Table of Contents
September 2014, Volume 96 Number 3
Jan van Eyck’s van der Paele Virgin, commissioned to mark his patron’s chaplaincies at St. Donatian’s church, Bruges, can be situated within the visual culture of commemoration in the Netherlands, and specifically within the tradition of erecting a wall-mounted memorial to mark one’s burial place or the site of a pious foundation. Scrutiny of written sources—both archival documents and the inscriptions on the picture’s frame—together with comparisons with contemporary memorials clarify not only the circumstances of the painting’s commission but also the question of its original setting and the precise nature of its memorializing function.
Hans Burgkmair the Elder’s Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, painted in 1504 as part of the Basilikabilder series at Augsburg’s Dominican convent of St. Katherine, incorporates an intriguing catoptric motif in the Crucifixion scene. From the Good Centurion’s polished armor, the reflected image of an ugly Jewish soldier stares back in horror. Blind to Jesus’s christological identity and to his own nature, he appears as an antimodel of “recognition” (anagnorisis), which Aristotle defines in the Poetics as a “change from ignorance to knowledge.” Set in confrontation with the Centurion, who exemplifies recognition, the character thematizes an enduring challenge to Christian conscience.
Watteau’s fetes galantes break with key aspects of academic art theory in early eighteenth-century France, particularly as put forward by Roger de Piles, to elicit an experience of reverie in the spectator. Watteau’s formal innovations inaugurated a new relationship between painting and beholder that opened up a new sphere of subjective experience, linking the artist’s enterprise with the rise of modern interiority.
In 1985–86, the Festival of India staged over seventy exhibitions in the United States in forty-two different states, emphasizing India’s historical and vernacular traditions. Only three exhibitions presented “contemporary” Indian art, and while the term claimed a contemporaneity with the art of the northern Atlantic, these three shows simultaneously reified a geographic, temporal, and conceptual distance by pursuing a consistently introductory approach and by anchoring the work in the North American imaginary of India. The logic of the distant contemporary operates in the gallery contexts, curatorial choices, catalogs, and erasures of this exhibitionary moment.