A Wealth of Absence: Visualising the Body in Winckelmann, Lessing and Blake [abstract]
Metadata[+] Show full item record
In Reflections on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture (published 1755), Johann Joachim Winckelmann sets a precedent, through a series of metaphysical exclusions and affirmations centred on the nature of the soul, for an understanding of artistic beauty that would later be appropriated and reinforced in Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's seminal essay Laocooen, published in 1766. Before we attempt to say more about these exclusions and affirmations by examining them in greater depth, let us question the source from which Winckelmann and Lessing's texts receive their authority in the first place -- namely, the exigency that requires them to impose their conceptions of beauty upon the imaginary artwork at the precise moment that these conceptions are apparently created in the artwork's image. We will see that the same exigency that inspired these two writers to attempt to fix the image according to their particular schema also inspires our own attempts to uncover the assumptions that inform their discourses. The exigency in question arises from the role that Jacques Lacan assigns to beauty in 'The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I' as a source of "homeomorphic identification" that is both "formative and erogenic" in nature (4). If, as Lacan suggests, beauty takes the form of a gestalt that is capable of reflecting and forming our understanding of what it means to be human through an internal "assumption of [its] specular image", sources of beauty and discourses on art inevitably become sites of contestation against which visions of humanity are played out.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License.