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Extracts from:  Peter Nesteruk, A Rhetoric of Time in the Arts: Eternity, Entropy and Utopia in Visual Culture (2011).




From:  Chapter One: A Short History of the Rhetoric of Eternity:

Priority and Narrative in Medieval and Renaissance Art.





Contents: Stained Glass. Antiquity, Late-classical, Early-medieval, Jacopo di Cione, Duccio, Botticelli, Monaco, Barnaba da Modena, the Master of the Aachen Altarpiece, 'Last Judgment' ('Giudizio Universale'), Georgios Klontzas (1568-1602), 'Annunciation', in Cappella dell' Annunciata, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, in Rome, (1500, restored 1989), by Antoniazzo Romano, 'Lot and his Daughters', Rutilio Manetti, 'Lot and his Daughters', by Jan Masseys (1563), Lucas Cranach the Elder, 'Lot and his Daughters' (1528), 'The fate of the earthly remains of St. John the Baptist' (1485), by Geertgen tot Sint Jans, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 'Paradise' (1530), Hans Holbein’s 'The Ambassadors' and Chinese landscape painting.



The Argument….


The role played by temporality in the affectivity and interpretation of art has been, in general, an area long and unjustly neglected. This is an omission that this study should begin to redress. This, the opening chapter will comment upon a selection of representative works from the periods of medieval and renaissance art, treating them as key periods in the history of Western art in terms of their open and frequent use of temporal potentials for the furtherance of narrative and other rhetorical, that is, persuasive, ends. Such potentials were to become hidden, employed with great subtlety, or even become part of the painterly unconscious, from the seventeenth century onward. This chapter will deal with the period up to the seventeenth century when temporal rhetoric was employed in a fairly direct way (the following chapter will continue the story) and will accordingly begin with a short methodological introduction, to be followed by a brief pre-history introducing some key moments in the evolution of the rhetoric of time, and only then develop the major themes in a discussion centering upon a number of images. These images will be chosen in order to demonstrate the main types of temporal reading available. The aim of this discussion will be to show what a reading attuned to temporal rhetoric might have to offer to the interpretation of medieval and renaissance art. Such offerings would include the following: an understanding of the role played by figural/illusionistic space in construing time and its other, a temporally sensitive position internal to human experience, and the link of these former elements to a sense of temporality which is, arguably, the major contributor to the affective impact of painting, other forms of image (engravings, stained glass), and the various plastic forms of visual culture upon their original (but also later) audiences. Next, there is the cumulative role of the above in situating the viewer within the picture in terms of temporal presence and belief (and not simply as the external witness of a given narrative process or sacral event). The two previous stages should permit historians and cultural anthropologists to work upon reconstructions of devotion, meditation, the mentalité of a given artwork's implied audience, and their relations of collective self-recognition or construction of identity (‘ideology’ in the best sense). The issue is one of achieving a viewpoint from within a community sharing a pattern of rhetoric, a code of communication.




If our own, most intimate, experiences of past and future consist of uncertain presences, of memories and prognoses that (usually) are not to be confused with our everyday perception of living in the present, but which co-exist with it as a kind of second, faded, less distinct, or less immediate form of presence; then the effect of the pictorial equivalent of these kinds of degree or plane of presence would be effectively to translate space into time.[1] Just as, in the appraisal of the two dimensional art-object, we seek out or impose analogues for the three-dimensional spatial dimensions that are fundamental to our everyday experience of physical space, so too, I want to suggest, do we (perhaps less consciously) look for, locate, and interpret accordingly any cues in the art-object according to the varieties of temporal experience available to us (the three dimensions of lived time and their 'other' the 'outside' of time). Just as we do not ever quite completely only live in the present, so neither can the artworks that we experience; they too must exhibit the movements and ambiguities of temporal valency (of past, present, and future) that we impose upon our everyday experience. Passing through a hall on our way to give a conference paper, we may equally negotiate the immediate spatial geography, reflect on the paper we have written, and face either anxiety or adrenalin at the thought of the performance yet to come. The sight of a book on a publisher's table may stimulate recollection of the past, the sight of the doorway leading to the site of performance may stimulate a projection into the future. And for experiences which are not everyday, that are marked by transport or the uncanny, there is always the trace of the beyond, the 'other' world of the eternal or the ‘outside’.

       What is it that the interpretation of art has to gain from a careful appraisal of the various temporal relationships that are represented or located in the art object? The key to many works may lie in the way different temporalities, their valencies, their symbolic import, collectively interact to produce a meaning which includes -indeed may often be said to explain- the art object's affective impact and its ethical content or 'message'. Further, the location of the lived experience of time in art need not be singular or unique. This lack of singularity will be found in general within the first of the two main complementary axes along which temporal effects are organised: the location of past and future, in opposition to the present, to be found within certain textual contrasts. Where more than one temporal experience or identity is to be found, each is made up of its own kind or combination of implied past, present, and future (as, for example, in the gendering of, or attribution of cultural specificity to, different temporalities within a single artwork). The second major axis or temporal trope, represents perhaps the most used, the most familiar, as well as most ideologically loaded, form of temporal persuasion in art. This trope centers upon the rhetorical attribution of eternity, which is located in the perceived contrast of history, or duration, to its other, eternity.[2] Furthermore, this contrast usually carries with it the rhetorically potent and mysterious qualities associated with the sacred. This form of temporal rhetoric is often found to be the figurative key or second meaning of the most significant binary opposites in the text (typically found in the opposition of the upper to the lower portion of the visual text, an opposition which seems to feature in perhaps as much as ninety percent of Medieval and Byzantine religious art). This key ideological, persuasive, and community-cementing notion, operates through a contrast of the historical to the eternal, the contingent to the unchanging. It is as if a belief must anchor itself in the beyond, out of reach of the vagaries of history, in the realm of the sublime, in order to place it beyond sublunary question (the foundation is placed outside of the system it guarantees).

       These two aspects of temporal interpretation (which we might gloss as experiential temporalisation versus rhetorical extra-temporality) may be read as made possible by either: (i) an quasi-essential or shared quality of the human species (giving us humanity the temporal animal), temporality here is a quality which can be more-or-less automatically recovered from its inscription in any given art-work; or (ii) as the figurative dimension of meaning-making (if we assume humanity as the interpreting animal), where painter or viewer, for their own reasons, encode or apportion significance according to the art-work's potential for second meanings. For most purposes, or as an initial stage of investigation, these two explanations of temporal interpretation (the subjective or phenomenological, and the figurative or rhetorical) may be read as synonymous: however, where considerations of cultural difference are paramount, a distinction may need to be made between intuition then-and-now and between figure then-and-now (or between the constitution of these categories in any contrasting cultural-historical situations).[3] 

Temporal analyses will be therefore be premised upon the location of types of time and their contrasts. These temporal kinds (or their rhetorical analogues, if one takes the path of figure alone) may be based upon degrees of presence (figure-ground, proportion, distortion, luminosity) and the contrasts they produce in the art-work. These factors, in conjunction with an implied viewpoint, may interact, in turn, with the artwork's use of line and vanishing point - as well as with more overtly symbolic material referring to (real or imaginary) points or periods in time (as, for example, in details of architectural historicism read as a form of historical citation or temporal, that is epochal, deixis). When different times, or points in time, are coordinated in a single image we are offered narrative (this presentation usually takes the form of some kind of left-right/top-bottom directionality); when the coordination can be read as comprising past, present and future events then we are in fact invited into a time machine where we, the viewer, take our place in the ‘present’ of the picture, marrying our present with that of the image, taking our place within the world of the narrative, open to its implied meanings and feelings




Geertgen tot Sint Jans, 'The fate of the earthly remains of St. John the Baptist' and Lucas Cranach the Elder, 'Paradise'.


A variation on the formula of narrative directionality is the temporal loop. 'The fate of the earthly remains of St. John the Baptist' (1485), by Geertgen tot Sint Jans, depicts the narrative chronology progressing from the picture's back to its front, and then continuing on in its middle ground (respectively, from around 10/20BC to 362 AD to the thirteenth century; from the burial of the Baptist, and separately his head, to Emperor Julian the Apostate's attempt to cremate the Saint's bones, to the finding of the bones by the Knights of Malta, and their portage to their eventual home, the convent of Saint Jean d'Arc in 1252).[4] What is important is that two kinds of temporal description are possible here: either, all is in the past for the viewer in the present time (the painting -painted after the events depicted- represents three moments in the past, connected by a narrative). Or the times represented may be ordered according to the picture's own priorities, in which case the large and full foreground may be read as the present (as the key event depicted into whose time we are to enter), with the other two, less present, grounds taking their temporal valencies according to their positions before this key event (the past) or after it (the future), with the key event taking the valency of the presented present). The later sequence will be seen to form a kind of temporal loop (from back to front then back to the middle ground).  In terms of meaning, the failed attempt to destroy St. John's remains, the topic of the picture's present, is foremost in our minds. This foreground event is contrasted with the picture's time of painting (taking place only two hundred years after the refinding of the relics and their translation - we see them being borne back towards the upper margin), this event, in turn, returns us to the present of the implied and Christian viewer, living in a taken-for-granted Christian epoch that has (from the point of view of both the time of the painting, and of the present in the painting) inherited the painting's future having survived the persecutions of the pagan past. The rhetorical narrative line of the painting runs from the origin (the burial of the Baptist) to the implied viewer of the present day, who is the true rhetorical end of the narrative line and depicted arrow of time; the arrow's swerve however foregrounds the failure of the Church's opponents - the logic of presence pulls the moment of threat to the fore. However, the somewhat orientalised appearance of these persecutors suggests that Islam, rather than some form of paganism, is the real opponent in mind at the time of painting - one that, at that time, did indeed pose a real challenge to Christendom in the East.

       Another variation on the temporal loop, this time incorporating the directionality, left to right (our right to left), can be found in Lucas Cranach the Elder, 'Paradise' (1530) (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). However before looking at the painting itself, it is worth taking time to examine the left/right issue as it is evinced in this kind of painting and the elements it mobilises in order to transmit significance. The first element is that of the narrativisation of direction, with the movement of the same (or interrelated) characters through the unified space of the painting (simultaneous narrative). So far the ordering of time in the painting is as seen from a position 'outside'. However, the centre (foreground) of the painting may also be read as the equivalent of a 'now' position, so rendering the other events as 'before' and 'after'. This 'now' position would represent the key turning-point in the narrative, and is here highlighted as the place and time of the implied viewer, who is invited into the text, as it where, exchanging the process of time viewed from the outside for a temporality experienced from the inside.

       Temporality brings us to the second element in the unpacking of the right/left issue - which I will divide into three aspects; point of view, directionality, and morality.  The question of point of view centers around the contrast between our (the viewer's) point of view and its inversion, that of, from, or from within, the painting, as in the case of geometric perspective versus inverse perspective - in this case the latter is God's point of view (the position of God's presence in the painting).  The second aspect is that of directionality; what is the 'proper' direction, 'our' left to right, the direction of writing - perhaps as the visualised arrow of time in the West? Or the art object's left to right (as represented in the Cranach)? The arrow of time, the arrow of narrative, crystallizes the issue of directionality into the deictic properties of 'towards'. Towards what is right and proper; this is the right direction, a direction which is prescribed by Law and which is the home of the Good. A just way anchored in eternal Truth. Yet the question still remains: why exchange the left/right of the viewer for the right/left of the art object? A point of view originating from within the painting implies a place within the time and space of the painting as the site of truth, the place and time from which value is to be apportioned; the point of view of the artwork is to be preferred to our (individual, external) place of vision. The viewer must identify with the message, and ideology of the two dimensional illusion before which he or she stands. There is only one moral viewpoint, that of the painting, and it is this viewpoint which determines not only, the placing of the valencies of good and evil, but also the question of whose left and right is to be granted significance, and so which direction is the proper one (towards the picture's right). The third element in our discussion of the role of left and right, and the passage between them is, therefore, that of morality.  The source of the moral directionality of the picture (which ever left/right viewpoint is adopted) lies in the extra-temporal realm; we have again returned to the rhetoric of eternity, with right and left, together with the direction towards each, respectively tagged as good and evil. For example, see the division of the Tympanum, a division performed by the Last Judgment which it depicts, where the tympanum's right is Heaven, and its left is Hell, on the church of St. Foy, Conques, 1125-1135 - Hell, in Anglo-Saxon devotional art, is often depicted in the far right-hand (the text's left-hand) corner. Both of these mythical places are, of course, outside of time, are therefore eternal, and represent as shown together in the Last Judgment genre, the edge of time, the end or edge of history, the last event of the Christian world view (as offered by the Gothic cathedral front, for example), hence lifting the implied viewer, out of history, out of time, and offering a glimpse of, indeed a vantage point or place from within, the outside of time (perhaps as one of those about to be judged). Clearly the combination of these three aspects of the left/right question and their implications allows for a multiplicity of effects and messages to be conveyed.

       Bearing the above in mind let us now re-examine Cranach's 'Paradise'. The narrative movement is simultaneously, from back to front to back, from top to centre to top, and, structuring these movements, the guiding directionality beginning with (the picture's) left and moving across to its right. From Adam's creation, the eye moves across to Adam and Eve's eviction from the Garden of Eden (respectively on the picture's, extreme left and extreme right), via the fore-grounded centre where God forbids the tasting of the Tree of Knowledge - the scene of the handing down of God's Word and the Law. If the latter is read as the present then the other scenes take their place before and after this event as (its) past and future. This temporal movement has its role to play in the painting's didactic message for the implied viewer. The present viewer is invited to take God's words as his or her present guide, otherwise, no matter what their origin (as shown in both their and the picture's past), he or she will suffer an analogical fate (as in their, and the picture's future).[5]  If the medium is not the message, then the message is certainly in the picture's temporal relations. It is important to note that attention to simple narrative direction alone will not reveal the rhetorical force behind the message; only an examination of the elements of temporal succession and their relation to presence (the 'now' position of the implied viewer as participator, as believer), constructed through the picture's grounds and center/margin relations, can both spell out the ideological implications of the painting and the means by which the meaning-effect is transmitted.




Hans Holbein, ‘The Ambassadors’.


I now want to turn to Hans Holbein’s famous painting, 'The Ambassadors', for a mode of temporal reference not discussed above, a mode symbolic through the foregrounding or self-reference of a visual figurative form (the anamorphosis) and for an early example of the Vanitas genre with its particular relation of the temporal to the extra-temporal.[6] Holbein's ‘The Ambassadors’ is full of instruments of measurement, quantitative measurement, not least for the measurement of time; an attempt to master time and space through science. This attempt at mastery is of course aimed at the future, the better to control the unknowable and render predictable the contingent aspects of human existence. However this mastery, is revealed as helpless arrogance, as vanitas, when confronted by everyone's ultimate future, the only safe prediction anyone can make, that of the eventual arrival of death. The fate of human endeavor, death as the real end of our future, making of life and its puny endeavors to predict and control a Vanitas, is signaled by the presence of a Death's head or human skull, an anamorphosis that is not at first discernable. The instruments are evident first, but on closer examination and some changing of position by the viewer, the death’s head too becomes (almost) clear. Thus far the 16-17th century Vanitas plays its typical role, a symbol of the end, of the future as death (the skull as the remains of a dead body, of the site of consciousness, the part-whole relation explains the symbol). In effect an irony is offered by contrasting futures (control, versus its lack). Beyond the future, so beyond temporality, the rhetoric of the end of time is also present here; by its connection to death, of its beyond, in the Christian mythology. Death is to lead to an escape from time as duration, into the after-life; eternity in Heaven - or in Hell.

However as remarked above, the Death's head is 'hidden', is a barely visible anamorphosis; a image concealed from the main (implied) point of view requiring (implying) yet another point of view to reveal it for what it is. Another implied reader is needed… which (especially if the implied position is difficult to realise) may connote another kind of time as well as another space from which to see. The anamorphosis in the foreground can only be seen from an 'other' space above viewer head-level, or from below the level of the painting - this other perspective works as a figure to suggest another time outside of the rational Renaissance space/time of the picture. This negative form of the rhetoric of eternity, as employed by another (ideological) point of view, is augmented by a crucifixion hidden in (the picture's) top right corner, in a space 'behind' the space depicted; a space with its own second meanings: last things; eternity. Both symbols (un-recoupable skull and hidden crucifix) indicate the vanity of the mastery which is the picture's most immediate message (witness the compasses, maps, globes, instruments, and clocks) by subverting this space - indicating the extra-temporal realm beyond. To see the anamorphosis one must either be below ground or hovering above it; the message seems fairly clear. Furthermore, as seen from below, the skull's right eye-socket is oversized: seen from the 'above' position however both eye-sockets are proportional, indicating that this is the 'proper', implied, (elevated) position from which to see the skull - a position from which the rest of the picture is effectively scrambled. The change of perspective connotes a change of ideology and an affirmation of faith over reason. Again space as time has symbolically bridged the gap to the sacred, affirming a particular identity, community, and world-view.

This space, image, and illusion in effect demands quite another kind of point of view for its realisation. Again we have been returned to the other of time, this time, not by allusion, nor synecdoche (the embracing ideological context of Christian belief), but directly, through the indirectness of the figure of the Death's head, the anamorphosis, which suggests a point of view other than that of the picture as a whole, a viewpoint which originates elsewhere, and (symbolically) returns the thoughts of the attentive viewer to that place: the outside of time, eternity, the other time of religious ideology. Thus a double deixis (future as death, leading to eternity, and the other space/time whose perspective is figurally performed by the anamorphosis) indicates the painting's religious message through its temporal relations and especially its strategic deployment of the rhetorical outside of time. 'The Ambassadors' insists that the temporal point of view, through which we view it, is a false one; the true point of view, the one that will illuminate the end of things, finds its origin elsewhere. The future, the painting suggests, ultimately always leads to such a place and time, but this place lies outside of historical contingency and temporal experience and can be attested to only by figure, paradox and faith.



Comparative: Chinese Art


Let us now compare these findings with a geo-cultural block from the ‘other’ side of the world, the East Asia or the ‘Orient’ as generations of ‘Orientalists’ have called it, with what was initially a different, in fact ‘opposite’ tradition of left/rightness and so narrative directionality, but which in terms of many of the other key elements of a temporal rhetorical reading contains similar if not identical elements (as in left/right (moral) and the three grounds).[7]

Chinese landscape painting begins with religion, with the depiction of a Daoist paradise. The continuous echo of this relation, like the persistence of the sound of the ‘sea’ in a shell, in the history of Chinese landscape art is indeed hard to avoid. In terms of the kinds of temporality locatable in the artwork, above all the rhetoric of eternity as a sublime relation, this persistence of paradise comes as no surprise to the Western art lover as the zoning employed resembles that of the sacred symbolism as found in the history of Western Art. Not least in the importance accorded to the top and background. Moreover the path (the Way) in landscape art, the path we follow with our hearts and our souls as with our eyes, is often a slow climbing hypsosis (eye-leading upwards), a zigzag rising, taking us up to the top (of the painting) and beyond…

The passage upwards leads us through the grounds of the image: top/back, middle, fore/bottom. All three grounds have stylised, symbolic, indeed distilled equivalents, or meanings in Chinese (religious/landscape art) where they are often separated by symbolically significant areas of white space. In the evolution of the hanging scroll we can further see the existence of multiple (implied) points of view; one for each ground as the norm, accentuating the different meanings attachable to each part. Such paintings imply a monumentality without threat; the Chinese compromise between Beautiful and Sublime type elements evinces an aesthetic which does not need to exploit such an explicit opposition between these elements – as in Western (Romantic) art (however a form of identity confirmation via order and via threat, gentle and less gentle ‘sublime’ effects clearly exist in Chinese art, not least in nineteenth century landscape art, see the mountains and rivers, or shan shui, paintings of Li Keran).

The top, whether separated, floating, or as contiguous background (but always in proximity to the sky) carries one meaning. In Chinese and Medieval western art alike, this is the realm of the more than human, of deities and heroes, of feitian and angels, their home, a depiction of the heavens. The place of ideals, the field of pure aspiration, a country free of contingency. The place also of the sublime, the lofty domain of the un-representable. No matter how often presented as real; its placing and suggestion are nevertheless suggestive of a realm beyond the everyday, beyond illusion, care and desire.

The foreground (a space often expanded to include the centre of the image). The ground of the present, temporal, earth-bound; site of the tiny temple, humble dwelling of lonely bench, site of diminutive humans observed in their contemplation of the colossal vistas before them (just like us, as if an echo, mirror, or instruction, of how to look and what to learn). The amalgam of the two presents (of the picture and of ourselves) offers the hand of meaning, the bridge of understanding or participation (giving the sense of the painting as ritual), and provides the conduit for the transfer of the moral from the image to the self.

The separated middle ground of Chinese art is an island easily transposable forward or backward in time. Before and after in Chinese art topography begin with the metaphysical level, with the universal above and the particular below, the in-between takes its place in this sequence, its symbolism coded accordingly. The heights may be eternal, but the lower two grounds still admit of temporal order – often showing a path that leads both eye and person up to the universal plane.

But to where do we climb? And by what route? For the direction of movement of time in Western art (most typically in the depiction of narrative western medieval through to Baroque art) prefers left to right, which we can call Left /Right (Narrative); offering the subjective viewpoint, where the point of view of the viewer is paramount, superior even to time, at times, which he or she stands above, seeing time in its many stages, past present and future all at once, before us on the screen. Yet, if the direction of narrative in western art is from (our) left to right (as with our direction of writing) then in the East (China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia...) the direction of time was (until recently) from (our) right to left, as evinced by the scroll tradition which unfolds from right to left. Unfolding the scroll we follow the line of narrative (as also the direction of reading, first from top to bottom as in ‘before’ and ‘after’ in Chinese language, respectively shang/ to xia/ , semantically equivalent to ‘above’ and ‘below’, and then from right to left). The route taken then should be from right to left. And the place to which they head? Logically to the top left corner, both in the direction upward and in the right to left narrative direction favoured by the East - including the gaze of the eye of the seated watcher within the image, which also most often (at least in the painting predating the spread of Western influence) traverses right to left and looks upwards.

If narrative directionality in Eastern and Western Art appears to proceed from opposite poles, then the other left/right coding to be found in the image, which gives us the place of the Good and the Holy, and so which we have called Left/Right (Moral), appears to be the same in both cultures, favouring the (our) top left of the picture corner – often showing itself in the dominance of peaks or heavenly palaces (or, in Western art, the hand or eye of God, as in the Annunciation genre). But why in a right-handed culture (and all cultures are right-handed) should the favoured portion of the picture be on our left?

The answer, as we have seen, lies in a one hundred and eighty degree shift in perspective. This second left/right coding, that of Left/Right (Moral), finds its origin the world of the statue, in the three dimensional world of right-handedness. No matter we stand before it, the statue’s right hand is dominant, carries the spear or orb, or scroll. Whence its place on the (our) left of the picture, so going against our -intuitive- sense of the left as lesser or tabooed hand or corner, but occupying the place of the object’s Right (hand). As if we were again before the statue of the entity of power or religion – and so in thrall to their (dominant) sense of left and right. So in art throughout the world, with the exception of places where left and right must bow to the dictates of space (narrative and face-on representations in tunnels leading to somewhere) peaks peak on our left (the image’s right). The eye-raising lines of approach culminate in a lofty left of centre peak (this is how, from the point of view of the perceiving subject, the left hand side of the picture is found to be the place of the gods despite the taboo on, or lesser priority of, the left hand side in culture in general – because this position is classified, and experienced, as the image’s, that is the object’s, right). So the right-to-left directionality of narrative fits in naturally with  Left/Right (Moral or Object Right) in the East; whilst in the West it sometimes forces a change of narrative direction from left-to-right to right-to-left (where it is God that is moved towards).

When both modalities of left/right in the image are found to be in tension with each other, then the default right-to-left directionality of Eastern narrative is reversed in caves containing a Buddha statue or complex of statuary, so -apparently- following the Western model. However in reality the directionality has been switched to prevent pilgrims and other participants from walking anti-clockwise around the statue, to stop them following-on from the left hand side of the statue (under taboo with left handedness). Instead they must move from left to right, around the statue, that is clockwise, so necessitating the switch in narrative directionality. Clearly the Left/Right (Moral) preference, the gaze of the statue, has priority over the Right/Left (Narrative) directionality, the gaze of the viewer.




*See also: Peter Nesteruk, ‘When Space is Time: The Rhetoric of Eternity: Hierarchy & Narrative in Late-medieval and Renaissance Art’, in Gerhard Jaritz & Gerson Moreno-Riano (eds.), Time and Eternity: The Medieval Discourse, selected papers from the International Medieval Congress, (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2003) pp. 403-426.  And other articles on Art from Website (esp. The Trail of the Annunciation).




Copyright, Peter Nesteruk, 2011.

[1] For the philosophical tradition that treats humanly experienced time as subjective and qualitative, as opposed to time as abstract, scientific, objective, or quantitative, see Henri Bergson, Time and Free Will, Trans. F. L. Pogson (London: Swan, Sonnenschein, 1910). First Published in French, 1889, esp. pp. 11-18; 228-229. Edmund Husserl, Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1964), see esp. pp. 23; 30; 49; 57; and section 24. Martin Heidegger, 'Being and Time: Introduction', in Basic Writings, Ed. David Farrell Krell (London: Routledge, 1993) pp. 37-88, esp. pp. 60; 61; 63;  and 'Time and Being', in On Time and Being, (New York: Harper & Row, 1972), see esp. pp. 11; 13; 15. Sections of this chapter were first published as: ‘When Space is Time: The Rhetoric of Eternity: Hierarchy & Narrative in Late-medieval and Renaissance Art’, in Gerhard Jaritz & Gerson Moreno-Riano (eds.), Time and Eternity: The Medieval Discourse, selected papers from the International Medieval Congress, (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2003) pp. 403-426.

[2]  How to move from the three valencies (the experience of time) to two binaries (the rhetoric of the outside of time)? In rhetorical terms, there is no problem; contrasts in texts easily binarise giving the rhetoric of the outside of time as the opposite to temporality as such. If we take our experience of time as the first principle, then those aspects with the potential to indicate either past or future (as 'less present' in opposition to the 'more present', which is read as the viewer's implied present, or 'now') may indicate both past and future simultaneously, resulting in a implied position for the viewer outside of time, or in eternity. When taken at their maximum extension, a finite and precise attribution of 'before' or  'after' becomes an infinitely extended 'before and after' - eternity- as a difference in temporal kind becomes an opposition to temporality itself. An impossible relation for us time-bound animals: hence we speak of a 'rhetoric of eternity'.

[3] In his phenomenological approach to the roots of figure, Nicolas Abrahams, Rhythms, (Stanford, California: Stanford UP, 1995), suggests that the two realms of figure and phenomenology may not be so far apart, that the basic categories of secondary signification  are those of the major poetic tropes (see esp. pp. 49-52).

[4] 'The fate of the earthly remains of St. John the Baptist' / 'Schicksal der irdischen Überreste Johannes d. Täufers' (1485), by Geertgen tot Sint Jans (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). See Picture Gallery of the Art History Museum, Vienna (London: Paul Hamlyn, 1970) p. 104.

[5] Interestingly, the programme notes in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, discuss the narrative direction as from left to right, obviously meaning the picture's left and right, yet without mentioning why this viewpoint would be preferred to the other, experientially prior, option - the left and right of the viewer, also the 'normal' directionality for narrative representation in the history of Western art (which is also, again in the West, supported by the left to right of the direction of writing, and so of the implied arrow of time). In this case the text's left/right relations take precedence over the subject's left/right as in the moral form of the left/right opposition (as in the example of St. Foy regarding the placement of heaven and hell). A valuable contrast to these findings, and an important contribution to a comparative visual rhetoric, would be provided by  a study of the Arab world's use of right/left as a script direction in relation to its visual representations of narrative directions, and to any directional sense of good and evil as privileging left and right. A further comparison with a non-monotheistic culture would also be invaluable.

[6] Hans Holbein the Younger, 'The Ambassadors' (early 16th century) National Gallery, London.

[7] A representative range of traditional Chinese art may be found in the following: George Clunas, Art In China (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997); Mary Tregar, Chinese Art (London: Thames & Hudson, 1997); Ernest F Fellonosa, Epochs of Chinese and Japanese Art (New York: ICG Muse, 2000). First Published, 1912; Zhang Anzhi, A History of Chinese Painting (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2002); Zhuang Jiayi & Nie Chongzheng, Traditional Chinese Paintings (Bejing, China Intercontinental Press, 2000); Liao Pin, Traditional Painting (Bejing: Foreign Languages Press, 2002).