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The parallel between the arts & the birth of art criticism

By on Jun 19, 2021 in History of ideas, Mimesis, Painting, Paragone, Philosophy, Poetry | 0 comments

E spesso ne la fronte il cor si legge. Petrarca   In our previous article, we introduced the Paragone, also known as the parallel between the arts, by comparing painting and sculpture in the Renaissance. This essay will illuminate the rich critical tradition that explored the relationship between literature and the visual arts and revisit some of their Renaissance referents.  Through the Paragone controversy, intellectuals sought to establish common links between the various arts and crafts by focusing on their specific means and purposes. In doing so, thinkers would often refer to the precept ut pictura poesis (“as is painting, so is poetry”), first coined by Horatio to exemplify the similarities between poetry and painting but later used in academic circles to explore the existence of equivalent connections between the other arts. This claim suggested that in all...

The Paragone debate – Painting and Sculpture in the Renaissance

By on Mar 9, 2021 in History of ideas, Painting, Philosophy, Sculpture | 0 comments

«Ut pictura poesis: erit si proprius stes Te capiat magis, et quaedam, si longius abstes»   Let the poem be like a picture: there are those who captivate you more when you are closer and those who captivate you when you are further away. Horace, Ars Poetica   In the Renaissance, the comparison of arts -known as the so-called Paragone- constituted an important tool for socio-cultural valorisation and inclusion within the liberal disciplines (Fig. 1), which included grammar, rhetoric, and logic (the trivium) and geometry, arithmetic, music, and astronomy (the quadrivium). The most important of these comparisons, known as ut pictura poesis, first appeared in Horace’s Ars Poetica and aimed at analysing which art was more suitable for imitating nature: painting or poetry. Scholars would use Horace’s argument to establish a hierarchy among artistic disciplines. In doing...

The myth of Prometheus and the origin of human creativity

By on Aug 1, 2020 in Philosophy | 0 comments

« J’entrai dans un atelier où je vis des ouvriers qui modelaient en glaise un animal énorme de la forme d’un lama, mais qui paraissait devoir être muni de grandes ailes. Ce monstre était comme traversé d’un jet de feu qui l’animait peu à peu, de sorte qu’il se tordait, pénétré par mille filets pourprés, formant les veines et les artères et fécondant pour ainsi dire l’inerte matière, qui se revêtait d’une végétation instantanée d’appendices fibreux d’ailerons et de touffes laineuses. Je m’arrêtai à contempler ce chef-d’œuvre, où l’on semblait avoir surpris les secrets de la création divine. “C’est que nous avons ici, me dit-on, le feu primitif qui anima les premiers êtres… Jadis il s’élançait jusqu’à la surface de la terre, mais les sources se sont taries.» (1) Gérard de Nerval, Aurelia   In Hesiod’s Theogony, we learn of the great schism between man and the gods, which has...

A neurocentric world?

By on May 6, 2018 in science communication | 0 comments

Neuro happiness & neuro diets Steven Pinker once prophesied that there would never be a “Decade of the pancreas”. As the silent witness of bile’s passage, one of the four humours in medieval times, its heyday had probably passed long ago. By then, a new patronage was furtively on the way. When the US Congress launched the “Decade of the Brain” initiative, neuroscience stormed the marquees and stole the show in the 1990s. Why was brain research on the spotlight? Fast-paced research combined with an increasing awareness of how devastating and costly brain diseases are for our society.  As the organ of emotion, perception, and memory, the brain’s impairment has immediate and palpable consequences on our life quality. Two decades later, the expansion of neurobiology is sending unexpected ripples into dietary recommendations and self-help books. Neuro-centric explanations might come...

Notes on Alberto Giacometti

By on Jan 28, 2018 in Sculpture | 0 comments

…It was on the second day in the month of Adar in the year 5340 of Creation (A.D. 1580) that the momentous event took place. At four in the morning, the three made their way out of the city to the river Moldau. There, on the clay bank of the river, they moulded the figure of a man three ells in length. They fashioned for him, hands and feet and a head, and drew his features in clear human relief…                                                                                                             The Golem of Prague, Rabbi Yehuda Loew The slender silhouettes created by Alberto Giacometti are a compelling recreation of a primitive cosmogony and perhaps an interrogation of our place within its realms. The totemic figures seem to emanate from the seminal magma as if lava outpourings had instantly chilled at the contact with air. These golems are thus trapped in various...

Bosch on LSD

By on Jun 25, 2017 in Painting | 0 comments

Hofmann’s bad trip   Inadvertent of its consequences, Albert Hofmann, a chemist working for the Sandoz Laboratories (now Novartis), meticulously wrote these lines in his journal: 4/19/43 16:20: 0.5 cc of 1/2 pro mil aqueous solution of diethylamide tartrate orally = 0.25 mg tartrate. Taken diluted with about ten cc water. Tasteless. 17:00: Beginning dizziness, feeling of anxiety, visual distortions, symptoms of paralysis, desire to laugh. Supplement of 4/21: Home by bicycle. From 18:00- ca.20:00 most severe crisis. (See special report) Here the notes on his laboratory book abruptly stop. The detached tone of his writing, so typical in scientific reports where the first person is usually self-effaced, would soon morph into prophetic. His inner self would also dissolve in the process, but this time not in the wake of fighting vanity or pursuing objectivity. He had been able to write...

Time perception in the brain

By on May 22, 2017 in Temporal processing | 0 comments

In our previous two entries, we discussed how painters and writers reflected on the passage of time, and we also learned what philosophers and physicists had to say about this issue. Now it’s the time of neurobiology! How does our brain perceive time? What are the neural bases and possible mechanisms underlying time perception? Is there any internal clock or pacemaker? Is timekeeping distributed among different brain areas? Temporal processing is a daunting task. A rich gamut of behaviors depends on our capacity to calibrate and align incoming signals timely. We sample these inputs at various channels, in distant brain areas, and with different processing speeds. However, our brain does an excellent job in generating a coherent picture of the world around us, updating this report to match the fluctuation of external signals. From prestissimo to largo We can compute timing differences...

The time of philosophers

By on Apr 26, 2017 in Philosophy | 0 comments

In the novel A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs (Within a budding grove), written by Marcel Proust in 1919, Madame Swann says: ¨The soldier is convinced that a certain interval of time, capable of being indefinitely prolonged, will be allowed him before the bullet finds him, the thief before he is taken, men in general before they have to die.¨ Such a high hope also pervades Jorge Luis Borges’ tale El Milagro secreto (The secret miracle), included in the collection Ficciones (Fictions). Jorge Luis Borges In this narration, we learn that a writer is going to be executed at 9 am. As he stands in front of the firing squad, thanks to an unexpected intercession, his death is momentarily suspended. First surprised, then grateful, he realises that the world around him came to a timely pause. The bullets froze halfway during their trip, and the curls of smoke from his last cigar have not...