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Seminar on History and Philosophy of Science

Thursday, June 1, 2023
4:00pm to 5:00pm
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Dabney Hall 110 (Treasure Room)
The Deformation: Intentional Incomprehensibility in Seventeenth-Century Minim and Jesuit Visual Culture
Susanna Berger, Associate Professor of Art History and Philosophy, Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, USC,

In late sixteenth-century Italy, the rhetorical foundations of sacred visual art were laid out directly by Gabriele Paleotti (1522–1597), the Bishop of Bologna, who wrote in his famous post-Tridentine treatise that images "are supposed to move the hearts of observers to devotion and the true cult of God". Given the long-standing elevation of clarity in the West from Aristotle onwards as a rhetorical virtue and the concomitant criticism of obscurity as an obstacle to persuasive discourse, the popularity in Counter-Reformation circles of anamorphic images, which plunge observers into states of perceptual confusion, is somewhat counter-intuitive. This talk argues that anamorphoses (and other illusionistic imagery that required observers to use a lens or mirror or to move to a particular location to see a clear representation) not only functioned as allegories for the Catholic Church's sole ability to reform deformed souls, but also reframed the intellectual level of traditional exegesis in a strikingly novel fashion.

For more information, please contact Fran Tise by phone at 626-395-3609 or by email at [email protected].