Fra Angelico

PDF EBook by Georges Didi-Huberman

EBook Description


This book explores the philosophical rationale for a few blotches marring the surface of a painting, marks which at first glance seems to be clumsy blunders, mistakes. Fra Angelico PDF EBookFra Angelico's monastery fresco, The Madonna of the Shadows (nicknamed for the shadows cast by columns depicted above the Madonna and the saints) is “mounted” on what appears to be a four- PDFpaneled marble structure—an altar, perhaps a tomb?—but which is actually a part of the fresco itself, a trompe l'oeil illusion, down to each precisely limned marble vein.The illusion, however. is dispelled by blotches of paint, scores of them, which appear to have dripped—or to have been dropped—on the surface of the four marble “panels”.

What could possibly be the reason for this iconoclastic act, for the foregrounding of mere pigment displayed and presented in itself?This is the question that Did-Huberman sets out to answer.His journey takes him through the writings of a thousand years: the mystical reflections of the Pseudo-Dionysius, the Summa and Marian treatises of Albertus Magnus, and the later synthesis of Thomas Aquinas (all books almost literally “at hand,” in Fra Angelico's monastery library, down the corridor, only a few steps away.).Our author examines a wealth of quattrocento paintings—many by Fra Angelico, mostly annunciations—and illuminates them through the application of symbolic scriptural exegesis, scholastic philosphical terminology, medieval mnemonic practices, and a characteristically French post-structural analysis.

Didi-Huberman's thesis is sophisticated, his analysis subtle.It is often too sophisticated and subtle for me, and, sometimes—I suspect—too subtle for clarity, too subtle for its own good.He does, however, do an excellent job in demonstrating that the early Renaissance painter—unlike the artist of the high Renaissance—was not primarily concerned with narrative and objective representation.On the contrary, this early artist was surrounded by a theological wealth of signs and figurations, and he often chose the striking and unusual, precisely because they would be remembered and therefore provide the most useful ground for meditation.Of all important theological truths, perhaps the most powerful was the Incarnation, God becoming man, which was suggested most powerfully by the many paintings of the Annunciation, which depicted the moment when the Word of God became present in the womb of a virgin.Didi—Huberman demonstrates how many elements of the typical annunciation—the garden,, the threshold, the half-opened windows the angel's gaze, the folds of Mary's garment—suggest the marvelous reality of the Incarnation.

Is it possible—Didi-Huberman implicitly asks concerning The Madonna of the Shadows—that those blotches of color thrown on a faux marble surface are meant to act as a jarring reality designed to disrupt the complacent gaze which is content with the image before it?May this disruption in turn lead the mind inward, beyond all the distractions of representation, to meditate on the hyper-reality of the Incarnate Word?
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