In this groundbreaking book, renowned art historian Hans Belting
proposes a new anthropological theory for interpreting human
picture making. Rather than focus exclusively on pictures as they
are embodied in various media such as painting, sculpture, or
photography, he links pictures to our mental images and therefore
our bodies. The body is understood as a "living medium" that
produces, perceives, or remembers images that are different from
the images we encounter through handmade or technical pictures.
Refusing to reduce images to their material embodiment yet
acknowledging the importance of the historical media in which
images are manifested, "An Anthropology of Images" presents a
challenging and provocative new account of what pictures are and
how they function.
The book demonstrates these ideas with a series of compelling
case studies, ranging from Dante's picture theory to
post-photography. One chapter explores the tension between image
and medium in two "media of the body," the coat of arms and the
portrait painting. Another, central chapter looks at the
relationship between image and death, tracing picture production,
including the first use of the mask, to early funerary rituals in
which pictures served to represent the missing bodies of the dead.
Pictures were tools to re-embody the deceased, to make them present
again, a fact that offers a surprising clue to the riddle of
presence and absence in most pictures and that reveals a genealogy
of pictures obscured by Platonic picture theory.
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