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Perspective as Symbolic Form by Erwin Panofsky


Erwin Panofsky’s Perspective as Symbolic Form produces a type of “archaeology” of Western representation that far surpasses the usual scope of art historical studies.

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In the luminous annals of modern intellectual history, Erwin Panofsky’s magnum opus, “Perspective as Symbolic Form,” stands as a towering monument, casting its profound shadow over all art-historical and philosophical discourse on the enigmatic concept of perspective. After decades of anticipation, this legendary text now graces English-speaking audiences, offering a window into Panofsky’s early method and positioning him within the broader currents of theories of knowledge and cultural metamorphosis.

With unparalleled erudition, Panofsky embarks on a journey through the corridors of time, drawing from a vast reservoir of learning that spans ancient philosophy, theology, science, optics, and the rich tapestry of art history. What emerges is nothing short of an archaeological expedition into the depths of Western representation, a scholarly endeavor that transcends the conventional bounds of art historical inquiry.

In Panofsky’s deft hands, perspective ceases to be merely a pictorial technique; it becomes a veritable keystone in the grand edifice of Western thought—a manifestation of a deeper “will to form.” Each culture, each epoch, he posits, is imbued with its own unique perceptual schema, weaving together the strands of social, cognitive, psychological, and technical practices into a
harmonious and integrated whole. Through meticulous analysis, Panofsky unveils the intricate spatial systems that underpin each historical epoch, revealing their distinctive coherence and compatibility with the prevailing modes of knowledge, belief, and cultural exchange.

Indeed, Panofsky’s masterful exposition elucidates how each epoch’s perspective offers a rich and multifaceted vision of the world, shaped by the unique contours of its cultural landscape. From the ancient mysteries of antiquity to the Renaissance’s fervent embrace of mathematical precision, each era’s perspective reflects a profound engagement with the infinite—a mathematical expression within a space that is at once continuous and homogeneous.

As we navigate the labyrinthine corridors of Panofsky’s thought, we come to realize that our own modernity is inexorably entwined with its distinctive manifestation of perspective. Through Panofsky’s penetrating gaze, we gain insight into the intricate interplay between mathematical abstraction and human perception—a testament to the enduring legacy of “Perspective as Symbolic Form” and its profound impact on our understanding of art, culture, and the very essence of human experience.

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Weight0.45 kg

Perspective as Symbolic Form


Zone Books


Erwin Panofsky

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ISBN/EAN        9780942299533