Fictions of the Pose: Rembrandt Against the Italian Renaissance

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The foundational question this book explores is: What happens when portraits are interpreted as imitations or likenesses not only of individuals but also of their acts of posing—when the observer's attention is redirected so that the primary object the portrait imitates becomes the likeness not of a person but of an act, the act of sitting for one's portrait? This shift of attention involves another: from the painter's to the sitter's part in the act of (self-)portrayal.

At the ground level, Fictions of the Pose develops a hypothesis about the structure and meaning of portraiture. That foundation supports a first story devoted to the practices and politics of early modern Italian and Dutch portraiture and a second story devoted to Rembrandt's self-portraits, especially those in which he poses in fancy dress as if he were a patron. The author approaches the Rembrandt/Renaissance relation not as an art historian but as an interpreter trained in literary studies, taunted by the challenge of extending the practice of "close reading" from verbal to visual media and fascinated by the way this practice can show how individual works "talk back" to their contexts. The context for Rembrandt, the object and target of his "looking-glass theater," is the structure of patron/painter relations that developed during the Renaissance and influenced the very different conditions of patronage that emerged in the Dutch Republic around the turn of the seventeenth century.

The book is in four parts. Parts One and Two comprise an interpretive study of the technical and sociopolitical conditions within which portraiture becomes an important if problematic medium of self-representation in early modern Europe. The major portion of these two sections considers the structure and the consequences of a system of practices and conventions that governs poses in commissioned portraits. In Part Three the scene shifts from Italian to Dutch portraiture. Part Four is devoted to self-portraits by Rembrandt that are interpreted as responses to the conditions depicted in the first three parts. Through a series of close readings of individual works, the author demonstrates the ironic, polemical, and political force of Rembrandt's self-portraits.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Specialists in the field should be interested in Berger's re-interpretation of particular portraits by Rembrandt and other artists. . . . More general readers can benefit from these summaries. . . ."—Canadian Journal of History

"Berger comes to art history from outside of art history, like fresh air through an open window."—Common Knowledge

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804733243
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2000
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 656
  • Sales rank: 1,377,724
  • Product dimensions: 7.38 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Harry Berger, Jr., is Professor Emeritus of Literature and Art History at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author, most recently, of Making Trifles of Terrors: Redistributing Complicities in Shakespeare (Stanford, 1997).

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Pt. 1 Early Modern Technologies and Politics of Representation and Their Consequences
1 Technologies: The System of Early Modern Painting 35
2 Politics: The Apparatus of Commissioned Portraiture 77
3 Consequences: Sprezzatura and the Anxiety of Self-Representation 95
Pt. 2 Facing the Gaze
4 The Face as Index of the Mind: Art Historians and the Physiognomic Fallacy 107
5 Physiognomy, Mimetic Idealism, and Social Change 119
6 Elias on Physiognomic Skepticism: Homo Clausus and the Anxiety of Representation 137
7 Lacan on the Narcissism of Orthopsychic Desire 155
8 Fictions of the Pose (1): The Fiction of Objectivity 171
9 Fictions of the Pose (2): Representing Orthopsychic Desire 197
Pt. 3 The Embarrassment of Poses: On Dutch Portraiture
10 Local Matters 233
11 The Posography of Embarrassment: Representational Strategies in a Decentralized Class Society 265
12 Methodological Interlude I: Toward Group Portraiture 319
13 Rembrandt's Embarrassment: An Anatomy of Group Portraiture 329
Pt. 4 Rembrandt's Looking-Glass Theater
14 Methodological Interlude II: On Self-Portraits 351
15 Good Boys and Bad: Orthopsychic Comedy in the Early Self-Portraits 359
16 Marking Time: Revisionary Allusion in Specular Fictions 377
17 Rembrandt as Burgher: Waiting for Maerten Soolmans 383
18 Methodological Interlude III: Texture Versus Facture 389
19 Specular Fictions in Two Etchings 395
20 Married, with Peacock: Saskia in Rembrandt's Looking-Glass Theater 405
21 Methodological Interlude IV: On Revisionary Allusion - Rembrandt Against the Italian Renaissance 427
22 Rembrandt as Courtier 463
23 Rembrandt in Chains: The Medici Self-Portrait 475
24 Rembrandt in Venice: The Patriarch 479
25 (Ef)facing the Hand 497
26 The Last Laugh; or, Something More 505
Notes 515
Index of Plates and Figures 611
Subject Index 615
Names Index 619
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