Table of Contents
September 2015, Volume 97 Number 3
The city-states of the communal period in Italy (ca. 1080–1380) produced the first republican governing bodies in Europe since the fall of the Roman Republic; they also fashioned public squares studded with an unprecedented array of porticoed architecture. Pressured by external and internal forces critical of collective rule, urban nobles and elite citizens sought to legitimize their novel institutions and actualize their participatory ideology. An examination of texts, pictorial works, and architectural form reveals that communes deployed porticoes innovatively to promote radical civic values by showcasing performances of self-governance for public consumption.
Unlike any Japanese object before them, the jeweled pagoda mandalas challenge viewers to discern word from picture. Analyzing their production and the complicated process of viewing a surface that refuses strict delimitation as text or image and as relic or reliquary reveals these mandalas to be visualizations of the multiplicity of the Buddha body. The paintings collapse distinction with indivisibility while the constant slippage of signifier into signified escapes rigid duality, a realization urged by the surface’s perlocutionary effect. These singular works uncover underlying dynamics in premodern Japanese Buddhist art, such as invisibility, performativity, and an increasingly textualized visual world.
Woodblock printed painting albums and manuals from early modern China sparked changes in the way some forms of art were produced in late Chosŏn Korea (1700–1800). Although such art books were firmly rooted in the middle-class public in China, most pictorial and literary evidence tells us that these same books were used exclusively by highly positioned artists and critics in early modern Korea. This disparity of readership points to inequalities in cultural exchange and communication between early modern China and Korea, in which misinformation gave rise to a new source of artistic inspiration.
Claude Monet’s thirty-eight paintings of Belle-Île’s western coast (1886) were hailed by critics as signaling a groundbreaking shift whose serial conception, abstracted aesthetic, and “savage” tenor transcended Impressionist naturalism, announcing a new, antimodernist, and primitivizing manner. The period’s evolving pantheistic and proto-phenomenological ontologies awash in notions of “wholeness” and “universality,” and the painter’s friendship, initiated on Belle-Île, with the critic Gustave Geffroy, who shared such views, provide a context for understanding Monet’s transformation, from the late 1880s on, from reportorial transcriber of ephemeral reality to dedicated seeker of its underlying essence, its perennial truth.