Art History Unstuffed. Jean-François Lyotard and the Figural, Part Two

Art History Unstuffed

Jean-François Lyotard and the Figural, Part Two

was posted on June 13, 2014

 Lyotard noted that in Medieval and Renaissance art two systems of spatial representation co-existed: the flat space and the perspectival space. Often these two modes of the “figural” or pointing existed in the same works of art, such as the veduta or view painting.

The example that Lyotard used in Discourse, Figure was one put forward by Pierre Francastel (1900-1970) who wrote on The Tribute Money (1425) by Masaccio (1401-1428). The Tribute Money below demonstrated a very rare example of an open, not closed, visual space. Technically, the painting is an example of a “continuous narrative,” or a story told across time in three scenes in the same expanded space. This is a Medieval convention carried over into the Early Renaissance. Thus, the “figure” of the tax collector who both initiates the movement through time but who also shifts in time himself, pivoting from center stage to stage right is the Figural that disrupted the Discourse of Renaissance perspective.

Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette

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