Fra Angelico

Dissemblance and Figuration

Georges Didi-Huberman

Fra Angelico
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Georges Didi-Huberman

Translated by Jane Marie Todd
290 pages | 22 color plates, 69 halftones | 8-1/2 x 11 | © 1995
Cloth $87.50 ISBN: 9780226148137 Published October 1995
The traditional story of Renaissance painting is one of inexorable progress toward the exact representation of the real and visible. Georges Didi-Huberman disrupts this story with a new look—and a new way of looking—at the fifteenth-century painter Fra Angelico. In doing so, he alters our understanding of both early Renaissance art and the processes of art history.

A Florentine painter who took Dominican vows, Fra Angelico (1400-1455) approached his work as a largely theological project. For him, the problems of representing the unrepresentable, of portraying the divine and the spiritual, mitigated the more secular breakthroughs in imitative technique. Didi-Huberman explores Fra Angelico's solutions to these problems—his use of color to signal approaching visibility, of marble to recall Christ's tomb, of paint drippings to simulate (or stimulate) holy anointing. He shows how the painter employed emptiness, visual transformation, and displacement to give form to the mystery of faith.

In the work of Fra Angelico, an alternate strain of Renaissance painting emerges to challenge rather than reinforce verisimilitude. Didi-Huberman traces this disruptive impulse through theological writings and iconographic evidence and identifies a widespread tradition in Renaissance art that ranges from Giotto's break with Byzantine image-making well into the sixteenth century. He reveals how the techniques that served this ultimately religious impulse may have anticipated the more abstract characteristics of modern art, such as color fields, paint spatterings, and the absence of color.
List of Illustrations
Translator's Note
Part One - The Colors of Mystery: Fra Angelico, Painter of Dissemblance
The Question of Figure, the Question of Ground
The Subtlety of Images
The Four Senses of Scripture
The Dialectic of Dissemblance
Memoria, or the Implicit of Figures
Praefiguratio, or the Destiny of Figures
Praesentia, or the Virtual of Figures
Part Two - Prophetic Places: The Annunciation Beyond Its Story
Story and Mystery
How to Figure the Unfigurable?
The Figure Is Time
The Figure Is the Place
Inhabitatio: In the Light of the Word
Inchoatio: In the Shadow of the Earth
Incorporatio: In the Bosom of Colors
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