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Compelling Visuality: The Work of Art in and out of History

Claire Farago
Robert Zwijnenberg
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Compelling Visuality
    Book Description:

    Takes up the commonly unexplored question of what is actually present in art—what aspects have survived the vicissitudes of time. International and interdisciplinary, this volume conducts readers into a discussion of the significance of personal response to works of art. Contributors: F. R. Ankersmit, Mieke Bal, Oskar Bätschmann, Georges Didi-Huberman, Michael Ann Holly, Donald Preziosi, Renée van de Vall.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9460-0
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Art History after Aesthetics: A Provocative Introduction
    (pp. vii-xvi)
    Robert Zwijnenberg and Claire Farago

    The discipline of art history has always aimed to do justice to the complexity of works of art in their compelling visuality, taking the relationship between particular works of art and their individual beholders as the field’s primary object of investigation. In this respect, this book is no different from any traditional art historical inquiry. The following essays, however, articulate questions that contemporary art historians generally dismiss as ahistorical or anachronistic or—worse yet—philosophical, implying that “anything goes” when a work of art is approached “philosophically.” In her contribution to this volume, Michael Ann Holly cogently articulates the conundrum...

  4. CHAPTER ONE Ecstatic Aesthetics: Metaphoring Bernini
    (pp. 1-30)
    Mieke Bal

    The image of a royal robe with ample folds cannot today but evoke that historical aesthetic and its contemporary counterpart that we associate with Gilles Deleuze (1993), with the idea of the fold. The image is thoroughly baroque. Walter Benjamin, whose work on German baroque drama has inspired extensive philosophical commentary on the baroqueness of his thought as exemplary of modernity in general, is here speaking not about art but about language.¹ Comparing the task of the translator with that of the poet, Benjamin creates a powerful image of the translator’s product as both rich (royal) and encompassing (ample), expansive...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Before the Image, Before Time: The Sovereignty of Anachronism
    (pp. 31-44)
    Georges Didi-Huberman

    Whenever we are before the image, we are before time. Like the poor illiterate in Kafka’s story, we are before the image asbefore the law: as before an open doorway. It hides nothing from us, all we need to do is enter, its light almost blinds us, holds us in submission. Its very opening—and I am not talking about the doorkeeper—holds us back: to look at it is to desire, to wait, to be before time. But what kind of time? What plasticities and fractures, what rhythms and jolts of time, can be at stake in this...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Aesthetics before Art: Leonardo through the Looking Glass
    (pp. 45-92)
    Claire Farago

    As anyone who has ever attempted to act on a mirror image’s spatial cues knows, the logic of the looking glass is counterintuitive. Walking through time’s looking glass, as it were, in the opposite direction from contemporary understandings of science, religion, and art as three distinct domains, toward their fluid intersection in the early modern period, the following essay attempts to recapture a decidedly unmodern aspect of our artistic heritage. The aspects of Leonardo’s paintings that will be of concern here pertain to that elusive and troubling designation known as “style.” Meyer Schapiro associated “style,” in an article published in...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Touching the Face: The Ethics of Visuality between Levinas and a Rembrandt Self-Portrait
    (pp. 93-111)
    Renée van de Vall

    The subject of this essay presented itself during a visit to the exhibitionRembrandt by Himselfin the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague.¹ The exhibition showed a large selection of Rembrandt’s self-portraits, dating from the beginning of his career in the 1620s to the year of his death in 1669. As Rembrandt grew older, the execution of his portraits became amazingly bold and profound in expression. But there was something peculiar about them, which was brought to my attention by one of my companions who started complaining about his eyesight. There was a fuzziness in the faces, a lack of...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Presence and Absence: On Leonardo da Vinci’s Saint John the Baptist
    (pp. 112-131)
    Robert Zwijnenberg

    There are paintings that fascinate anew every time you look at them, while it is not possible to describe clearly why these paintings are so fascinating or what they mean or signify. To meSaint John the Baptist, painted by Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) after 1510, is such a painting. is such a painting.

    In the extensive Leonardo literature, much attention has been devoted to this painting. In this essay, I will use this art historical scholarship on Leonardo’s painting to orient my visual experience to the painting’s historical conditions of viewing.¹ It is significant that most art historians...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Rococo as the Dissipation of Boredom
    (pp. 132-155)
    F. R. Ankersmit

    I was a sickly child: with an almost perverse dedication I went through the whole long list of sicknesses to which children are apt to fall prey, while repeating several items on that list over and over again as if to make sure that I had not forgotten or inadvertently skipped them. This regular confinement to bed tended to put me out of touch with things, which led my parents to allow me to travel more or less with my bed through the whole house, which in turn often brought me to their bedroom. Now, in spite of being ill...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Mourning and Method
    (pp. 156-178)
    Michael Ann Holly

    My principal preoccupation as an art historian (actually as a historiographer, which means that I am a scholar of the intellectual history of the history of art) has always been a philosophical one: why do we write about works of visual art in the first place? Why do subjects (us) need to talk about objects? What kind of a dialogue, even game, is taking place? In my book of 1996,Past Looking: Historical Imagination and the Rhetoric of the Image,¹ I tried to make a case for the variety of ways that works of art both literally and metaphorically prefigure...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT A Guide to Interpretation: Art Historical Hermeneutics
    (pp. 179-210)
    Oskar Bätschmann

    Art historical hermeneutics concerns itself with the well-founded interpretation of visual artworks.

    Thus I have defined three aspects: (1) Art historical hermeneutics deals with the same object as art history, while it also contributes to changes in the definition of its object. (2) Interpretation is based on the application of a well-founded method that substantiates conclusions through critical argument. (3) Art historical hermeneutics, as an object-specific theory and method of interpretation, differs from general or philosophical hermeneutics: while the latter studies understanding and interpretation historically and systematically, art historical hermeneutics is geared toward understanding and interpreting specific objects. As such,...

  12. CHAPTER NINE Seeing Soane Seeing You
    (pp. 211-236)
    Donald Preziosi

    While it may be difficult to capture in words the complexities and nuances of architectonic artifice of an ordinary kind, those that characterize Sir John Soane’s Museum in London (1812–1837),¹ the object of the two conflicting observations in the epigraphs and the subject of this essay, present virtually insurmountable difficulties, and not only because of the restricted space available here. The few illustrations in the following text, then, must serve as synopses of the most salient portions of the following narrative; more complete discussions of the present subject may be found elsewhere.²

    Soane’s Museum has received unprecedented attention in...

  13. Contributors
    (pp. 237-239)