In the flesh

It will be obvious that my recent posts after visiting galleries — to put it more or less pleonastically — reflect the enthusiasm of an amateur. For instance, any such interpretation of Ecce homo would need to start from a knowledge of Renaissance christology, and specifically, the way theological concepts were expressed by painters — for example, with what degree of sophistication. In turn, this would need to be placed in the context of Tintoretto’s oevre, and any actual biographical evidence as to his religious background. Nonetheless, the power of such great works is revealed in their ability to speak directly across centuries to the viewer, for instance even a viewer barely aware of the gospel narrative behind that painting, because (in that case) we feel the human condition in our bones. I have clothed it in my own notions, and that is not scholarship, but it is a response.

To help make sense of these posts I have festooned them with hyperlinks to images of the works, but there is no substitute for seeing them in the flesh. This Tintoretto is a case in point. Whether because of damage, poor restoration, or even because the artist really painted it like that, everything outside the torso is very dark, whereas photos and prints compensate for this by adjusting the contrast and distorting the balance of colour, disguising the effect of luminous presence I described. Recovering the original state of a painting several centuries old is as complex a question as interpreting it, but the improving distortion of the photographic lens is based on no such painstaking hermeneutic heuristic. You have to go there and see it for yourself.


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