner again criss-crossing its way to the far right. Three scenes with Christ and his Apostles (Washing of the Feet, Last Supper and Meeting with Apostles) all share one type of spatial interior with beams of the ceiling converging towards a central axis. Three scenes with Caiphas and the priests occur in an interior with a type of oblique parallel projection. A similar oblique parallel method applied to an awning supported by columns connects scenes with Pontius Pilate in the bottom right and top left. These proto-perspectival elements thus relate separate scenes and help us to follow their sequence.
In the Scrovegni Chapel at Padua (1304-1307), Giotto uses the same principle. An oblique view of an open fronted house serves for both the Annunciation to Saint Anne and the Birth of the Virgin. Similarly, a temple with a niche serves as a continuation between three scenes: the Ceremony of the Rods, Prayer for the Miracle of the Rods and Marriage of the Virgin. This function of relating separate scenes in a complex narrative explains why a few proto-perspectival elements became stock images, which improved empirically, while other architectural elements remained spatially awkward and unconvincing. And as we noted earlier it was precisely these stock images which were consolidated and standardized by the early perspective treatises.
Relating took on many forms. In his Profanation of the Host (Urbino, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche), Paolo Uccello used two vanishing points going in different directions in order both to separate and relate the two scenes. The same principle was used in the Munich manuscript of Boccaccio, in the organization of the Teatro Olimpico at Vincenza and in the gardens at Versailles. Hence scenes with different vanishing points could be implicitly related by means of perspective. Scenes physically separated from one another were also explicitly related by means of a single vanishing point. Giotto's Annunciation in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (1304-1306) was an early attempt in this direction. Masaccio--and Masolino?--developed this idea in the Annunciation in San Clemente in Rome, while Foppa used it dramatically in his Annunciation in S. Eustorgio in Milan.(40) Nor was the principle limited to Annunciation scenes. Parronchi has suggested that Ghiberti used it on the doors of the Baptistery at Florence(41) and has shown convincingly that Masaccio employed it a relating the Distribution of the Goods with Saint Peter Curing the Sick in the Brancacci Chapel (Florence, Santa Croce, 1426-1427).(42) Once familiar, the method was used in more subtle ways. Spatially analogous scenes were related without their sharing a common vanishing point as, for instance, in Piero della Francesca's Annunciation and Dream of Constantine in Arezzo.
Raphael developed these principles of relating in his famous juxtapositions of sacred and profane scenes in the Stanze. Here the situation was complicated by typological and symbolic considerations. The mediaeval period had seen an increasing fascination with parallels between the old and new testaments with minor references to relevant pagan figures such as the sibyls. This inspired the ceiling at Hildesheim in the eleventh and the great rose windows at Chartres, Paris and York in the thirteenth century. In the next centuries the pagan element(43) gained in significance to the point that Raphael in the Stanze was challenged with finding parallels between Christian and Antique themes such as the Church Fathers versus the School of Athens. In these and other great cycles it was no longer a question of telling complete stories, but rather of choosing key episodes in stories which could be balanced by others.(44)
Hence all three basic functions (varying, emphasizing and relating), which made perspective so powerful, had the same effects. While focussing attention on key episodes in a narrative, they simultaneously undermined the continuity of the story telling process. Indeed as perspective provided more complex frameworks for the organization and comprehension of such scenes, their narrative order became less significant and sometimes disappeared. This helps to explain what would otherwise be two contradictory trends in the history of narrative cycles from the time of the Bayeux Tapestry (Bayeux, Town Hall, 1073-1083) and the mosaics at Monreale (1182), to the frescoes of Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel (1304-1306) and Raphael in the Stanze (1507-1513). As the treatment of space improved, the number of scenes diminished. Monreale had 167, the Scrovegni had 53, the Sistine Chapel had 23 scenes. The sequential order of the story telling process also decreased in clarity. To attain a deeper understanding of these phenomena requires examination of contexts and frames.
Perspective brought with it a tendency to reduce a number of independent episodes and include these with a single spatial context, as is strikingly illustrated in Memling's Seven Joys of Mary (Munich, Alte Pinakothok, c. 1480), which integrated no less than seventeen episodes beginning with the Annunciation and ending with the Assumption of the Virgin. Similarly, in his Treatise of Painting, Leonardo recommended that one:
must place the first plane at the eye level of the beholder of the scene and on that plane represent the first scene in large size and then, diminishing the figures and buildings on various planes, as you go on, make the setting for the whole story.(45)
These tendencies towards a single spatial context containing several temporal episodes are of particular interest because they call into question the oppositions between painting and poetry articulated by Lessing. In his Laokoon, he suggested that painting and poetry used completely different means and signs in achieving imitation; that painting used figures and colours in space, while poetry used tones in time.(46) Lessing elaborated on these basic oppositions. Painting, he claimed, was concerned with bodies, poetry with actions;(47) painting with a totality, poetry with parts;(48) painting with space, poetry with time.(49) It is instructive that his examples drew constantly on Greek art and poetry and indeed might hold if restricted to a comparison between Greek sculpture and poetry. But they do not hold for the whole of art. Indeed, the many scenes integrated into a single spatial context as practiced by Memling, and recommended by Leonardo, show that perspective removed these oppositions and introduced different actions of a body, different parts in a whole and different times in a single space as important new dimensions of representation, which take us directly to some of the richest aspects of art in and since the Renaissance.
For instance, the first of these, the ability to represent different actions of bodies prompted Leonardo to make a list of eighteen basic actions which could be painted(50) and led him to explore kinematic sequences of men at work and play, a principle which has since inspired the development of motion pictures, television and video. The ability to represent different parts in a whole was equally fundamental in its consequences. For it explains why photographic details of Renaissance paintings can function as if they were photographs of complete paintings. This principle also makes possible the game of imposing imaginary frames in galleries and observing how each of these functions as independent pictures. Art dealers, who sawed off sections of old masters, and then sold these whole-sale were, of course, taking the game a bit too far.
The principle, which makes these games possible, is intimately connected with problems of particulars and universals. A perspectival painting, i.e., a painting which has a context, is based on particulars, is comprised of individual features and has the astounding feature that its "parts" also function as wholes. Nature has this same feature which is why we can take any scene, add different lenses to our concern and each time come up with an independent picture. Note the connection between particulars, individuals and independence. Note that these are also a key to creating new frames, focussing on details and changing scales which are three ways of describing this open process.
It is rather important to realize that none of this is possible as long as universals govern representation, as tended to be the case in Greece. Given universals, the goal of representation is perfection, literally putting an end to, a totality, a perfect totality. To remove any part of a totality is to destroy its perfection and to remove its aesthetic potential. (Or at least in theory, although some art historians will assure us that gods and goddesses are aesthetically the richer through amputation of arms, legs and other parts.) Hence a commitment to universals generates only parts dependent on a totality, which remain impersonal, static and without a temporal dimension. By contrast, a commitment to particulars leads to individuals independent of the whole, which can be personal, dynamic and with a temporal dimension. Because universals limit attention to the perfection of a totality, any change of frames would leave out some important part of that totality; any focus on a detail would leave the totality out of focus and any change of scale would make no difference: which is why photographs or slides of a three inch statuette or a six foot classical statue sometimes produce exactly the same effect. When the emphasis is on totality there is no context and no way of inferring scale. Indeed universals, with their commitment to perfection, produced an approach to representation which effectively denied the importance of size, scale, context, frames and time, i.e., precisely those features which perspective made the central concerns of Renaissance art and science.
Mention of time brings us to the third of Lessing's oppositions, which we need to consider briefly before returning to the connections between perspective and frames. Lessing's claim that poetry dealt with time, while painting dealt with space overlooked the ways in which perspective introduced spatio-temporal dimensions into painting. The most obvious examples involved episodes in the lives of saints as in the Memling painting mentioned above. But there were also much more subtle examples as in Carpaccio's St. George and the Dragon in the cycle devoted to that saint (Venice, Scuola di San Giorgio).
In the foreground of the painting, just left of centre, we see a scene with a snake looking at a toad which looks in turn at a lizard. In a second scene, further back, we do not see the toad, while the lizard looks at the decomposing body of a woman obscuring most of the snake except for its tail, which forms an unexpected necklace for the corpse. In scene three, the toad reappears just right of the centre near the corpse of a man while the snake lurks beneath the corpse's left foot. In scene four, the snake devours the toad, while the lizard looks on. The subject may be unappetizing, but it suggests that Lessing's claims about time, parts and actions in painting were undigested.
There were other subtle ways in which spatio-temporal dimensions came into play. As we have shown the matching function led to a natural extension of the represented space of the painting into the physical space of the environment where it was painted. Hence, as was noted elsewhere, local townscapes inevitably entered as backgrounds in religious paintings. As these background townscapes became more pronounced they brought into focus unexpected anachronisms, for events in the life of Christ which had occurred fourteen or fifteen centuries earlier now stood in the foreground of a contemporary scene. By the late fifteenth century, when Ghirlandaio did his cycle on the life of Saint Francis (Florence, Sassetti Chapel, 1483-1486), he depicted the saint literally in the squares and streets of Florence. Here, of course, the anachronism involved, only a few centuries but even so Ghirlandaio did nothing to remove it.
Perhaps there were problems in learning to see spatio-temporal dimensions in paintings, just as it took a long time before painters became aware of problems of shadows caused by the sun at different times of day in their landscapes. We might have expected the writings of Machiavelli, Guicciardini and other historians to introduce a greater historical consciousness, which would remove such anachronisms. Instead, the anachronisms persisted throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth and into the nineteenth centuries, until first the camera, and then the impressionists focussed attention on scenes limited to a specific place and time: Paris on a rainy afternoon, Arles on a sunny morning, etc. But long before this the anachronisms had taken on a subtler form. For as the contemporary background slowly moved forward to dominate even the foreground, the historical event retreated quietly into the background. By the mid seventeenth century with Claude we (almost) need to be told that the four figures standing in a landscape involve the story of Jacob and Laban (London, Dulwich Art Gallery); a principle that applies equally to mythological scenes such as his Coastal landscape with Apollo and the Cumean sibyl (Private collection, 1665).
These shifts introduced by perspective deserve much more attention. For it is usually assumed that the development of secular art was largely due to a rejection of the religious tradition. We are suggesting that the reverse was true: that it was paradoxically the Christian tradition of creatural realism that combined with perspective to create frameworks for matching which extended biblical narrative into the physical world and made nature first a background topic and gradually a dominant theme in the history of representation. We have shown how contradictions between and combinations of spatial and temporal dimensions played a central role in these developments. And Lessing's desire to maintain the simple polarities of painting-space versus poetry-time led him to overlook this, and indeed other fundamental contributions of Renaissance art.
To understand this properly we need to return to the problem of frames. For the whole phenomenon we have been describing of townscapes slowly coming into the foregrounds of religious paintings is very much a question of frames and fully analogous to a zoom lens which focusses on what had been a background detail, frames it and then increases its scale until it dominates the entire scene. Which is also why perspectival representation leads ineluctably towards a photographic image, where framing is almost the name of the game. We shall show that these connections between a play of perspective and frames go back at least to the time of Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel at Padua (1304-106), but before doing so we need to refine an earlier claim.
We have stressed that perspective applies not only to painting but to other arts such as architecture and sculpture involving various media including bronze, marble and wood. However, in another sense, perspective has special applications to painting because in this medium it imitates effects also produced by sculpture and architecture, and for this reason, Chastel,(51) has justifiably opposed (painted) perspective to sculpture and architecture, or perhaps more accurately, painted perspective vies and equivocates with effects which sculpture and architecture create, thus encroaching upon and/or playing with the frames they impose or suggest.
This did not always happen. In the case of altars, for instance, it played only a small role. As Heydenryk, in his history of frames has noted, Italian altarpieces imitated architectural features and effectively became cross sections of Gothic churches,(52) while in the North "the elements of a frame were invariably emulations of architectural elements but no effort was made to create a logical architectural structure as had been done in Italy."(53) The advent of perspective affected the contents of altars and meant that various ornamental patterns on their frames, which had previously been sculpted, were now painted. But it had little substantive impact on the function of altar frames. By contrast, in the case of frames in the fresco cycles,(54) perspective had an enormous impact.
In the Scrovegni Chapel at Padua, Giotto explored the potentials of using proto-perspectival effects to replace, or rather match architectural structures in his concealed chapels or coretti on the east wall. But while there was play of boundaries between architecture and painted architecture, there was effectively none between architecture and painted narrative, where each scene was neatly separated from the next by clear cut frames. Giotto experimented with both problems separately in the same building. The early Renaissance pursued both experiments, discovered and formalized the perspectival principles underlying them. The high Renaissance integrated the two experiments into a new synthesis as becomes clear if we turn to Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling (1505-1508).
As in the Scrovegni Chapel, there is a narrative cycle. But whereas Giotto's scenes maintained a certain uniformity in size, Michelangelo plays with their scale. In the central portion four large scenes alternate with five smaller ones which are flanked, in turn, by ten medallion-like scenes. In the corners there are four further scenes making a total of twenty-three episodes from the Old Testament. Then there are the forebears of Christ in the triangular niches and in the semi-circular niches below these. But the complexity of the Sistine Ceiling begins, in a sense, with the six sibyls alternating with six prophets in painted architectural cubicles enclosed by column-like painted sculptures and topped by painted nudes.
The cubicles function as if they were part of a wall, the orientation of which keeps changing as we move through the chapel and constantly contradicts, or rather plays with the curvature of the actual ceiling. The nude figures seated on top of the columns require us to read the surface three dimensionally, while we remain aware of the ceiling as a flat surface. If we look higher than the nudes our eyes are drawn into an orientation 90 degrees to the side, and if we look higher still, we need to shift our orientation a total of 180 degrees if we are not to read the second set of nudes as falling down.
Perspective continues to play a role in the actual scenes, as in the dramatic positioning of Haman on the cross. But its main function is now in the spaces between scenes, in, with, amongst the frames, provoking a complex interplay between painted, painted sculptural and painted architectural elements which, while continuing to separate the scenes, also integrate them into a new kind of systematic whole. Perspective now creates spatial illusions only seemingly to subvert them, playing with and on them to increase the potential for polyvalent readings of different scenes theoretically separated yet, systematically related. These polyvalent readings are encouraged by the nudes and other figures whose arms and feet continually reach and step into the neighbouring spaces. At the same time they are held in check by the painted architectural features which maintain some clear linear boundaries between the scenes.
The mannerist period worried less about keeping these boundaries fixed. Already in the Gallery of Francis I at Fontainbleau, boundaries between painted, painted sculptural and painted architectural spaces were rendered more ambiguous a) by increasing the extent to which figures reach out beyond their given frame into adjacent spaces and b) by deliberate introduction of actual sculptural and architectural elements which overlap with their painted equivalents. This encroachment of figures and overlapping of art forms and media went ever further until it became difficult and ultimately impossible to know where one stops and the other begins. Hence if the high Renaissance discovered frames and their media as realms of perspective, Mannerism used perspective to play with frameworks, anamorphically distorting them in the process. Baroque art went further, playing with the whole distinction between the forms of frames and their contents. By the late seventeenth century, as Baroque art moved towards Rococo, the actual architectural spaces were manipulated and integrated in order to intensify this playful destruction of distinctions between frames and paintings, between form and content.
The experiments had begun with Giotto's concealed chapels, which played with distinctions between painted and real architecture. By the 1580's this play between painted and architectural reality had become a major challenge for masters of perspective, particularly in terms of di sotto in su paintings, which involved illusionistic ceilings such as that of Scamozzi and Sansovino in the Marciana library in Venice. This soon found published equivalents in treatises ranging from a single illustration in Danti's commentary (1583), to the 75 examples in a now almost forgotten collection by Has, which appeared in the same year (1583), which provided a context for Pozzo's illusionism in Il Gesù (1691-1694) and also prefigured uncannily the twentieth century work of Escher.
Such examples bear witness to an extraordinary shift in the applications of perspective, from the content of paintings to their form. For we have shown that perspective had basic consequences for both the spaces in paintings and the spaces of the frames between paintings. The first of these concerns led to shifts from isolated objects to scenes in context, to scenes in the context of a secular background and to secular scenes in a specific place and time and ultimately to new distinctions between these realistic spatio-temporal scenes and other more symbolic ones, where time and sometimes even space were not factors. Meanwhile, the second of these concerns began with the varying, emphasizing and relating functions of perspective, led Renaissance artists to discover connections between perspective and the framing process, and to focus attention on the spatial forms of containers of paintings. As they did so, attention to the contents within the containers dwindled, or rather it shifted from narrative episodes to symbolic moments in the narrative which, in the next generations were reduced to symbols almost without moment until, finally, the capacities of perspective were focussed on form without content.
Together these two developments transformed the whole of representation. They removed the oppositions between bodies and actions, totality and parts, space and time, which Lessing had seen as separating painting and poetry. Indeed they revealed the limitations of Greek concepts of perfection and introduced new horizons of aesthetics in terms of size, scale, focus and frameworks.
All this was only the beginning. By the mid-sixteenth century perspective had spread beyond the spaces of paintings and their frames, outside the buildings that contained them into the streets and gardens. In the seventeenth century perspective gradually transformed the use of physical space partly so that this too could be rendered more perspectivally, a process of transformation which gradually spread to the whole environment. In the next sections we shall show how perspective also transformed the landscapes of the mind cultivating new concepts of freedom and imagination, inspiring new developments in art which still continue.
As for the underlying reasons for this process, the cultural dimensions, we understand these more clearly when the development of art as visual metaphor is seen in relation to literacy and levels of aesthetic distance. In primitive societies, when connecting was the goal of art and there were no texts, a statue was a god. It presented rather than represented, such that art asserted the equivalence of god and image. In Greco-Roman culture, as imitation became a goal of art, and as isolated manuscripts recorded the names, characteristics and deeds of the gods, the function of statues changed from presentation to representation, such that what had functioned as equivalents, now functioned as substitutes of the original. As the use of texts spread from descriptions of divinity to include learned interpretations thereof, the thinker Euhemerus suggested that statues and paintings represented men as if they were gods. This theory of Euhemerism, named after him, thus introduced a new level of distance between original and image.(55)
The rise of Christianity, with its focus on the Bible, meant that the images in this text could be cited or even be alluded to indirectly.(56) A statue or a painting could now represent a but mean b: it could, for example, show a good shepherd and mean Christ. Symbolism thus introduced a further level of distance between original and image.
The Renaissance may well have been inspired by Antiquity, but perspective challenged it to go in fundamentally new directions. Perspective introduced a visual standard for checking quantitatively to what extent a match was involved between an individual object or context and its representation. Matches were now testable. If this transformed the nature of representation, it also transformed the nature of illusion. Giotto's illusionistic paintings of concealed chapels in the Scrovegni Chapel offer an early case in point. Unlike the impossible scenes of the Greek stage, this is possible architecture: a physical construction, which could readily exist. So we check and discover that the chapels are not real architecture. The paintings thus make visual statements that something is, assuming we will know that it is not. As such they function as visual metaphors.
Whereas Greek illusions were based on universal concepts, Renaissance illusions were based on particular elements: Giotto's chapel, Bramante's choir, Pozzo's cupola, each of which could be tested in terms of a one to one match. As a result, while Greek illusions were designed to deceive the eye, Renaissance illusions were planned for us to see through them, thus transforming the very concept of illusion from a negative trick to a positive game: challenging us to look more closely, to play with change in focus, scale, and framework; teaching us to expand our sense of what is and what is possible rather than trying to limit these as had Aristotle and Vitruvius.
These links between perspective and visual metaphor deserve closer attention. The development of perspective involved ever closer matches between object and representation, resulting in more realistic representation, and an ever finer play on the distinction is - is not, which lies at the heart of visual metaphor. When perspective is at its best, the distinction is-is not is at its height. This intimate connection between the rise of perspective and visual metaphor is important for at least two reasons. First, it suggests that perspective transformed the very meaning of metaphor: from a general comparison without a specific match, to a particular comparison with a -potentially- specific match, from a verbal concept to a visual metaphor. Secondly, perspective changed its function. In Aristotle's scheme, metaphor remained an ornamental frill with respect to the structure of language, an extra of no real importance.(57) Perspective implicitly made metaphor central to the whole aesthetic experience, for now the effect of a painting turned on how well it could play upon the distinction is - is not.
In Padua, Giotto explored these problems in terms of painting (1304-1306). In Verona, a decade later Dante explored them in terms of language with respect to sculpture, when he wrote in his Divine Comedy (c. 1314) of the angel that:
Appeared to us, with such a lively ease
Carved, and so gracious there in act to move,
It seemed not one of your dumb images,
You'd swear an Ave from his lips breathed off,
For she was shown there too, who turned the key
To unlock the treasure of the most high dove;
And in her mien those words stood plain to see:
Ecce ancilla Dei, stamped by art.
Express as any seal on wax could be.(58)
Dante went on to describe pictured smoke,(59) stories in stone narrated,(60) complete with visible speech.(61) We must at this point resist the temptation of a Dante commentary and only mention in passing that there are clearly parallels between these developments in literary narrative and those in pictorial narrative considered above. It is of interest that literary historians of the period have provided a more ample context for understanding Auerbach's concept of creatural realism arising out of the Judaeo-Christian biblical tradition. Indeed, they now speak of a development of perspective in literature: in terms of stories based on individuals in specific times and places, rather than eternal heroes in universal landscapes.(62) We have seen pictorial parallels, as the townscapes of Florence and other towns entered into the backgrounds of paintings showing the lives of Christ and the saints.
It is important to note that the problem of visual metaphor, which plays on the is-is not distinction, involves both spatial and temporal dimensions. To continue with our Florentine example, at a spatial level the distinction plays on whether this is Florence or is not Florence (i.e. only a representation of Florence). The more difficult it is to make this spatial distinction, the more necessary it becomes to make a temporal one: i.e. the more we are convinced that this is actually Florence in the background, the more we have to insist that although this be a contemporary scene, the story in it is not. To put it differently, the more realistically we paint the space of a religious story, the more allegorically we need to see its contents if we are not to fall into crass anachronism. Use of visual metaphor in space thus leads to use of visual allegory in time. Two years after Giotto painted the Scrovegni Chapel (1304-1305) in Padua, Dante in his Convivio (1307), distinguished between literal and allegorical as well as moral and anagogical senses.(63) Such parallels suggest new fields of study: exploring the extent to which the development of visual metaphor in painting went hand in hand with a growing importance of metaphor in language to a point where, in the United States, there is even discussion of metaphors we live by.(64)
The development of textual communities(65) led to refinement of these principles in the form, as we have seen, of Dante's distinction between four levels of interpretation: literal, allegorical, moral and anagogical. The advent of printing expanded the range of books common to textual communities, and what had begun as parallels between Old and New Testaments, were extended to relate pagan and Christian themes, as in the Sistine Ceiling and the Stanze.
|-1000||statue equals god||equivalence|
|1000-200 B.C.||statue represents god||substitution|
|200-300 A.D.||statue, painting represents man as if god||euhemerism|
|300-1200||statue, painting represents a but means b||symbolism|
|1200-1450||painting represents a and means a||literal|
|O.T. and means N.T.||allegorical|
|Christ's actions in relation to man||moral|
|Christ's actions in relation to Eternity||anagogical|
|1450-1560||painting represents a in guise of a1||(allegorical)|
|1650-1800||painting represents a in playful guise of a1||(caricature)(66)|
|Figure 4. Links between art and levels of abstraction.|
The spread of printing went hand in hand with more subtle levels of literary and visual interpretation. Mediaeval symbolism had involved representing a while meaning b (the good shepherd meaning Christ), with the assumption that one believed in the reality of both a and b. The Renaissance introduced a play element into this formula: a painting now represented a in the guise of a1 without requiring that one actually believed in a1. Honthorst's painting of the Princess of Orange as Diana (Utrecht, Centraal Museum, 1643), offers a case in point. At one level, it is a portrait of Louise Henriette of Nassau, Princess of Orange. At another level we recognize the dogs, bow and arrows as attributes of Diana, through literary culture. So we see the princess playing the part of Diana without needing to believe literally in the pagan goddess or her powers.
The increasing tendency to push topics into the backgrounds of landscapes in the seventeenth century, as in the case of Claude considered above (p. 18), increased distance in two senses. When subsequent mythological figures stayed in the foreground, the play element was frequently extended to their attributes to indicate that one was not expected to believe in them, as in Boucher's Venus, Mercury and Amor (Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg, 1742). We recognize the man as Mercury by his winged feet. But the wings have been tied on with a ribbon, to help us see through his guise, and to leave no doubt that this is a Frenchman playing the part of a god. Sir Peter Lely went further still in his Nell Gwynn and the Duke of St. Alban's as Venus and Cupid (Chiddingstone Castle), where he relied on the topos of a reclining female nude with standing child without attributes to indicate Venus and Cupid, and by making these figures portraits of two well known and notorious personalities, he transformed a purportedly classical scene into a social statement about a contemporary relationship.
Since then there have been many further developments: Salvador Dali's treatment of Millet's Angelus comes to mind.(67) However, a detailed map of all these levels of distance is not our concern here. We are interested rather in pointing to the larger context of perspective: that there were important connections between literacy, more complex uses of space, and more subtle levels of interpretation; that perspective, which on the surface involved literal realism, played an important role in associating art with levels beyond the literal. Perspective and symbolism went hand in hand. Perspectival realism made it possible, for instance, to represent Roman soldiers in Turkish costumes in Renaissance versions of the Crucifixion, such that this scene reflected both an historical event and contemporary religious problems. Instead of pinning the image down, perspective made it polyvalent, and if it made serious matching possible, perspective also introduced playful matching. Hence instead of dooming art to a closed system of copying, perspective transformed it into a creative act, open to new themes and new goals.
New Functions of Art
Thus far we have considered four goals of art: connecting, ordering, imitating and matching, and with respect to the latter have focussed on matching the visual world illustrating implicit common verbal sources, such as the Bible, which were so well known that knowledge of their stories could be taken for granted. Perspective had its greatest impact in visualizing such texts. Nonetheless, there were no less than nine other types of matching and two other goals of art, mixing and exploring, which require brief mention, even if detailed consideration thereof is beyond the scope of this introduction.
The most obvious type of matching, involving a simple record of the visual world, was implicit in Brunelleschi's first experiment involving the Baptistery. It became more common, as use of the window principle was extended from individual objects to views of towns and landscapes. Perhaps because it was so obvious, this type of art remained of less interest to art than the military until the advent of the camera, which effectively mechanized the perspectival window principle, awakened new interest in its creative potential.(68) Matching could also involve illustrating a text directly, an approach which was applied to the Bible, classical authors such as Ovid, mediaeval literature such as Boccaccio cited earlier, and chronicles such as Froissart (e.g. B.M. Harley 4380, fol. 23b). Thirdly, matching was used to illustrate recurring events, particularly the four seasons and topoi, which could be based on classical sources, such as the three graces, or be of a more general character: old age, the fool, the land of cockaigne, etc. In some cases, matching involved an implicit verbal source, which was either so uncommon that most persons would not recognize it, (or alternatively so common that everyone at the time took its meaning for granted and we in retrospect find it mysterious). Three famous examples immediately come to mind: Botticelli's Primavera,(69) Giorgione's Tempest(70) and Bronzino's Allegory(71) (London, National Gallery). In other cases, matching involved well known verbal sources, which remained difficult to recognize because the scene was set as a part of every day life or in the background of a landscape. In early examples, such as Carpaccio's Calling of St. Matthew (Venice, Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, 1525-1526), where Matthew was shown simply as a tax-collector, the surrounding pictures provided a context for understanding its meaning. In Caravaggio's treatment of the same theme (Rome, San Luigi dei Francesi, Contarelli Chapel, 1597-1598), only a ray of light revealed that this was a sacred rather than a secular scene. By the time of Tenier's Seven acts of mercy (Dulwich, Picture Gallery), we need to recognize that passing a loaf of bread is a visual metaphor for feeding the poor. We need even more discerning to recognize classical scenes set in the context of landscapes, as in the paintings of Claude Lorrain.
The twentieth century has shown a fascination for treating the matching function in a playful and/or ironic manner, as, for instance, in Magritte's Treachery of Images (New York, Private Collection, 1928-1929), which shows a meticulously painted briar pipe with the caption: This is not a pipe. Magritte's Promenades of Euclid (Minneapolis, Institute of Arts, 1955), offers a more subtle example by demonstrating how a flat road going into the distance and a three dimensional tower both project triangular shapes on a perspectival window. Some of Escher's work might also be mentioned in this context, although he is more complex in that he has different perspectival viewpoints for separate parts of a picture, which are then carefully integrated to function as a single context (e.g. pl. 73.4). There have, in fact, been a number of movements which have played with the matching principle mainly by overemphasizing certain aspects of reality, including the Precisionists, (e.g. Charles Demuth, Ralston Crawford); Pop Art (Richard Hamilton, Edward Ruscke); New Realism (Mel Ramos) and Photo Realism (Richard Ester, Ralph Goings, Chuck Close).(72) In all of these movements, perspective continues to play a central role. The revival of interest in trompe l'oeil is another manifestation of this play with matching principles as, for instance, at the American embassy in Paris (pl. 100). Here the oblique walls are carefully painted illusions, with doors that reveal clouds beyond. The left wall, itself a trompe l'oeil, opens into a trompe l'oeil of the second degree, showing a colonnaded arcade. In front of this stands a trompe l'oeil officer representing a country which until recently had a former actor as its president.
Anamorphosis was an unlikely form of matching, which involved distorting shapes in such a way that, when seen from a specific viewpoint, their original form returned. This alternative, developed by Piero della Francesca, received particular attention in the seventeenth century, and was then ignored until an historical study by Baltrusaitis (1956) inspired new interest therein.(73) Meanwhile, the twentieth century has introduced another kind of matching involving distortions: it abandons a rigid geometry of straight lines, involves a simplification of spatial features, yet nonetheless remains committed to representing familiar objects in every day life. Sometimes, as in Henri Matisse's painting of A Girl Reading (Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 1919), the results are close to those of parallel perspective. At other times the departure from Renaissance perspective is striking: as in Picasso's Woman Reading (Paris, Musées Nationaux, 1935).
The twentieth century has introduced yet another type of matching involving occlusion. Renaissance painting had concentrated on the opening function of perspective, treating the picture as a window into a world beyond. By contrast, the occluding function concentrates attention on the picture as a surface. The opening function had led painting to match architectural and sculptural effects. Yet, even when painting created effects indistinguishable from those of architecture and sculpture, it ironically upheld an underlying assumption that the three media were distinct from one another. The occluding function of perspective, which emphasized painting as surface, meant that painting was no longer a medium which could match the effects of the other two, such that painting, architecture and sculpture now emerged as equals, and what had been a focus on pictorial space, shifted to a new interplay of pictorial with physical sculptural and architectural space. One reflection of this basic change in orientation was a trend of important painters, who also practiced sculpture: including Daumier, Gauguin, Degas, Renoir, Bonnard, Picasso, Matisse, Modigliano, Braque, Derain and Leger.(74)
Aspects of cubism were also linked with this change in orientation, which emphasized occlusion rather than transparency, and which relied on perspective more than might be expected. Gleizes, for example, in his basic work On Cubism (1921) retained respect for perspective:
In the beginning the framework created the perspectival principles was robust, but it was reversed by the follies of realism, and it was impressionism which threw itself hopelessly into atmospheric inconsistencies.(75)
In his chapter on realism Gleizes admitted:
If an artist whose specialty is in painting still life academically suddenly renounced all his favourite subjects for subjects composed of bricks, cylinders, and boards he would paint them with optical perspective and conventional lighting.
Many cubist paintings are simply a product of this substitution.(76)
Fernand Léger's Nudes in the Forest (Otterlo, Kröller-Müller Museum, 1909-1910) comes to mind. Gleize's aim, however, was to reduce painting to two-dimensional surfaces
To pretend to endow it with a third dimension is to wish to denaturalize it in its own essence.
The results obtained will become only the trompe l'oeil of our three-dimensional material reality, through the deceptions of linear perspective and conventions of lighting.(77)
Ultimately, Gleizes wanted to escape matching. The result was a new goal for painting. As he wrote in his manifesto:
Painting therefore is not an imitation of objects. The reality of the exterior world serves as its point of departure. But it strips away the world of this reality to touch upon the spirit.(78)
Hence the trend in matching, which focussed on the surface of painting, led to a new goal within cubism, which involved mixing the visual and mental world. While this re-opened the way for non-perspectival paintings, it also produced complex new combinations of perspective. Three examples must suffice here. In Juan Gris', La Place Ravignan. Still Life in Front of an Open Window (Philadelphia, Museum of Art, 1915), the still life in the foreground was composed of a series of intersecting planes, partly transparent, partly occluding. In the background, both wall and window were transparent. Hence the perspectival principles of transparency and occlusion became a matter of play, while its spatial effects continued to be important. Robert Delaunay, in his St. Severin (New York, Guggenheim Museum, 1909), went back to the Renaissance theme of Church interiors, introducing subjective curvatures into the straight lines of the architecture. By contrast, Jacques Villon, in Abstraction (Philadelphia, Museum of Art, 1932), used a room with very sharply defined perspectival lines as in a Renaissance interior, but then removed details and played with colour to create unexpected effects. Other movements in modern art, which shared this goal of mixing outer and inner worlds, led to further experiments with perspective: constructivism (Kasimir Malevich, El Lissitzky, Josef Alpers);(79) surrealism (Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, Salvador Dali),(80) neo-romanticism (Eugene Berman) and magic-realism (Pierre Roy, Paul Delvaux).(81)
Implicit verbal sources remained important. It would, for example, be difficult to understand the symbolism of Salvador Dali or Paul Delvaux without some biographical context. But a new dilemma now loomed. For the more these paintings entered into the inner life of the individuals concerned and became personal expressions, the more they required autobiographical knowledge, which could not be expected of a general public. In the Renaissance, the emergence of universally known texts such as the Bible had led to visualizations of implicit verbal sources becoming more important than direct illustrations of texts. In the twentieth century, as the concept of such universally known texts receded, a reversion occurred: direct illustrations of verbal sources once again became more important than visualizations of implicit verbal sources, whence the extraordinary rise of a whole new genre of deluxe art books (Les livres d'art, Malerbücher) which involved most major artists of the twentieth century ranging from Braque and Eluard to Hockney.(82) Picasso alone produced over 150 of such books.(83) This renewed concern with a verbal filter detracted attention from perspectival visualization.
Meanwhile, another new goal involved exploring three further horizons of arts: chance, the inner world and the perceptual world. The first of these, emphasizing intuition, and relying largely on accidental actions and chance patterns, involved abstract expressionism (Hans Hofmann, Sebastian Antonio Matta Echauren, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollack).(84) The second of these explored the inner world: phantasy and the irrational. In the nineteenth century, romanticism had led to the creation of dream worlds (Gustave Moreau, Rodolphe Bresden, Odilon Redon).(85) These continued into the twentieth century with the naive painters (Henri Rousseau),(86) and the metaphysical school (notably Giorgio di Chirico),(87) which led to further explorations into the irrational through dadaism,(88) surrealism(89) and conceptualism.(90) Striking is the extent to which these inner visions emphasize perspectival space. Even in the art of mentally disturbed persons, despite distortions, a basic spatial pattern is usually still recognizable and sometimes has a compelling coherence of its own (e.g. William Kurelek).(91)
A third area of exploring has involved the perceptual world. It could be argued that this was effectively an extension of the detailed attention to visual effects initiated by the impressionists. In Antonio Lopez Garcia's drawing of Antonio Lopez Torres (London, Marlborough Fine Arts Ltd., 1971-1973), for example, which Arnason(92) cites simply as part of the revival of representational painting in the 1970's, we note curvilinear effects on the floor reminiscent of those found in Cezanne(93) and Van Gogh.(94) Inspired by nineteenth and twentieth century optical theorists (Helmholtz, Hillebrand, Ames, Luneburg),(95) a number of painters have claimed that spherical perspective more closely approximates the effects of vision than does linear perspective. In the nineteenth century, thinkers such as Hauck had considered spherical projections as subjective perspective.(96) Panofsky followed this approach.(97) However, recent thinkers such as Barre and Flocon or Hansen claim(98) that spherical projections exemplify objective perspective.
In terms of strictly scientific principles of vision, the most succinct challenge to these views remains Pirenne,(99) whose work also poses problems for Termes' experiments(100) with one, two, three, four, five, and six point perspective, or Blotti's explorations(101) of alternative projection methods. To enter into great polemics as to who is right, would be to assume that both sides are concerned with the same thing, which they are not. Impressionists such as Pirenne's father, and Pirenne himself, were concerned with information available to one eye, from a given station point, at a given time and place. These contemporary artists, by contrast, would argue that no single viewpoint does justice to the complexities of visual experience and that the challenge lies, therefore, in incorporating, combining, integrating different viewpoints simultaneously in achieving panoramic effects, such as we experience when we walk around in every day life. Certainly no eye from a single viewpoint could see all the images on the 360 degree spherical surfaces of Albert Flocon's Tableau spherique (Paris, Grand Palais) or of Dick Termes' Termespheres. Yet a painting, which does not stop with the artificial boundaries of a frame and which continues to unfold as we walk around it, comes closer, they would argue, to our experience of the visual environment of every day life.
This quest to incorporate various viewpoints simultaneously has led artists such as Lucien Day to renew interest in cylindrical projection planes, not as a rejection of linear perspective, but rather as an attempt to go beyond its limitations. In Day's own words:
My work is an attempt to incorporate more than one angle of vision in a picture plane. I want to expand the means of academic perspective to include more of what we see and how we see it.... Working with a camera, I am able to freeze these changed peripheral elements and use them as part of the picture. Instead of a fixed viewing eye, which is the basis of academic perspective, I make two angles of vision work together.(102)
As Marcia Clark has recently demonstrated in an important exhibition, Day's concerns are part of a new trend which includes Susan Crile's multiple perspectives, and Clark's own conbination paintings in which, as she explains:
Though the painting is seen in three parts these connect in the mind's eye. Both the shifting perspectives and the serial nature of the painting bring a dimension of time into the visual experience. Within this, a process of discovery can unfold, reflecting not only the view but also the experience of seeing.(103)
In the context of our analysis three aspects of this trend are of particular interest. One is how artists such as Clark, Crile and Lima consciously speak of their work as metaphor.(104) Second, is the way in which artists such as David Hockney, David McGlynn and Richard McKown use photography, with its objective perspectival-images, as a starting point for their subjective explorations of perceptual spaces.(105) Whereas an earlier generation would have perceived oppositions between art and science, subjective and objective methods, this generation is exploring how they can be integrated in new ways. Related to this is a third phenomenon: for the quest to integrate different spaces has focussed attention on the challenge of relating different times. Clark referred to this in the passage cited above. Hockney has drawn attention to it:
It's a different time in each square and as I went I found, suddenly at times, incredible spatial effects happening, which made one realize that time was deeply related to space - maybe they were the same thing - and immediately I noticed its connection with cubism.(106)
McKown has been even more conscious of this process:
...each image in my work starts out as a separate exposure in the camera. I want the viewer to experience the time element by looking at the individual images before looking out at the illusion of the whole composition.... I'm working with the aspects of cubism. However, by my use of photography, there is a reference to reality that pulls the image into a whole instead of fragments, so that the concept of time is slowed down and expanded.(107)
In emphasizing such temporal-spatial problems, these painters were, in a sense, pursuing themes which Carpaccio had explored nearly five centuries earlier and demonstrating in a new way the limitations of Lessing's aesthetics, which opposed painting and poetry in terms of space and time. Indeed, it could be argued that the full implications of perspective for temporal-spatial dimensions of painting are only now coming into focus.
In moving from pre-literate to literate society, imitating replaced connecting as a goal. What is striking about these recent developments, however, is that they have not replaced existing goals such that ordering, matching, mixing and exploring, with their various subcategories: all exist together. At a certain level, evolution is embracing, not replacing. The full significance of this phenomenon has yet to be assessed. It is instructive to recall, for instance, that just over a half century ago Novotny wrote an influential work entitled, Cezanne and the End of Scientific Perspective (1938).(108) He was by no means alone. Many of his contemporaries were fully convinced that exploring chance and abstraction had become the only goal of modern art, and even today, some scholars still assume artistic progress occurred in terms of one goal at a time.(109) In these minds, art history since 1500 could be reduced to a simple story of how artists gradually rejected perspectival principles, and the twentieth century became a final chapter in a move from perceptual to conceptual art.(110)
Our all two brief outline has shown a rather different story. For if perspective was rejected by those exploring chance and abstraction, it has proved essential in exploring both the perceptual world and the inner world (naive and metaphysical art), in new goals of mixing outer and inner world (cubism, constructivism, surrealism, neo-romanticism and magic realism) and new branches of matching (precisionism, pop art, new realism, photo realism, hyper realism). All of which helps to explain the pattern of publication revealed in figure 5:
Perspective did not die: it did not even experience a serious decline. Since 1500 its story has been one of continuous development. What began as a mechanical means of recording the outer world objectively in quantitative terms, has become a fundamental method for exploring the inner world with its subjective dimensions. Perspective has led the west to create more images than any other culture. In the process it has given us a concept of visual metaphor, leading to ever subtler plays on is-is not, teaching us that seeing is also seeing through, revealing positive dimensions of illusion, opening our image-ination, asserting in unexpected ways our freedom as individuals.
Two generations ago, the greatest scholar in the field, Erwin Panofsky, could plausibly claim that perspective was a symbolic form,(111) that a given culture was bound to a particular method of spatial representation: that spherical perspective belonged to antiquity and linear perspective specifically to the Renaissance. This tantalizing hypothesis unfortunately raised more problems than it answered: what evidence was there that the Greeks had developed a coherent method of spherical perspective? Why did some scholars insist that the Greeks had linear perspective? If linear perspective truly belonged to the Renaissance, why was it that this period also offered the first serious evidence of spherical (Fouquet), cylindrical (Marolois) and conical (Vaulezard, Niceron, Dubreuil) perspective? Why should spherical perspective have found new exponents in the nineteenth century (Hauck, Ware)? Indeed what happened to culture after the Renaissance?
Panofsky,(112) his colleague Cassirer, and Aby Warburg, at whose institute they both worked, had been inspired by neo-Kantian theories of culture (e.g. Cohen),(113) which began with a premise that there was progress, that each stage in cultural evolution brought a new world view, and that each world view determined perception and representation, in both theory and practice. This implied that any given culture was limited to a single method of representation, and progress would, therefore, be a simple linear development. Ironically Panofsky's own studies suggested, and Warburg's meticulous research showed conclusively, that the details of Renaissance art involved so many particulars and contradictions, that they could not be reduced to one goal of representation determined by a single, universal world view.
Warburg's biographer,(114) who later became director of his institute, pursued these problems in three studies in the art of the Renaissance (Norm and Form, Symbolic Images, The Heritage of Apelles),(115) in which he examined the environment that made different artistic expressions possible, as a direct challenge to deterministic claims. But he devoted his main energies "to study some of the fundamental functions of the visual arts in their psychological implications."(116) While insisting that art has a number of different goals or functions including narrative, caricature and symbolism, Sir Ernst Gombrich focussed attention on two major functions: ornament (A Sense of Order)(117) and illusion (Art and Illusion, Illusion in Nature and Art, Image and the Eye).(118) He saw the problem of illusion as relatively well defined:
It basically concerns the process by which the rendering of the visible world was seen to change from schematic to naturalistic styles - a process which can be observed twice in the history of art - in classical antiquity and again in the Renaissance.(119)
This suggested, however, that the Renaissance brought nothing new, that it was literally a rebirth,(120) and simply involved a repetition of ancient illusionistic tricks. Underlying this approach was an important assumption: that concepts of progress and determinism were necessarily linked, and that in order to escape the totalitarian perils of the latter, it was wiser to forego entirely the very idea of the former.(121)
This essay points beyond these problems of either-or. The six goals of art outlined above are not deterministic in a narrow sense. We have shown that Antiquity tried at least five different versions of imitation; that the Renaissance practiced linear, conic, cylindrical, spherical and parallel perspective, and that there has been an even greater diversity in the modern period as a simple glance at Blotti's alternatives reveals. Therefore, simplistic equations between one world-view, one theory of vision and one practice of representation can be rejected outright. Nonetheless, certain goals favoured some methods, and actually precluded others. We have shown, for instance, that connecting, ordering and even imitating precluded perspective, whereas matching, mixing, and most branches of exploring required perspective.
The climates which precluded or favoured perspectival representation were more than a question of theory. They involved architectural construction, such that building spaces with perspectival effects was an important prerequisite for perspectival representation. They were also bound up with levels of literacy: connecting and ordering requiring none, imitating needing some, matching requiring a textual community, mixing and exploring requiring complex textual communities with a heritage of both visual and verbal images.
Seen in this way both Antiquity and the Renaissance emerge as distinct phases, and a cumulative dimension of culture comes into focus. The Renaissance could never have attempted its synthesis of Christian and pagan images had there not been these two traditions, had these not been a well-established culture, which made this heritage accessible. Whereas Ancient imitation limited itself to representation of universals, Renaissance matching opened art to representation of individuals and took art in at least ten new directions (figure 6). Some of these evolved simultaneously: e.g. the visual world, illustrating verbal sources directly, implicitly, recurring events and topoi. Others, such as illustrating verbal sources as every day life, with play, irony or distortion were only possible when new levels of distance had been reached, and these levels, once attained, rendered difficult return to a more naive level. Hence the process was not only cumulative: it tended at a certain point to become irreversible.
Earlier goals of art linked visible and invisible worlds: connecting, for example, linked a visible statue with an invisible god; imitating linked visible statues with invisible gods and concepts, thus leaving only one side of the equation testable, and keeping object and subject conflated. By contrast, in the Renaissance, perspectival matching established links between visible objects and visible representations, thus making both sides of the equation testable and, at least a theory, separating subject from object. Cassirer, in his Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy (1928) described the subject-object distinction as a static event, brought about by a shift from a finite to infinite world view.(122)
2. Ideal world
3. Isolated objects
4. Isolated objects-using optical adjustments
5. Imaginary scenes-using optical adjustments
2. Verbal sources
3. Implicit common verbal sources
4. Implicit common verbal sources as everyday life, landscape
5. Implicit common verbal sources as play, irony
6. Implicit uncommon verbal sources
7. Recurring events, topoi
8. Distortion (anamorphosis)
9. Distortion through simplification
2. Verbal sources
3. Implicit verbal sources
1. Mental world
2. Perceptual world
3. Algorithmic world
|Figure 6. Six basic goals of cultural and artistic expression.|
In our analysis, the subject-object distinction grew out of an interplay of perspective, new levels of literacy, and interpretation, was dynamic, and should be seen as part of a larger process involving increasing levels of distance.
Perspective thus emerges as something much more profound than an early copying tool. It led to a systematic exploration of interiors and exteriors, of inside and outside space in the natural world, and pointed to new distinctions between inner and outer at a psychological level. If its matching function brought the natural world into closer focus for study, it was simultaneously a distancer. Hence, there was a two-fold way in which perspective brought a new power over images: first, it introduced systematic combination and play in the representation of basic spatial forms. Second, it led to representation being recognized as something separate from the observer, at levels of greater aesthetic distance, such that playful treatment of images in another sense became possible also.
There remained a serious side to this playfulness, however. For the method which rendered nature visible for man, and liberated man from nature, also threatened to separate him in the negative sense, to alienate him. Connecting had assured a feeling of being at one with nature through communal rituals involving a totem.(123) With matching this communal assurance was gone, and reassurance was at an individual level, using representations in galleries to reestablish relationships with nature. Seen in this way the art galleries of our cities are by no means luxuries. Even the visual metaphors and puns on billboards in major cities are more than advertising gimmicks: they are a part of a process helping us to see through illusion and gain more distance from nature and ourselves without becoming alienated: teaching us to see our relationships.
Perspective is therefore much more than an instrument of art. It is an instrument of civilization, creating representations convincing enough that we can accept them as substitutes for the most threatening dimensions of reality: such that pictures, movies and videos, become substitutes for war, violence, rape and other forces of destruction, while at the same time threatening to stimulate the very things they were aimed to prevent. At the limit, a life of action in the field risks becoming a life of reaction to a camera or a screen. But this may be the price for a method, which transformed the closed, prescriptive rules of representation to an open, descriptive approach, which encourages new images, challenges creativity and imagination, and asserts our fundamental freedom.
© Kim H. Veltman (Maastricht)
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(24) Cf. C. Van der Sleyen, Das alte Ägypten, Frankfurt: Verlag Ullstein, 1975, pl. 46, (Propyläen Kunstgeschichte, Bd. 15).
(25) Sir E. H. Gombrich, Art and Illusion, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960, p.129.
(26) Ibid., p. 131.
(27) Erich Auerbach, Mimesis. The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953. Originally written in German in Istanbul between May 1942 and April 1945 and first published in Bern by A. Francke Ltd. and Co., 1946.
(28) Cf. Heinrich Schäfer, Principles of Egyptian Art, tr. John Baines, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974.
(29) Pliny, Natural History, trans. H. Rackham, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, vol. IX, 1968, pp. 306-311 (XXXV.65- 66).
(30) Ibid., vol. IX, 1968, pp. 176-177 (XXIV,XIX.65):
vulgoque dicebat ab illis factos quales essent homines, a se quales viderentur esse.
(31) This occurs in the context of Plato's discussion of appearance (phantastike) in the Sophist. Plato had noted that whereas sculptors maintained the true proportions of objects, painters did not, and had described the principle of optical adjustments methods (235e-236a):
objects which are seen at a certain elevation will appear too small and those which are positioned lower will appear too large, the ones being viewed from nearby, the others from afar. That is why workers these days abandon the true and give to their figures not the real measure of the model but that which should produce to the eye the impression of beauty of those figures.
See: Plato, "The Sophist," 236 a-c in The Collected Dialogues of Plato ed. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, Princeton: Princeton University Press 1961; p. 978-979 (Bollingen Series LXXI).
(32) See the author's Sources of Perspective, chapter 5, unpublished manuscript (web version at http://www.sumscorp.com under perspective.
(33) One of the fundamental contributions of Sir Ernst Gombrich has been to demonstrate that psychological projections continue to imbue art. See: Art and Illusion. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960.
(34) Vitruvius, in the introduction to book seven of his De architectura reports that Agatharcus, a contemporary of Aeschylus painted a scene and left a commentary about it:
This led Democritus and Anaxagoras to write on the same subject, showing how, given a centre in a definite place, the lines should naturally correspond with due regard to the point of sight and the divergence of the visual rays, so that by this deception a faithful representation of the appearance of buildings might be given in painted scenery, and so that, though all is drawn on a vertical flat facade, some parts may seem to be withdrawing into the background, and others to be standing out in front.
See: Vitruvius, The Ten Books on Architecture, tr. Morris Hicky Morgan, New York: Dover, 1960, p. 198. For the original Latin see, Vitruvii De architectura libri decem, ed. Dr. C. Fensterbusch, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1976, p. 308.
(35) An image in the mind which is visual cannot be recorded or measured. It needs a verbal description. Hence, although visual in the mind, it nonetheless needs a verbal filter before it can be communicated.
(36) Vasari, as in I.2, note 1, vol.I, p.209.
(37) Auerbach, as in note 27 above.
(37) Auerbach, as in note 27 above.
(38) Cf. Sir E. H. Gombrich, "Illusion and art," in: Illusion in Nature and Art, ed. R.L. Gregory and E.H. Gombrich, London; Duckworth, 1973, pp. 193-243, particularly pp. 230-231.
(39) Michael Kubovy, The Psychology of Perspective and Renaissance Art, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986, pp.52-64.
(40) For an analysis see Marisa Dalai Emiliani, "Il ciclo del Foppa nella cappella Portinari."
(41) Alessandro Parronchi, Studi su la dolce prospettiva, as in I.2, note 6, pp.340-348.
(42) Alessandro Parronchi, Masaccio, Florence: Sadea Sansoni, 1966. His reconstruction is reproduced in: L'opera completa di Masaccio, ed. Paolo Volponi, Luciano Berti, Milano: Rizzoli, 1968, p.96.
(43) Cf. Jean Seznec, The Survival of the Pagan Gods, trans. Barbara F. Sessions, New York: Harper and Row, 1953.
(44) For an analysis of the contents of these paintings, cf. S. J. Freedberg, Painting in the High Renaissance in Rome and Florence, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1961, 2 vol.
(45) Leonardo da Vinci, A 96r (BN 2038 16r, TPL 119, 1492):
Ti rispondo che tu debbi porre il primo piano col punto al'altezza de l'ochio de riguardatori d'essa storia et in sul detto piano figura la prima storia grande e poi diminuendo di mano in mano le figure e casamenti in su diverse colli e pianure farai tutto il fornimento d'essa storia.
For another discussion of this passage see: Sir E. H. Gombrich, Means and Ends, as in I.1, note 30, p. 10.
(46) Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Läokoon, oder über die Grenzen der Malerei und Poesie, Stuttgart: Reclam, 1964, (271/71 a/b), p. 114:
Ich schliesse so. Wenn es wahr ist, dass die Malerei zu ihren Nachahmungen ganz andere Mittel, oder Zeichen gebrauchet, als die Poesie; jene nämlich Figuren und Farben in dem Raume, diese aber artikulierte Töne in der Zeit; wenn unstreitig die Zeichen ein bequemes Verhältnis zu dem Bezeichneten haben mussen: so können nebeneinander geordnete Zeichen auch nur Gegenstände, die nebeneinander, oder deren Teile nebeneinander existieren, aufeinanderfolgende Zeichen aber auch nur Gegenstände ausdrucken, die aufeinander, oder deren Teile aufeinander folgen.
(47) Ibid., p. 114:
Gegenstände, die nebeneinander oder deren Teile nebeneinander existieren, heissen Körper. Folglich sind Körper mit ihren sichtbaren Eigenschaften die eigentlichen Gegenstände der Malerei.
Gegenstände, die aufeinander, oder deren Teile aufeinander folgen, heissen
überhaupt Handlungen. Folglich sind Handlungen der eigentliche Gegenstand
(48) Ibid., p. 127.
Denn wer sieht nicht, dass dem Dichter hier mehr an der Auseinandersetzung der Teile, als an dem Ganzen gelegen gewesen? Er will uns die Kennzeichen eines schönen Füllens, einer tüchtigen Kuh zuzählen, um uns in den Stand zu setzen, nachdem wir deren mehr oder wenigere antreffen, von der Gute der einen oder des andern urteilen zu können; ob sich aber alle diese Kennzeichen in ein lebhaftes Bild leicht zusammenfassen lassen, oder nicht, das könnte ihm sehr gleichgültig sein.
Ausser diesem Gebräuche sind die ausführlichen Gemälde körperlicher Gegenstände, ohne den oben erwöhnten Homerischen Kunstgriff, das Koexistierende derselben in ein wirkliches Sukzessives zu verwandeln, jederzeit von den feinsten Richtern für ein frostiges Spielwerk erkannt worden,zu welchem wenig oder gar kein Genie gehöret. Wenn der poetische Stümper, sagt Horaz, nicht weiter kann, so fangt er an, einen Hain, einen Altar, einen durch anmutige Fluren sich schlangelnden Bach, einen rauschenden Strom, einen Regenbogen zu malen.
(49) Ibid., p.129:
Es bleibt dabei: die Zeitfolge ist das Gebiete des Dichters, so wie der Raum das Gebiete des Malers.
Zwei notwendig entfernte Zeitpunkte in ein und ebendasselbe Gemälde bringen, so wie Fr. Mazzuoli den Raub der sabinischen Jungfrauen, und derselben Aussohnung ihrer Ehemänner mit ihren Anverwandten; oder wie Tizian die ganze Geschichte des verlornen Sohnes, sein liederliches Leben und sein Elend und seine Reue: heisst ein Eingriff des Malers in das Gebiete des Dichters, den der gute Geschmack nie billigen wird.
(50) Leonardo da Vinci, Codex Urbinas 1270, fol. 123r (TPL 374): Delle otto [sic] operazioni del huomo.
Fermezza, movimento, cuorso, ritto, apoggiato, a sedere, chinato, ginocchioni, giaccente, sospeso, portare, esser portato, spingere, tirare, batere, esser batuto, agravare e allegierire.
(51) Andre Chastel, I centri del rinascimento Arte italiano 1460-1500, Milan: Rizzoli, 1965, p.123.
(52) Henry Heydenryk, The Art and History of Frames, London: Nicholas Vane, 1964, p.13.
(53) Ibid., p.18.
(54) For a good introduction to this theme see: Eve Borsook, Mural Painters of Tuscany, London: Phaidon, 1960. Recently these cycles have been wonderfully reproduced in a two volume work by Steffi Roettgen, Italian Frescoes, New York: Abbeville Press Publishers, 1996- 1997.
(55) Cf. Augustine, The City of God, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972, pp. 168-169 (Bk. IV.27).
(56) On the special role of the Bible in western culture see: Northrop Frye, The Great Code. The Bible and Literature, Toronto: Academic Press, 1982.
(57) Cf. Aristotle, De poetica, as in note 1, 1458a 20 ff.:
On the other hand the Diction becomes distinguished and non-prosaic by the use of unfamiliar terms, i.e., strange words, metaphors, lengthened forms and everything that deviates from the ordinary modes of speech."
Accordingly in the Rhetorica, 1404, 33ff., Aristotle mentions that "two classes of terms, the proper or regular and the metaphorical - these and no others - are used by everybody in conversation." For a perceptive study of the historical dimensions of these problems, why metaphor was a frill in Aristotle and later became significant see: Wilhelm Köller, Semiotik und Metapher. Untersuchungen zur grammatischen Struktur and Kommunikativen Funktion von Metaphera. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, 1975. (Studien zur allgemeinen und vergleichenden Literaturwissenschaft, Band 10).
Comedy of Dante Alighieri the Florentine. Cantica II. Purgatory,
trans. Dorothy L. Sayers, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1955,
p.144 (Canto X. 37-45).
I am grateful to Professor Eva Engel Holland for drawing my attention to this passage.
(59) Ibid., p. 145 (Canto X.62).
(60) Ibid., (Canto X.73).
(61) Ibid., (Canto X.75).
(62) Cf. Dennis Green, 1982.
(63) For a brief introduction to these problems see The Comedy of Dante Alighieri...Cantica III. Paradise, trans. Dorothy L. Sayers and Barbara Reynolds, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962, pp. 44-49. Cf. Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957.
has, in the past decade, become one of the most explosive topics
of study particularly among psychologists and semioticians. See,
for instance: G. Lackoff and M. Johnson, Metaphors We Live
By, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980 and Marcel
Danesi, ed., Metaphor, Communication and Cognition, Toronto:
Humanities Publishing Services, 1987-1988 (Monograph series of
the Toronto Semiotic Circle, No. 2).
A classic analysis of the problem remains Karl Bühler's chapter on "Die sprachliche Metapher" in his Sprachtheorie. Die Darstellungsfunktion der Sprache, Stuttgart: Gustav Fischer Verlags, 1965, pp. 342-356. For an idea of the range of disciplines now involved in these discussions see: Metaphor and Thought, ed. Andrew Ortony, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979. Philosophers have shown increasing interest in the problem as, for instance, Max Black, Models and Metaphors. Studies in Language and Philosophy, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1962.
(65) On this difficult problem see an important study by Brian Stock, The Implications of Literacy. Written Language and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth centuries, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983. On the history of printing see: Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979.
(66) Caricature is strictly speaking a subset of this category. I am not aware of a proper term for the category as a whole.
(67) Modern art has many examples of paintings on the walls of rooms in paintings, which function as background statements. With respect to Dali's case in particular see his: Le mythe tragique de l'Angelus de Millet. Interprétation paranoiaque-critique, Paris: Jean Jacques Pauvert, 1963.
(68) Detailed study of this complex topic has yet to occur. For two pioneering explorations of the problem see: Wolfgang Kemp, Foto-Essays zur Geschichte und Theorie der Fotografie, Munich: Schirmer Mosel, 1978, particularly pp. 51-101, and Kirk Varnedoe, "The artifice of candour, photography, impressionism and photography reconsidered," Art in America, New York, vol. 66, January 1980, pp.66- 78.
(69) Cf. Sir E. H. Gombrich, "Botticelli's mythologies" in his: Symbolic Images, London: Phaidon, pp.31-78.
(70) Salvatore Settis, La Tempesta interpretata. Giorgione, i commitenti, il soggetto, Turin: G. Einaudi, 1978.
(71) Erwin Panofsky, Studies in Iconology. Humanistic Themes in the Art of the Renaissance, New York: Oxford University Press, 1939, pp.86-91. (Mary Flexner Lectures, 1937).
(72) For examples of these artists see: H. H. Arnason, A History of Modern Art, London: Thames and Hudson, 1977 etc., pp. 422-423, 427-431: (re: precisionists); 613-645 (re: pop art); 699-702 (re: new and photo realism). The references to Arnason are intended to provide readers with handy examples of three movements, and introduce them to the subject. No attempt is made here to give a serious bibliography.
(73) J. Baltrusaitis, as in I.1, note 10.
(74) Cf. Arnason, as in note 57, pp. 73-74.
(75) Albert Gleizes, Du cubisme et des moyens de le comprendre, Paris: Editions 'La Cible', 1921, p.47:
Au début, la charpente créée sur les principes perspectifs, était robuste, mais elle fut renversée par les affolés de réalisme et ce fut l'impressionnisme, qui se lanca éperduement sur les inconsistances atmosphériques.
(76) Ibid., pp.26-27:
Si l'artiste, dont la spécialité est de peindre des natures mortes académiquement, renoncait tout à coup à ses sujets favoris et se passionnait pour des sujets composés de briques, de cylindres et de planchettes, il les peindrait avec la perspective optique et l'éclairage conventionnel....
Beaucoup de tableaux cubistes ne sont que le produit de cette substitution.
(77) Ibid., pp.18-19:
Prétendre l'investir d'une troisième dimension, c'est vouloir la dénaturer dans son essence meme:
Le résultat obtenu ne devient que l'imitation trompe-l'oeil de notre réalité, matérielle à trois dimensions, par la superchérie des perspectives linéaires et celle des conventions d'éclairage.
For a more vehement theoretical rejection of perspective see: Oeuvres complètes de Guillaume Apollinaire, ed. Michel Décaudin, Paris: André, Balland et Jacques Lecat, 1963, particularly pp.20-21, 24-25,42,47, 274-275,286-287, 432-433.
(78) Ibid., pp.23:
la peinture n'est donc pas une imitation d'objets. La réalité du monde extérieur lui sert de départ, mais elle la dépouille de cette réalité pour toucher l'esprit.
(79) Cf. Arnason, as in note 57, pp.221-240, 323-330, 591- 598.
(80) Ibid., pp.375-76.
(81) Ibid., pp.370-371, 389-391.
(82) One of the great collections of these books is to be found at the Herzog August Bibliothek at Wolfenbüttel. Professor Harriett Watts is presently engaged in a study thereof.
(83) Cf. Abraham Horodisch, Picasso als Buchkünstler, Frankfurt: Gesellschaft der Bibliophilen, 1957.
(84) Cf. Arnason, as in note 57, pp.507-508, 521-523, 652-653, 678-679.
(85) Ibid., pp.78-80.
(86) Ibid., p.290.
(87) Ibid., pp.292-306.
(88) Ibid., pp.219, 307-316, 395-396.
(89) Ibid., pp.348-409.
(90) Ibid., pp.658 ff., 703-706.
(91) Cf. William Kurelek, William Kurelek's Vision of Canada, Winnipeg: Hurtig, 1980.
(92) Arnason, as in note 57, p.567.
(93) Cf. Christopher Grey, "Cézanne's use of perspective," College Art Journal, New York, vol.19, no. 1, Fall 1959, pp.54-64.
(94) See John Rewald, "Van Gogh vs. nature: did van Gogh of the camera lie?", Art News, New York, vol.41, 1942, pp.8- 11. Cf. Patrick Heelan, Space-Perception and the Philosophy of Science, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983, pp.114-128.
(95) Cf. Hermann von Helmholtz, Helmholtz's Treatise on Physiological Optics, trans. James P.C. Southall, New York: Dover Publications, 1962, vol.3, p.181; F. Hillebrand, "Theorie der scheinbaren Grösse bei binokularen Sehen," Abhandlungen der Akademie, der Wissenschaften zu Wien, Mathematisch-naturwissenschaftliche Klasse, Vienna, Bd. 72, 1902; A. E. Ames, and C.A. Proctor, "Dioptrics of the Eye," Journal of the Optical Society of America, Rochester, Vol.5, 1921, pp.22-84. R. K. Luneburg, Mathematical Analysis of Binocular Vision, Hanover: Dartmouth Eye Institute, 1947.
(96) Guido Hauck, Die subjektive Perspektive und die horizontalen Curvaturen des dorischen Styls, Stuttgart: Conrad Wittwer, 1879.
(97) Erwin Panofsky, "Die Perspektive als symbolische Form," as in I.2, note 27.
(98) Cf. Robert Hansen, "This curving world: hyperbolic linear perspective," Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Baltimore, vol.32, no. 2, winter 1973, pp.148-161. Cf. Hansen's introductory commentary to his translation of Albert Flocon and André Barre, Curvilinear Space. From Visual Space to Constructed Image, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.
(99) M. H. Pirenne, "The scientific basis of Leonardo da Vinci's theory of perspective," British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, London, vol.3, 1952, pp.169-185.
(100) Dick Termes, Spherical Thinking, Spearfish, 1982.
(101) Philippe Comar et Nöel Blotti, Stenopé. La représentation de l'espace, Paris: Cité des sciences et de l'industrie (1987).
(102) In: Marcia Clark, ed., The World is Round. Contemporary Panoramas, New York: The Hudson River Museum, 1987, p.31.
(103) Ibid., p.43.
(104) Ibid., pp.43, 51, 35.
(105) Ibid., pp.59, 27, 45.
(106) Ibid., p.8.
(107) Ibid., p.35.
(108) Fritz Novotny, Cézanne und das Ende der wissenschaftliche Perspektive, Vienna: Schroll, 1938.
(109) Cf. Suzi Gablik, Progress in Art, London: Thames and Hudson, 1976.
Cf. Sidney J. Blatt, in collaboration with Ethel Blatt, Continuity
and Change in Art: the Development of Modes of Representation,
Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1984. While disagreeing strongly
with my colleagues and friends, I find their book very stimulating.
They document why the conceptual approach has gained such a fascination
among psychologists. I, personally, believe that perception remains
both interesting and important. For an analysis of problems with
their approach see the author's Literature of Perspective,
Blatt is tackling the difficult question of progress in art, which has been treated at a popular level in S. Gablik, Progress in Art, London: Thames and Hudson, 1976. On this subject see A.L. Fox, General Pitt Rivers, "The Evolution of Culture". A Lecture delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain on Friday, May 28, 1875 and published in: Proceedings of the Royal Institution, London, vol. VII, pp. 496-520, pl. i-iv. Also: O. Montelius, Die älteren Kulturperiode, Stockholm: Selbstverlag der Verfasser, 1903-1923, 2 volumes. See also M. W. Thompson, General Pitt Rivers. Evolution and Archaeology in the Nineteenth Century, Bradford on Avon: Moonraker Press, 1977.
For a history of theories of progress see: T. Munro, Evolution in the Arts and other Theories of Culture History, New York: Harry Abrams, 1963 (reviewed by E. H. Gombrich in the British Journal for Aesthetics, vol. 3, no. 3, July 1964, pp. 263-270), and E. H. Gombrich, The Ideas of Progress and their Impact on Art, New York: Cooper Union of Art and Architecture, 1971. This latter work is more readily availablein German translation: Kunst und Fortschritt, Wirkung und Wandlung einer Idee, Köln: Dumont, 1978.
(111) Erwin Panofsky, "Die Perspektive als symbolische Form", Vorträge der bibliothek Warburg 1924-1925, Leipzig, berlin, 1927, pp. 258-330.. For a critique of these assumptions see the author's "Panofsky's Perspective: a Half Century Later," La prospettiva rinascimentale, ed. Marisa Dalai Emiliani, Florence: Centro Di, 1980, pp.565- 584.
(112) For a discussion of Panofsky's context see the author's: Panofsky's perspective: a half century later" in: Marisa Dalai Emiliani, ed., La prospettiva rinascimentale. Codificazioni e trasgressioni, Florence: Centro Di, 1980, pp. 565- 584.
(113) H. Cohen, Ästhetik des reinen Gefühls, Berlin: P. Cassirer,1912. Cf. his: Kants Begründung der Ästhetik, Berlin: F. Dümmler, 1889.
(114) Sir E. H. Gombrich, Aby Warburg. An Intellectual Biography, London: Warburg Institute, 1970.
(115) Sir E. H. Gombrich, Norm and Form, Studies in the Art of the Renaissance I, London: Phaidon, 1966; Sir E.H. Gombrich, Symbolic Images, Studies in the Art of the Renaissance II, London: Phaidon, 1972; Sir E.H. Gombrich, The Heritage of Apelles. Studies in the Art of Renaissance III, London: Phaidon, 1976.
(116) Sir E. H. Gombrich, The Sense of Order. A Study in the Psychology of Decorative art. London: Phaidon, 1979, p.ix.
(118) Sir E. H. Gombrich, Art and illusion. A study in the psychology of pictorial Representation, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960 (Bollingen series XXXV.5); R.L. Gregory and E.H. Gombrich, ed., Illusion in Nature and Art, London: Duckworth, 1973; Sir E.H. Gombrich, The Image and the Eye. Further Studies in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation, Oxford: Phaidon, 1982.
(119) Sir E. H. Gombrich, The Sense of Order, as in note 101, p.ix.
(120) Cf. Sir E. H. Gombrich, Art and Illusion, as in note 103, p.152. Cf. quote relating to our note 104.
(121) Cf. Sir E. H. Gombrich, The Ideas of Progress and their Impact on Art, New York: Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture, 1971.
(122) Ernst Cassirer, Individuum und Cosmos in der Philosophie der Renaissance, Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1927 (Studien der Bibliothek Warburg, X); Cf. Ernst Cassirer, Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy, trans. Mario Domandi, New York: Harper and Row, 1964, particularly pp.123- 191.
There are larger questions here. Joseph Campbell in Oriental
Mythology, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962, begins with a fascinating
contrast between Eastern and Western culture, suggesting that
the separation of man from God and nature has been an aspect of
western culture from the outset in a way that is not the case
in the east. In other words, the subject- object distinction,
although it came into focus during the Renaissance, had Biblical
roots in the West. Webmeisterin: Angelika
last change 30.1.2000