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  • ISBN: 9780262041393
  • ISBN10: 0262041391

The Origin of Perspective

by Damisch, Hubert

  • List Price: $75.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publish date: 03/01/2002
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In part a response to Panofsky's Perspective as Symbolic Form, The Origin of Perspective is much more. In France it is considered one of the most important works of art history to have appeared in the last twenty years. With the exception of Michel Foucault's analysis of Las Meninas, it is perhaps the first time a structuralist method such as the one developed by Claude Levi-Strauss in The Way of the Masks has been thoroughly and convincingly applied to Western art. The task Damisch has set for himself is to refute both the positivist critics, whose approach makes up the bulk of perspective studies and is based on a complete repression of Panofsky's early work, and the current pseudo-avant-gardist position (whether in the field of cinema studies or in literary criticism), which tends to disregard facts and theoretical analysis. Damisch argues that if a theoretical analysis of perspective is possible, using all the tools of structuralist semiotics, it is only possible in the context of a close look at its appearance in history, beginning with the details of the "invention" of perspective. In the first part Damisch reassesses Panofsky's account, considered here as the theoretical starting block. While he appreciates the extraordinary depth of Panofsky's text, Damisch exposes its shortcomings, and prepares to show through various examples that perspective in painting is not simply a matter of verisimilitude, but of thought, the notion of "thought in painting" being at the core of his work. The second part of the book brings the historical invention of perspective into focus, discussing the experiments with mirrors made by Brunelleschi, connecting it to the history of consciousness viaJacques Lacan's definition of the "tableau" as "a configuration in which the subject as such gets its bearings". In the third - and most pointedly structuralist - part, Damisch traces the history of the "perspective paradigm", with a full discussion of the theoretical implications of its constitutive moments, in a brilliant analysis of the three known panel paintings of the "ideal City" produced in the quattrocento, in Piero della Francesca's works, in Carpaccio's works, and finally in Velasquez's Las Meninas.
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Brown cloth at spine, off-white paper over boards; Color illus. dj.; 477 pp.;