Monday, November 12, 2012

"A Resemblance too Perfect"

Lost has Sanford Sanchez been to the world of blogging these past months. Lost, it must be said, beneath a brimming pile of academic nonsense—as much a pile, often it has seemed, as a pyre alight with flames that needed to be extinguished before they got too far out of control. With the final weeks of courses now virtually in hand, I find myself drawn back to you with the discovery of a wondrous gem.

Let me set the scene: last weekend, I was prepping for a PhD defense on eighteenth century French anatomical culture and I wanted to check my facts on anatomical instruction at the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture. So, I went to the library where I consulted a copy of Paul Duro's The Academy and the Limits of Painting in Seventeenth Century France (New Haven: Yale, 1997). There, I found the notes depicted above leaved into the book—notes not only on academic practice but on the very practices of wax modeling that figured prominently in the very dissertation I had been reading! While the notes are slightly ... well, I'm sure they merit transcription and your consultation as follows:

"Relationship between wax & art theory, part of a greater epistemological shift --> naturalism --> secularism + scientific knowledge, reconstituting art as knowledge. Issues of resemblance. Perhaps it is not surprising that a material that has an uncanny ability to imitate reality would be used for religious purposes in a religious society & scientific (anatomical) purposes in a more secular society. Begins with with Charles Sorel, the satirical portraitists, & the assault on the masked man --> interesting because Sorel is a satirist. The question of what is naturalistic (<<au naturel>>): on the one hand the portrait is denigrated within the hierarchy of genres because it reproduces nature without invention --> a slave to nature. On the other hand, here the average portrait is equated with distortion and deception --> the portrait projects the wishful fantasy of its patron. It is the satiririst -- and Soerl's satirical universe is both wild & absurd -- that provides the true image <<au naturel>>. The paradox of the mask in satire --> with the presentation of explicit masks - exaggerated portraits & invented caricatures -- that the satirist seeks to strip off the 'masks' of unreflective hypocrisy and vanity. Negotiating the relationship between wax sculpture and art theory. A resemblance too perfect: wax sculpture & art theory."

I bet that was one sweet paper!

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