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An Anthropology of Images: Picture, Medium, Body
     

An Anthropology of Images: Picture, Medium, Body

by Hans Belting
 

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In this groundbreaking book, renowned art historian Hans Belting proposes a new anthropological theory for interpreting human picture making. Rather than focus exclusively on pictures as they are embodied in various media such as painting, sculpture, or photography, he links pictures to our mental images and therefore our bodies. The body is understood as a "living

Overview

In this groundbreaking book, renowned art historian Hans Belting proposes a new anthropological theory for interpreting human picture making. Rather than focus exclusively on pictures as they are embodied in various media such as painting, sculpture, or photography, he links pictures to our mental images and therefore our bodies. The body is understood as a "living medium" that produces, perceives, or remembers images that are different from the images we encounter through handmade or technical pictures. Refusing to reduce images to their material embodiment yet acknowledging the importance of the historical media in which images are manifested, An Anthropology of Images presents a challenging and provocative new account of what pictures are and how they function.

The book demonstrates these ideas with a series of compelling case studies, ranging from Dante's picture theory to post-photography. One chapter explores the tension between image and medium in two "media of the body," the coat of arms and the portrait painting. Another, central chapter looks at the relationship between image and death, tracing picture production, including the first use of the mask, to early funerary rituals in which pictures served to represent the missing bodies of the dead. Pictures were tools to re-embody the deceased, to make them present again, a fact that offers a surprising clue to the riddle of presence and absence in most pictures and that reveals a genealogy of pictures obscured by Platonic picture theory.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Belting is one of the most brilliant and most prolific art historians."--Choice

"[A] fascinating if not revolutionary look at the way we interact with other 'embodied' images such as sculptures, photographs, films, paintings and more. . . . Brilliant."--William Yeoman, West Australian

"An Anthropology of Images is a wonderful insightful account of a new anthropological theory for interpreting human picture-making."--Joanna Rak, Anthropological Notebooks

Choice
Belting is one of the most brilliant and most prolific art historians.
Library Journal
Both a translation and an update of a 2001 German-language original, this is an academic book for advanced collections. Although classed as social and cultural anthropology, it could easily find a place in art history or philosophy collections. Belting (Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image Before the Era of Art), a distinguished and prolific German art historian, makes a complex and nuanced argument to differentiate between pictures, as manifested in their physical form, and images, which reside in the human mind. His case studies on portraiture and on the relationship between images and death are closely argued and contain convincing specific examples. However, the general theoretical parts are hard going; the author assumes familiarity with a broad range of European intellectual thought that a general audience and undergraduates are likely to lack. In "A New Introduction for the English Reader," Belting remarks of the translation, "the results are far from what I would like them to be"; a chapter of the original was omitted from this English edition because "it seemed to resist any meaningful translation." VERDICT Complex, provocative ideas for a specialized audience.—Jack Perry Brown, Art Inst. of Chicago Libs.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691160962
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
07/21/2014
Edition description:
Translated by Thomas Dunlap
Pages:
216
Sales rank:
1,333,485
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.50(d)

Meet the Author


Hans Belting has held chairs in art history at the universities of Heidelberg and Munich and has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Columbia, and Northwestern. He also cofounded and taught at the School for New Media in Karlsruhe, Germany. His many books include Likeness and Presence, The End of the History of Art?, The Invisible Masterpiece, Art History after Modernism, and Looking through Duchamp's Door.

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