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Flesh and the ideal : Winckelmann and the origins of art history

Flesh and the ideal : Winckelmann and the origins of art history / Alex Potts.
New Haven : Yale University Press, 1994.
Physical Description
vi, 294 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Winckelmann was not just an historian of considerable stature. He was also a very powerful writer who offered an unusually eloquent account of the aesthetic and imaginative charge of the Greek ideal in art. He is particularly revealing as to the political and the homoerotic sexual content of the fantasies that gave the antique ideal male nude its larger resonance.
This book re-examines Winckelmann's canonical status as the so-called father of modern art history showing how his systematic definitions of style and historical development can cast a new light on present-day understanding of these notions. The complexities of his new historical perspectives on the art of antiquity both prefigure and undermine the more strictly historicising views of the Greek ideal put forward in the nineteenth century.
The force of Winckelmann's writing can only be fully understood if it is seen in the context of the distinctive preoccupations and values of Enlightenment culture. It has acquired a new significance, however, as the darker aspect of Enlightenment ideals - such as the fantasy of a completely free sovereign subjectivity associated with Greek art - come more and more to the fore.
Winckelmann's writing has a richness and density that take it well beyond the bounds of the simple rationalist art history and Neo-classical art theory with which it is usually associated. He often seems to speak disturbingly directly to our present awareness of the discomforting ideological and psychic contradictions inherent in supposedly ideal symbolic forms.
Added to Catalog
June 01, 2002
Includes bibliographical references and index.
I. Inventing a History of Art. The significance of Winckelmann's history ; A new paradigm ; History as system
II. Fact and Fantasy. A lover's discourse ; Rise and decline ; Dichotomies of freedom ; Presences and absences
III. Style. The high style and the beautiful style ; Precedents ; Visual facts ; Verbal and visual ; The rhetoric of the image
IV. Beauty and Sublimity. The sex of the sublime ; Beautiful masculinity ; The sublime fetish
V. Ideal Bodies. The Greek ideal and the ideal ego ; Oneness and ideal beauty ; The body of Narcissus ; Nightmare and Utopia
VI. Freedom and Desire. A free subject ; Politics, patronage, and identity ; Friendship and desire ; Endings
VII. Afterlife. Jacobin politics and Victorian aestheticism ; Revolutionary heroes ; Modernity and its discontents.
Subjects (Medical)
Esthetics - history.
Art - history.
Sculpture - history.
Human Body - in art.

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