Representing vision : mannerist art and the body of Christ

Master Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

The essay departs from the iconographical and interpretative studies of the Warburg Institute in the field of art history, seeking to define pictorial context in a way that avoids the notion of a fixed content behind works of art. Specific paintings are contextualised according to the psychological/physiological accidents of vision. A theoretical precedent for this approach within "art history" has been established by Norman Bryson, and the methods of Bryson, of J. Derrida and of J. Lacan are applied to specific works. The essay defines a motif common in Florentine and Roman mannerist religious paintings: the central significance given to Christ's torso in many works. This motif is related to its sources (Michelangelo and antique sculpture), and developed through an analysis of three paintings, J. Pontormo's Descent from the Cross, Rosso's Dead Christ with Angels and the Deposition by the Roman artist D. Ricciarelli da Volterra. The paintings are analysed according to their status as fictions, as devotional images and as representations of the human body. Various definitions of maniera are offered. The essay concludes with an appeal that visual ambiguity be recognised as central to the understanding of pictorial representations.

Bibliography: pages 67-70.