Facts or fragments? Visual histories in the age of mechanical reproduction
Art History, 25, (4), . (doi:10.1111/1467-8365.00338).
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The Temples at Paestum were 'rediscovered' in the mid–eighteenth century and information about the temples in the form of printed images was widely disseminated across Europe. In this essay attention is paid to innovative forms of visual representation and their relationship to the ever–refining set of cultural values applied to and associated with antiquity. This new visual language made three–dimensional objects widely available in a readable and coherent two–dimensional formula and equipped polite society with the critical faculties necessary to determine the associative values of Modern and Antique architecture and design. The importance of this new language and its impact on the quality of experience of the past and the development of aesthetic ideas and histories in the eighteenth century allows the exploration of the changing relationship between text and image which is a theme in this article. Moreover, the relationship of prints to the original object both in terms of the effect on its aura and the print acting rather like an historian as an interlocutor between the original (event) and the viewer (reader) is also considered here. This raises important questions about the relationship between the mass–produced image and the original, and the implications for the aura and status of the original object in an era before Walter Benjamin's 'Age of Mechanical Reproduction'.
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