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Squint of death: talking about a famous divorce case in British court history

Source: Time: 2020-02-21 02:40:46

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This article is based on the fifth lecture of the art history series of lectures by Professor Wu Qiong of Renmin University of China-Squint of Death.
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The skull is a common image symbol in Western painting. This lecture will focus on the issues related to the skull, represented by the work of Ambassador by Holbein.
First, the basic meaning and problems of the skull
The skull is a symbol of death. Furthermore, it represents the non-existence of annihilation, showing the fact that death is natural, that is, the original presence of death, that is to say, the death it represents is not personal, but unnamed. of.
The image of the skull is the reproducible use of the skull. What we see about it is actually a cycle and repetition of some kind of death driving force around an impossible thing, which arouses people's pathological fears. At the same time, it also inspired people with a special passion. So is the fascination with this image the fear of death or the uniform of fear?
How did the skull enter the world of artistic representation?
As far as Western painting is concerned, the theme of death represented by skulls became very popular after the Middle Ages. The frequent occurrence of plagues and wars provided a hotbed for its appearance. Medieval theological discourses provided an important impetus for its use. Through the construction of the epistemology of the skull, people can understand the presence of death in the presentation of themes such as nature, history, sacrifice, redemption and sin.
Third, the application of skulls in art history: two typical expressions:
1. Linking death and salvation in a theological context
(1) Massacio's Holy Trinity
Massaccio placed the Holy Trinity in the painted chapel. Inside the chapel we saw the Virgin Mary and John who wrote the Gospel. Mary's finger pointed to Jesus and directed our eyes to the Trinity—the cross. Jesus, the Holy Father on Jesus' head, and the dove representing the Holy Spirit in between. In the lower part of the image is an altar made of four pillars. Inside it is an open sarcophagus with a skull. The sarcophagus has a line of inscriptions: "Your present is my former, my present is your future."
The secular space in which the flesh is located contrasts with the sacred space in which the chapel is located. In addition, the images of people outside the chapel represent the donors of the chapel. They are in the position of viewers and belong to the world. Their inevitable end result is death. They are in this painting with the god of death Gaze at us in a synchronic space. When we see death, death is staring at us. But if we are guided by the eyes of the Virgin, we will see eternity and redemption. Death's gaze has become an important mechanism for initiating a sense of coincidence. It happens to be our sight. If we accept the guidance of faith, we will face the eternal world.
(2) Bernalotke's "Dance of Death"
During the period of frequent plagues in Germany, the image of the skull played a witchcraft-based function based on teaching-a view at the time believed that the plague occurred because of human arrogance. The skull in the picture resists the coffin, and pulls people waiting to dance, making the viewer feel an empty life, all power is a cloud, to a certain extent this is the fear of death and its symbolic uniform. . A line of verses in the painting also expresses this idea more clearly. The main point of the verses is: "Give up human desires / naturally accept the coming of death".
(3) Subbarang
Influenced by Caravaggio's Darkness, the Spanish painter Subbaran often highlights objects through high contrast light and dark contrasts. Subalan is good at still life and religious portraiture. The still life in his paintings penetrates the stillness of saints, and the saints in his paintings reflect the stillness of still lifes. From the saint Francis in the picture, we see the suffering and death of the meditator, feel his forbearing spiritual power, and the rock-like firm conviction exudes an atmosphere filled with sacredness. St. Francis holding a skull hints at the religious beliefs of the Little Brotherhood, namely that the worldly things are empty, and the skull is not completely presented in front, which weakens the fear it brings, indicating that the artist tried to The picture illustrates a kind of terror, rather than simply showing terror, showing that faith has obeyed death.
2. The skull symbolizes the void of the secular world
(1) Laial
In the middle of the 17th century, the famous Seville School appeared in Spain. In the middle of the 16th century, the Spanish dynasty was hit by successive plagues and famines, which not only caused panic and riots among the people, but also made the worldly prosperous glory vulnerable. These two paintings are representative of the "Void Painting" theme that appeared at the time. The juxtaposition of the representatives of secular power and the skeleton in the picture allows death to speak directly to us in the first person, and to show the world through the moral illustration of death. All empty. However, the graphic use of the skull here is relatively crude. The direct appearance of death will evoke the visual fear of the viewer. This expression is too direct and weakens the horror of death.
(2) David Bailey
This is also a kind of void painting. The artist sits at the table with a crutch in his right hand. On the table, various objects including skulls are used. It is also a simple symbolic expression method. A unique feature of this painting is that the painting itself is a mirror, forming a relationship of inward folding between the viewing and the picture. The artist holding a cane is a real image, the mirror is a virtual image, and the skull shows It is the artist's imagination, and the three refer to each other, implying that all things are ultimately attributed to the void, and that the skull as the ultimate signifier has a sense of moral surrender.
Interpretation of the skull in Ambassador
Background of the painting
The painting is deeply related to a divorce case in British court history. In the 16th century, the aunt Catherine of King Charles V of Spain was appointed by the Pope as the wife of King Henry VIII of England. What annoyed the king was that they never had children after marriage. Later Henry fell in love with Catherine's maid Brian, who intended to divorce Catherine, but only the Pope could declare their marriage invalid. At that time, Charles V declared war on the Pope and directly invaded Rome, making the Pope a captive. Therefore, under pressure from Spain, he did not allow Henry VIII to divorce. For this reason, Henry took extreme measures-breaking with the Holy See. In 1531, he asked British faculty members to leave the Holy See, proclaimed himself the supreme protector of the British Church, and in 1533 through the new British archbishop declared his first marriage void and crowned the new queen. Later, Henry VIII further promulgated a decree stipulating that the king has absolute power over the country and the church. Britain has since become a state-religion unity. Henry VIII pushed Britain into the path of religious reform.
In the process, France sent two secret ambassadors to London, apparently trying to reconcile the conflict between Henry and the Pope. The actual intention was to persuade Henry and France to form an alliance to resist Spanish hegemony. Little Holbein was commissioned as a court royal painter to paint for the two ambassadors.
2. Discuss the painting in the relationship between words and things
(1) Clearly visible parts of the picture
①Looking from left to right
Two ambassadors stood on both sides of the wooden frame, among them the luxuriously dressed Interville, holding a dagger symbolizing his nobility, his feet on the floor, and the pattern on the floor representing the universe, indicating He is a subject full of desire and ambition. The other ambassador was Priest Self, with a book under his arm. The two form a contrast between desire and faith in the horizontal direction.
② look down
There is a double-layered wooden frame in the painting, and the high-level measuring instruments are placed on the upper level, showing the orderly impulse of time and space in the era of big adventures. The objects placed on its lower level represent the four arts-geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and music-which have been admired by European humanism since the Renaissance. These four arts are governing the soul.
In general, there is the same relationship between the people and things in the painting. One ambassador represents worldliness and possession, and the other represents belief and asceticism. The items on the upper level are conquered objects for external expansion, and the items on the lower level are Return to the inner meditation agent.
Lute
Music is a symbol of harmony, and the broken strings in the lutes in the picture represent the destruction of harmony. Next to Rutchen is Luther's Hymn. Luther initiated the Reformation and translated the hymns and the Bible into German. The verse in the picture is: The Holy Spirit came to us, everything fell to the dust, and faith gave us eternal hope. The two images of lute and hymn refer to each other, and the break of the strings implicitly refers to the breakup of the English and the Holy See and the conflict between worldly desires and religious beliefs.
(2) Hidden part in the picture-meta-reference system
In addition to the two ambassadors in the image, there is a God hiding behind the curtain of the background and a skull floating on the floor. God and the skull are the key to interpreting this painting.
① God
In the image, God is in the upper left corner and is the image of Jesus on the cross. The function of the curtain of the background is twofold, it is both obscuration and display-it focuses the viewer's gaze on the people and things in the middle shot, that is, the direction that God stares at. God as an absolute other In the field, in the field of invisibility, he stared at human beings struggling in desire. To further understand God's gaze as the other we need to explore the function of the curtain, and the other two works by Holbein Jr. can inspire us a little.
Both paintings are portraits created by the humanist Erasmus in 1523. The curtain in the picture above clearly defines the depth of the picture as a background, highlighting the presence of the characters in the foreground. The curtain in the figure below has a complicated configuration of the background. There is a wall behind the curtain and a bracket on the wall. All of this has a revealing function, revealing the clear location of things in the space.
The function of the curtain in "Ambassador" looks very similar to the above picture. The curtain also constitutes the entire background, but the exposure of the image of Jesus changes the entire background function, making it closer to the function of the curtain's revealing space in the figure below. Jesus only showed a corner. He seemed to be hiding behind the curtain and lifted the opening cloth to look at it. This made the curtain not to reveal the visible depth of the space, but to emphasize the fact that the curtain was not visible. The image of Jesus implied this invisible (At least obscure) depth.
② skull
The strange structure of the skull is difficult to identify. The prototype can only be identified by looking up from the lower left side of the screen or from the upper right side down. This is a deformation method that the Baroque artists love to use. (There is also a saying that because the word Holbein means "hollow skull" in German, this skull is actually a visual signature of the artist.)
Like the confrontation in the sense of visibility, the skull and God form a death and eternal confrontation. The two exist in different spaces, one is vertically located deep in the background, and the other is suspended in the mid-air of the foreground, but both are a kind of spiritual space separated from the real space filled with people and things. But if we reconstruct the curtain of the picture through centrifugal viewing, we will find that-when we stand at the top right and look down, we can see the skull, and when we look up, we can reach God. The question is how do we Can we locate this position?
The answer is that we draw a straight line connecting the eye of God and the eyebrow of Interville, and then draw a middle line to the floating object. These two lines will intersect at a point outside the frame. This point is a hidden observation point.
From this observation point we clearly see the gaze of God and death, where the observer will be questioned by two absolute others. From a positive perspective, we cannot see these two absolute others folded into an invisible dimension, but from this point the image of people and things becomes less clear, and the subject of earthly desires encounters a This impossibility—God and death, the subject is facing the truth of death and the sacred truth, then how should the subject make a choice?
This involves another invisibility in the image. The artist hides a soothing answer in Martin Luther's hymn-the Holy Spirit comes to us, everything falls to the dust, and faith gives us eternal hope.
Unconsciously, we have followed Professor Wu Qiong for five micro-lectures of art history. Next Tuesday, Zhe Sijun will push the recording of the last lecture of this series of micro-lessons—Angel ’s harem imagination. Sanyo ~
Micro Lesson 3 Titian's Love Scriptures Q & A
Q: What is the relationship between Kafka's Metamorphosis and the metamorphosis mentioned in this lecture?
A: Kafka has nothing to do with this lecture, this lecture mainly involves erotic viewing. However, there are some studies in the West about the connection between Kafka's Metamorphosis and Ovid's Metamorphosis. It is difficult to say that Kafka just accepted Ovid's ideas, but Kafka did learn from Austria Vader's Metamorphosis embodies some techniques, but the intentions of the two are completely different.
Q: Can you say that the ancient Chinese paintings are more ink and landscape but less nude?
A: There is no problem in saying this. The famous French sinologist Francois Julien has a book called Nude or Essence, which has been discussed: Unlike Greece, a metaphysics about nude has been formed from a very early age Why are there no nudes in Chinese paintings. This involves a deep cultural issue. China actually has nude paintings. For example, Tang Bohu once painted the Spring Palace, but generally in China, the Spring Palace is not a subject of traditional art history discussion, but a cultural issue. Studied.
The first three lectures
When we talk about love, we are talking about Titian's Poem
When visiting Europe, you can only pat the architectural landscape and send a circle of friends? What you need to know about religious architecture
[Voice finishing of micro-lectures] Lecture 1 of Western Art History: Venus' Sleeping Position

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