Frasi di Erwin Panofsky

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Erwin Panofsky

Data di nascita: 30. Marzo 1892
Data di morte: 14. Marzo 1968

Erwin Panofsky è stato uno storico dell'arte tedesco naturalizzato statunitense.


„Oggi potrà forse sembrare strano che un genio come Leonardo da Vinci definisse la prospettiva «briglia e timone della pittura», e che un pittore ricco di fantasia come Paolo Uccello rispondesse alla moglie, quando questa lo invitava a dormire: «Oh, che dolce cosa questa prospettiva!»; ma è necessario cercare di chiarire quale fu allora il significato di questa scoperta. Non significò soltanto un'elevazione dell'arte a «scienza» (per il Rinascimento si trattava veramente di un'elevazione): l'impressione visiva soggettiva era stata razionalizzata a tal punto che poteva costituire il fondamento per la costruzione di un mondo empirico saldamente fondato eppure, in senso pienamente moderno, «infinito» (e si potrebbe addirittura paragonare la funzione della prospettiva rinascimentale a quella del criticismo, il valore della prospettiva romano-ellenistica a quello dello scetticismo). Era stato così realizzato il passaggio dallo spazio psicofisiologico allo spazio matematico: in altre parole, un'obiettivazione della soggettività.“ pagg. 46-47

„Non bisogna mai dimenticare che i resoconti contemporanei, o quasi, erano in grado di valutare il «naturalismo» di una raffigurazione artistica soltanto entro i limiti di ciò che già era stato scoperto e che quindi era dato immaginare (come nel caso di Boccaccio, che considerava tanto «veri» da trarre in inganno i dipinti di Giotto, i quali, agli osservatori successivi, appaiono invece estremamente «stilizzati»).“ pag. 77


„Nessuna meraviglia che un uomo come Giordano Bruno corredi questo mondo della spazialità infinita, sottratto in certo modo alla onnipotenza divina, e pure completamente misurabile, di una sublimità quasi religiosa e che gli attribuisca, «accanto all'estensione infinita del χενόν democriteo, l'infinita dinamica dell'anima del mondo neoplatonica». Nonostante l'afflato mistico, questa concezione dello spazio è già quella che più tardi verrà razionalizzata da Cartesio e formalizzata nella teoria Kantiana.“ pag. 46

„These two developments throw light on what is perhaps the most fundamental difference between the Renaissance and all previous periods of art. We have repeatedly seen that there were these circumstances which could compel the artist to make a distinction between the "technical" proportions and the "objective;" the influence of organic movement, the influence of perspective foreshortening, and the regard for the visual impression of the beholder. These three factors of variation have one thing in common: they all presuppose the artistic recognition of subjectivity. Organic movement introduces into the calculus of artistic composition the subjective will and the subjective emotions of the thing represented; foreshortening the subjective visual experience of the artist; and those "eurhythmic" adjustments which alter that which is right in favor of what seems right, the subjective visual experience of a potential beholder. And it is the Renaissance which, for the first time, not only affirms but formally legitimizes and rationalizes these three forms of subjectivity.“ Meaning in the Visual Arts

„But what is the use of the humanities as such? Admittedly they are not practical, and admittedly they concern themselves with the past. Why, it may be asked, should we engage in impractical investigations, and why should we be interested in the past?

The answer to the first question is: because we are interested in reality. Both the humanities and the natural sciences, as well as mathematics and philosophy, have the impractical outlook of what the ancients called vita contemplativa as opposed to vita activa. But is the contemplative life less real or, to be more precise, is its contribution to what we call reality less important, than that of the active life?

The man who takes a paper dollar in exchange for twenty-five apples commits an act of faith, and subjects himself to a theoretical doctrine, as did the mediaeval man who paid for indulgence. The man who is run over by an automobile is run over by mathematics, physics and chemistry. For he who leads the contemplative life cannot help influencing the active, just as he cannot prevent the active life from influencing his thought. Philosophical and psychological theories, historical doctrines and all sorts of speculations and discoveries, have changed, and keep changing, the lives of countless millions. Even he who merely transmits knowledge or learning participates, in his modest way, in the process of shaping reality - of which fact the enemies of humanism are perhaps more keenly aware than its friends. It is impossible to conceive of our world in terms of action alone. Only in God is there a "Coincidence of Act and Thought" as the scholastics put it. Our reality can only be understood as an interpenetration of these two.“
Meaning in the Visual Arts

„Those who like to interpret historical facts symbolically may recognize in this the spirit of a specifically "modern" conception of the world which permits the subject to assert itself against the object as something independent and equal; whereas classical antiquity did not as yet permit the explicit formulation of this contrast; and whereas the Middle Ages believed the subject as well as the object to be submerged in a higher unity.“ Meaning in the Visual Arts

„Fusing the doctrines of Plotinus and Proclus with the creeds and beliefs of Christianity, Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite combined the Neo-Platonic conviction of the fundamental oneness and luminous aliveness of the world with the Christian dogmas of the triune God, original sin and redemption. The universe is created, animated and unified by the perpetual self-realization of what Plotinus had called "the One," what the Bible had called "the Lord," and what he calls "the superessential Light.“ Meaning in the Visual Arts

„Reform or no reform, he never ceased to promote the interests of St. Denis and the Royal House of France with the same naive, and in his case not entirely unjustified, conviction of their identity with those of the nation and with the Will of God as a modern oil or steel magnate may promote legislation favorable to his company and to his bank as something beneficial to the welfare of this country and to the progress of mankind.“ Perspective as Symbolic Form

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