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Perspective as Symbolic Form

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Erwin Panofsky's Perspective as Symbolic Form is one of the great works of modern intellectual history, the legendary text that has dominated all art-historical and philosophical discussions on the topic of perspective in this century. Finally available in English, this unrivaled example of Panofsky's early method places him within broader developments in theories of knowl Erwin Panofsky's Perspective as Symbolic Form is one of the great works of modern intellectual history, the legendary text that has dominated all art-historical and philosophical discussions on the topic of perspective in this century. Finally available in English, this unrivaled example of Panofsky's early method places him within broader developments in theories of knowledge and cultural change. Here, drawing on a massive body of learning that ranges over ancient philosophy, theology, science, and optics as well as the history of art, Panofsky produces a type of "archaeology" of Western representation that far surpasses the usual scope of art historical studies. Perspective in Panofsky's hands becomes a central component of a Western "will to form," the expression of a schema linking the social, cognitive, psychological, and especially technical practices of a given culture into harmonious and integrated wholes. He demonstrates how the perceptual schema of each historical culture or epoch is unique and how each gives rise to a different but equally full vision of the world. Panofsky articulates these distinct spatial systems, explicating their particular coherence and compatibility with the modes of knowledge, belief, and exchange that characterized the cultures in which they arose. Our own modernity, Panofsky shows, is inseparable from its peculiarly mathematical expression of the concept of the infinite, within a space that is both continuous and homogenous.


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Erwin Panofsky's Perspective as Symbolic Form is one of the great works of modern intellectual history, the legendary text that has dominated all art-historical and philosophical discussions on the topic of perspective in this century. Finally available in English, this unrivaled example of Panofsky's early method places him within broader developments in theories of knowl Erwin Panofsky's Perspective as Symbolic Form is one of the great works of modern intellectual history, the legendary text that has dominated all art-historical and philosophical discussions on the topic of perspective in this century. Finally available in English, this unrivaled example of Panofsky's early method places him within broader developments in theories of knowledge and cultural change. Here, drawing on a massive body of learning that ranges over ancient philosophy, theology, science, and optics as well as the history of art, Panofsky produces a type of "archaeology" of Western representation that far surpasses the usual scope of art historical studies. Perspective in Panofsky's hands becomes a central component of a Western "will to form," the expression of a schema linking the social, cognitive, psychological, and especially technical practices of a given culture into harmonious and integrated wholes. He demonstrates how the perceptual schema of each historical culture or epoch is unique and how each gives rise to a different but equally full vision of the world. Panofsky articulates these distinct spatial systems, explicating their particular coherence and compatibility with the modes of knowledge, belief, and exchange that characterized the cultures in which they arose. Our own modernity, Panofsky shows, is inseparable from its peculiarly mathematical expression of the concept of the infinite, within a space that is both continuous and homogenous.

30 review for Perspective as Symbolic Form

  1. 4 out of 5

    William West

    I still enjoy re-reading Panofsky. In a bizare twist, I randomly met his granddaughter in a Wallgreen's.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Hayk Martirosyan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Perspective transforms psychophysiological space into mathematical space.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Max Maslansky

    The best book you can get on the history and symbolic function of perspective in Western Art

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Lei pocos artículos sobre perspectiva, y siempre citaban a este libro, por lo que no me siento muy capacitada para una buena reseña. Peero, sí puedo decir que se me hizo una lectura muy densa. Probablemente si no hubiera estado apurada para leerlo por la facultad, hubiera comprendido más. Sin embargo, algo que sí me distrajo bastante de la lectura principal, fueron las notas. Son demasiado largas, y se termina perdiendo el hilo de a qué venían a cuento. Habiendo dicho eso, es una lectura muy com Lei pocos artículos sobre perspectiva, y siempre citaban a este libro, por lo que no me siento muy capacitada para una buena reseña. Peero, sí puedo decir que se me hizo una lectura muy densa. Probablemente si no hubiera estado apurada para leerlo por la facultad, hubiera comprendido más. Sin embargo, algo que sí me distrajo bastante de la lectura principal, fueron las notas. Son demasiado largas, y se termina perdiendo el hilo de a qué venían a cuento. Habiendo dicho eso, es una lectura muy completa y por más que no entiendas mucho de matemáticas (como yo), si no se le lresta atención a nada más, se puede seguir(de a ratos ahre). Probablemente con una segunda lectura comprendería más.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Barış

    one thesis, brief disposition, clear argumentation. might be just for my taste and also makes decent contributions to heidegger's quest for destruction of metaphysics, but his willingness to subdue any understanding of a possible presence to patterns of western artistic know-how repels me back to arendt, since the thesis of the book seems just a technical and illustrated explanation of how the work replaced action, not a unique deal.

  6. 4 out of 5

    H. Isikgun

    Perspektifin antik dönemdeki bakış açısından rönesans içindeki gelişimine ve modern dönemdeki etkilerine kadar uzanan, bol kaynaklı ve resimlerle örnekli bir şekilde düzenlenmiş müthiş zengin bir kitap.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Heather Larcombe

    Another class book. Read just the core, not the intro or the notes, but it is an interesting perspective on perspective.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Em Laurent

    Impressive footnotes + textual values

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sara Hasanova

    Anlayamadım.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rubén Jerez

    Trabajo seminal en el campo del estudio de la perspectiva y uno de las obras canónicas en la producción panofskiana. No obstante, considero que es un libro de escaso interés para quién no sea un académico en el campo de la historia del arte. El lenguaje es pesado y técnico, y el autor no expresa las ideas con la misma claridad que caracteriza otras de sus obras. Para comprender por entero los argumentos de Panofsky el lector deberá, con frecuencia, inturrimpir la lectura para remitirse a los ext Trabajo seminal en el campo del estudio de la perspectiva y uno de las obras canónicas en la producción panofskiana. No obstante, considero que es un libro de escaso interés para quién no sea un académico en el campo de la historia del arte. El lenguaje es pesado y técnico, y el autor no expresa las ideas con la misma claridad que caracteriza otras de sus obras. Para comprender por entero los argumentos de Panofsky el lector deberá, con frecuencia, inturrimpir la lectura para remitirse a los extensos piés de página en los que detallan los principios que respaldan sus ideas, algunos de ellos fundamentados en una buena compresión de la geometría y la artimética.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chiara

    I found this book amazingly good. Panofsky is a great art theorist and historian, with a deep knowledge and a clear and rich writing style. This book speculates on the birth of Perspective and on its prominent role in the developings of Western Art. Surely it's not the simplest book you'll come across, but it's dense contents are nonetheless expressed in a beautifully clear way.

  12. 5 out of 5

    René Venegas

    Algo confuso, ciertamente se necesita una clase o dos de teoría del arte para enteder "la carne" de este libro, como siempre algo interpretativo, pero acertado y bien argumentado, un clásico de la historia del arte

  13. 5 out of 5

    Zachary

    The title pretty much sums up the book. This book kind of thrilled me.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cristina

    Escribe de maravilla y todo está muy claro... O eso pienso hasta que el profesor de Renacimiento hace preguntas extrañas sobre el temario.

  15. 4 out of 5

    km

    my art hum professor was SOOOO smart and made me love everything we so much as touched in that class

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ruben

  17. 5 out of 5

    R Samyuktha

  18. 5 out of 5

    Edward Cesaroni

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Finch

  20. 4 out of 5

    Arindam

  21. 4 out of 5

    Szilvia Narai

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jaynis

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kartikeya Date

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  26. 5 out of 5

    Zahaalp

  27. 4 out of 5

    Humam

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marylyn Bieta

  29. 5 out of 5

    G. Denson

  30. 4 out of 5

    John

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