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Canvas The McGill Undergraduate Journal of Art History and Communication Studies

Volume XV

Spring 2016

Canvas is the Art History and Communication Studies Undergraduate Journal of McGill University. Each year, we publish a collection of essays written by students for courses within the department and in other related faculties, aiming to showcase the outstanding work produced by McGill undergrads. Aiming to reflect the bilingual character of Montreal, we publish submissions in English and French. Cover image and original artwork courtesy of Sarah Bentivegna. Funding for this journal has been generously provided by both the AUS Journal Fund and the Art History and Communication Studies Student Assocation.

ISSN: 2369-839X

Table of Contents 5 Note to the Reader 7 Sacred Intimacy: The Index of the Artist in Private Portraiture of the Northern Renaissance Emily Friedman 29 Differences in Perspective: Western Linear Perspective in Japanese Art and Its Legacy on Japanese Ways of Seeing Muhan Zhang 39 Transport for Everyone: An Analysis of the Underrepresentation of Disable Persons in STM Infrastructure Ida Mahmoudi 49 Blood Divided: Illuminations of Animus in the Golden Haggadah Elias Rabinovitch 67 ‘Enfrailing’ the Feminine Form; Victorian Aesthetic and Narrative Depictions of Subjugation Jemma Elliott-Israelson 97 The Icon in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility Chloe Rowan 109 Le Nightmare de Fuseli: désir, mythe et représentation Lola Brière de la Hosseraye 121 Reassessing the Characterization of a Misunderstood Elite: Vanity vs. Power in the Visual Record of the Byzantine Empress Zoe Porphyrogenita (1028-1050) Krystin Chung 137 This Isn’t LA or New York: The (Temporal and Spatial) Life of Difference Angel Yu

Sarah Bentivegna, The Museum Go-er Collage, 2016

Note to the Reader I present in these pages the fifteenth issue of Canvas, McGill’s Undergraduate Art History and Communication Studies Journal. We publish on behalf of a joint department, and like many joint ventures, ours can at times seem jumbled together rather than complimentary; like the collage that marks this issue’s cover, it can be easy to see the edges where one component ends and the next begins. The essays in this year’s issue reflect this broad area of study and assortment of approaches. It begins with contemplations of indexicality in sixteenth century European portraiture to then stretch to discuss the effects of western perspective on eighteenth and nineteenth century Japanese painting, ending (geographically, temporally, and thematically) far from where it began with an essay on the place and time of difference that unpacks media discourses around race and reproductive technology in the United States. However, though Art History and Communication Studies are often distinct in topic and approach, they nonetheless each strengthen the other’s mission in their underlying commonalities, both interrogating questions of representations and making the medium the object of study as much as the message. This project was a fundamenttally collaborative effort, made almost entirely from student efforts. It would not have been possible without the hard work of its writers, whose brilliant insights give Canvas its purpose. I also thank the editorial team for their dedication, Sarah Bentivegna for her artwork that here expresses the simultaneously disjointed and beautiful nature of our department, and the AUS Journal Fund and the Art History and Communication Studies Student Assocation for their generous financial support. Finally, I must thank the professors who never cease to inspire us. This reflects them as much as it does us. Ben Demers Editor-in-Chief


Sacred Intimacy: The Index of the Artist in Private Portraiture of the Northern Renaissance

Emily Friedman

Sacred Intimacy: The Index of the Artist in Private Portraiture of the Northern Renaissance As the mythological tale reads, the original portrait required three participants. This is the story of Butades, the Corinthian potter of Sicyon, and his own daughter’s profound experience of heartbreak and imminent loss. I borrow my next words from Pliny the Elder, the first to record—and consequently mythologize—the event in his Naturalis Historia: It was through his daughter that he made the discovery; who, being deeply in love with a young man about to depart on a long journey, traced the profile of his face, as thrown upon the wall by the light of the lamp. Upon seeing this, her father filled in the outline, by compressing clay upon the surface, and so made a face in relief… 1 Thus, we see portraiture as reactionary: tracing presence, in the face of imminent loss, or absence. I intend to refocus the theoretical scholarship surrounding portraiture’s role as ‘presence in absence’ around the genre of the family and the private sphere. For this is the very crux of Pliny’s chronicle: portraiture can be viewed through a familial lens to its core. Domestic co-authors of the original portrait, Butades and his unnamed daughter work in silent harmony to document the likeness of a tragic trope of intimacy—a lover, on the cusp of departure. Approaching the private portraits of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth-century Germany, it is useful to keep Pliny’s mythology in mind, and consider the documentarian drive in a pre-photographic, increasingly secular, and self-consciously humanistic worldview. By examining the intimate work of two giants of the sixteenth century, Albrecht Dürer and Hans Holbein the Younger, we might observe how the confluence of religious narratives, mimetic portraiture, and private subject matter informs the artist’s own self-conception. While the technique for the following works is provisional,2 the artistry is far from casual and the intimate symbolism is potent. Truly, when it comes to the genre of private portraiture, we understand Helmut Puff ’s observation 1. Pliny the Elder and H. Rackham. Natural history (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1938), 35.151 2. With the exception of one —Hans Holbein’s The Artist’s Family—each image I will study is a sketch or a preparatory drawing, done in black ink, pencil, or charcoal on paper.


that “the personal is enmeshed with the exemplary.”3 It was during a visit home to Basel in 1528 that Hans Holbein the Younger painted an intimate portrait of his wife and two children, titled The Artist’s Family (fig.1). This representation of Elsbeth Binzenstock is not Holbein’s first; many recognize her physiognomy in his Solothurn Madonna of 1522. With one hand resting lightly on the shoulder of their son Philipp and the other keeping baby Fig. 1. Hans Holbein, The Artist’s Family, 1528/29. Oil on paper glue to wood. Kunstmuse um, Basel. Katharina in place upon her lap, Elsbeth looms monumental in a shallow and somber room.4 Jochen Sander brings our attention to the non-idealized features of the family: the protruding upper lips of the children, the bulbous nose of Elsbeth, and the corpulent fleshiness of all three models.5 Their visceral presence is especially cogent within the body of Katharina, whose auburn silk dress-pleats and angled right elbow activates the three-dimensionality of the space. Her tangibility suggests imminent movement, as if Elsbeth’s hand is the only thing keeping Katharina from toppling forward out of the picture frame and into the viewer’s sphere. Yet when compared with Holbein’s overtly polished and 3. Helmut Puff. “Memento Mori, Memento Mei: Albrecht Dürer and the Art of Dying”, Enduring Loss in Early Modern Germany: Cross Disciplinary Perspectives. Ed. Lynne Tatlock (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 114. 4. The painting has been cut down and manipulated, and the probability that Holbein meant to include himself in the space—perhaps at an easel in a meta-reference of creation—holds strong when we consider the directed gaze of the extant models. See Jochen Sanders’ excerpt in Christian Müller’s, Hans Holbein the Younger: the Basel years, 1515-1532 (Munich: Prestel, 2006), 403-404. 5. Hans Holbein, and Christian Müller, Hans Holbein the Younger: the Basel years, 15151532 (Munich: Prestel, 2006), 403-404.


political portraits of the English court, where fashioning of the self or other through portraiture was indeed an artful and carefully constructed process,6 the domestic characteristics of this portrait feel particularly intimate and emotionally charged. Sander refers to the image’s naturalness as indicative of its power to “touch viewers deeply.”7 Consider the context. Holbein spent most of his professional life in England working at the court of King Henry VIII. This arrangement was primarily financial, as Erasmus wrote in a letter in 1526: “Here the arts are freezing: [Holbein] is going to England to scrape together a few angels.”8 Angels were English coinage of the time, and ‘scrape together a few’ he did, meaning that for most of Holbein’s professional life he had to be away from Basel, Elsbeth, and his children. Many scholars have chosen to interpret the psychology of this portrait as a lament, and through this lens, the expression of Elsbeth is cast as mournful, exhausted, or despondent. Philipp, with eyebrows raised and a questioning expression, becomes the idolizing and ever-hopeful son, while Katharina mimics her mother in an impossibly premature awareness of their loss. As Gerhard Wolf observed in his summary of Pliny’s tale, portraiture was constructed as “a fundamental figure of absence and the evocation of presence by means of an image.”9 Considering that Holbein left this portrait behind when he returned to England, it serves a similar if not slightly inverted purpose: the evocation 6. See Stephen Greenblatt’s book, Renaissance Self Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare, for a window into Holbein’s contrasting artistic agenda at the English Court. Greenblatt writes, “…in the sixteenth century there appears to be an increased self consciousness about the fashioning of human identity as a manipulable, artful process.” He illustrates this with a case study of Holbein’s portrait of Sir Thomas More, a man seemingly “poised between engagement and detachment, and above all, fully aware of its own status as an invention.” Thus we might further emphasize the unique agenda of the 1528 family portrait. Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance self-fashioning: from More to Shakespeare (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), pages 2 and 31, respectively. 7. Holbein and Müller. Hans Holbein the Younger: the Basel years, 1515-1532, 403-404. 8. H. Ward, “Holbein in Germany,” Nature and Art v. 2 (1867): 54. The vocabulary of this metaphor, the ‘freezing’ out of the artist, recalls a similar complaint from the pen of Albrecht Dürer. Writing to his friend Wilibald Pirckheimer from Italy, he moans, rather melodramatically, “How shall I freeze after this sun! Here, I am a gentleman, at home only a parasite.” See Jeffrey Chipps Smith. “Dürer’s Losses and the Dilemmas of Being”, Enduring Loss in Early Modern Germany: Cross Disciplinary Perspectives, 81. 9. Gerhard Wolf, “The Origins of Painting,” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 36 (1999): 61.


Fig. 2. Giovanni Bellini, Madonna del Prato, ca. 1505. Oil and tempera on panel. National Gallery, London.

of presence is augmented via a lacuna: Holbein himself, and his effect (in absence) on the subjects depicted. The portrait becomes an index of the artist, a reminder of his presence through the very emphasis of his absence. The formal construction of Holbein’s Family Portrait is based upon religious compositions, particularly the Virgin and Child with either Saint Anne or Saint John the Baptist. Following this logic, Elsbeth symbolizes the Virgin Mary—a role she played six years earlier in the Solothurn Madonna. This analogy serves to sanctify the subject, while simultaneously complicating its supposed secular nature. For while domestic portraiture superficially appears to reside purely in the domain of the nonspiritual, we must acknowledge the impossibility of a pure binary between the two spheres of secular and sacred in early modern thought. Due to the conflation of piety and identification, there was a permeability between representations of the Holy Family and portraiture of the secular family. Frank Zöllner reminds us that this was the last century that Western art “had a long lasting and strong attachment to Christian belief.”10 Hans Belting demonstrates the potent mingling of the secular and the sacred 10. Frank Zöllner, “The Motions of the Mind in Renaissance Portraits: The Spiritual Dimension of Portraiture,” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 68 (2005): 40.


Fig. 3. Albrecht DĂźrer, The Virgin Nursing the Child, 1512. Charcoal. Albertina, Vienna.

Fig. 4. Urs Graf, Mother and Child, 1514. Pen and ink. Kunstmuseum, Basel.


with reference to the Madonna del Prato, ca. 1505, by Albrecht Dürer’s much older but most admired Italian contemporary, Giovanni Bellini (fig. 2). The Madonna, with her hands folded in delicate prayer and the tilt of her head in deference to the sleeping Christ, maintains formal allegiance with the Marian icon of precedence. Conversely, the metaphoric double theme of the portrait, in which the landscape functions as reference to Virgilian concepts of nature and poetry, demonstrates Bellini’s attempt to infiltrate the religious icon with a secular artistic idea or argument. Thus, the visual trope of the Virgin suggests a metaphoric potency as the artist “attempts a synthesis between the old icon and the new kind of painted poetry.”11 Continuing, Belting emphasizes the Virgin as the symbolic linchpin wherein finally “the primal image of the icon is boldly equated with the ideal image of art.”12 Applying this double theme to the visual trope of the Virgin in the Northern Renaissance, Belting’s point explains a certain duality of the domestic portrait (aesthetic and symbolic) while solidifying the lineage of profane portraiture within ecclesiastical art.13 The exceptional mimesis of the genre, a secular, resoundingly humanist exercise in representing the “real” human, is heavily indebted to and pregnant with the sacred mythology from which it arose. Albrecht Dürer’s charcoal drawing The Virgin Nursing the Child of ca. 1512 (fig. 3) is a testament to the conflation of domestic intimacy and the Holy Family. The Virgin is shown without the typical morose expression of her co-passion and the baby Christ is emphatically naturalistic. His head is covered in delicate down and rolls of fat encircle his thighs. But it is his feet that are most endearing—Christ’s curled toes and hyperextended ankles activate the composition as familiar indices of movement. While Dürer is undeniably operating within the classic trope of Virgin and Child imagery, his powers of observation have led him to create a domestic scene with 11. Hans Belting, Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image Before the Era of Art. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 474. 12. Ibid., 478. 13. See Diane Owen Hughes’ study of familial representation for a case study of this concept. In reference to Mary and the wedding portrait, she writes: “Her powerful iconographic position was bound to influence the representation of secular families… ”Diane Owen Hughes, “Representing the Family: Portraits and Purposes in Early Modern Italy,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 17/1 (1986), 36.


a believable tenderness and familiarity that would have appealed to the contemporary viewer in line with the pre-Reformation quest for intimate knowledge of the Holy Family and for a personal identification with them. As Joseph Koerner summarizes, “The Holy Family was a popular motif in late-fifteenth century German art, partly because it expressed the sacred in terms of a domestic intimacy that appealed to a predominately bourgeois audience.”14 This is by no means limited to Dürer—in fact, he seems to have borrowed aspects of this visual program from earlier artists such as The Housebook Master. This trend reached contemporary followers of Dürer as well, such as the mischievous artist Urs Graf.15 His drawing from 1514, Mother and Child (fig. 4) is widely assumed to be a portrait of Graf ’s wife Sibylla and their newborn child.16 This representation of mother and child, while not following an overt religious program, cannot yet be divorced from such an interpretation. To illustrate this point, I call attention to the formal similarities between the infants of both Dürer’s and Graf ’s images. Sibylla confronts the viewer, a slight smile upon her mouth and arching eyebrows similar to those of the Dürer Virgin. With knowledge of Dürer’s influence upon Graf, we can assume the younger artist would have seen Dürer’s widely circulated iterations of the subject matter, and in turn, visualized his wife and newborn child within the rhetorical symbolism of the subject. The cultivation of specific presence is integral to conceptions of the sacred nature of the family and the family in relation to the divine. If it seems feasible, in light of our discussion of Holbein’s portrait, that the portrait of the family can act as an index of the artist, it may seem sacrilegious or even self-aggrandizing to conflate the intimate with the holy. Consider Camerarius’ biography of Dürer, in which he claims, “The nature of man is never more certainly and definitely shown than in the 14. Joseph Koerner, The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 10. 15. As Sir Kenneth Clark writes in the monograph’s prefatory note, “[Urs Graf] was a cutthroat, a swindler, a bully, and a lecher.” And yet, “his superb, irresistible vitality, communicated in every flourishing line, makes all criticism of his personality seem pedantic.” Emile Major and Erwin Gradmann, Urs Graf (London: Home & Van Thal, 1947) 5. 16. Emil Major and Erwin Gradmann, Urs Graf (London: Home & Van Thal, 1947), 18.


works he produces as the fruits of his art.”17 This is synthesized in the Tuscan proverb Ogni pittore dipinge sè, the concept of automimesis that roughly translates as “Every painter paints himself.”18 While this phrase could simply be understood as physiognomic, in which the painter subconsciously asserts his own features into the portraiture of others, the proverb can also be expanded theoretically to support the portrait as an index of the painter. Every painter paints himself regardless of the subject at hand, implicating his presence via the process of reproduction. These were thought constructs that became validated by contemporary German theologians, of whom Dürer potentially—but certainly his friend Willibald Pirckheimer—would have been aware. For example, Nicholas of Cusa preached of latent narcissism as a starting point for devotion and a powerful tool for piety.19 So the burgeoning hypermimetic cultivation of the domestic portrait or self-portrait, made according to the type of the Holy Family or in the clearest image of God, was the logical step in dissuading what Koerner writes was the uneasy symbiosis between selflove and a pure love of God.20 Literally, one is made in God’s image or image type. Armed with an understanding of private portraiture’s debt to the sacred, it remains to discuss the symbiotic role in the artist’s representation of observed reality—specifically within physical likeness. As Dürer himself said, “For verily, ‘art’ is embedded in nature; he who can extract it, has it. If you acquire it, it will save you much error in your work.”21 Dürer nursed a fascination with both the philosophical and the tangible that merged into a style of portraiture that is specific, honest, and, most importantly, 17. Quoted in Koerner, The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art, 143. 18. See Frank Zöllner. “Ogni pittore dipinge sè". Leonardo da Vinci and "automimesis" in Der Künstler über sich in seinem Werk. Internationales Symposium der Bibliotheca Hertziana, Rom. 1989. Ed. Matthias Winner (Weinheim: VCH, 1992). 137-160. This is a theoretical discussion that had its grip on the religious politics of the capital, where Savonarola proclaimed, “Every painter, one might say, really paints himself.” Quoted in Belting Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image Before the Era of Art, 471. 19. Joseph Koerner writes it “is likely that Dürer could have read or at least known of Cusanus’ text.” See Koerner, The Moment of Self-Portraiture in Germany Renaissance Art, 129. 20. Ibid., 131. 21. Holt, A Documentary History of Art, 325.


unprecedented. We have seen how a conflation with the sacred allowed the private portrait to develop the artist’s conception of his moral and spiritual virtue through the family, and Dürer’s 1490 pendant painting of his mother, Barbara Dürer (fig. 5) demonstrates the artist’s formal interest in his own family. Yet it is the artist’s personal collection of drawings, in their resplendent physicality and temporality, that are most relevant to the study at hand. As Larry Silver and Christiane Anderson observed in their study of Dürer’s drawings, even the simplest sketch has the ability to express “the spiritual essence of an artist’s creative impulse.”22 Like Holbein and Graf after him, Dürer drew his wife Agnes several times over their conjugal lifetime. But it is the first attempt, an unusually abstracted sketch from 1494-1498, which remains unmatched in its illustration of precious domestic intimacy (fig. 6).23 Titled Mein Agnes after the inscription penned in Dürer’s recognizable scrawl, Agnes sits in profile, her hand brought up to rest in front of her mouth. Using a quickened, linear style, Dürer portrayed Agnes in a completely private moment; it appears that she is lost in thought and wholly unaware of her husband’s gaze. Strands of hair escape from her modest braid, twirling outward with a lackadaisical air. Multiple parallel lines emphasize the shadow beneath Agnes’ chin, and her hand is delineated by a combination of curving and cursory pen-marks. This acknowledges the absence of artifice, or the polished self-fashioning found in Holbein’s court paintings or Dürer’s formal portraits. This is Agnes as Dürer saw her, Agnes in the intimate sphere, the swoop of her arm circling in front of her torso and formally enclosing her body within a world that is private, internal, and unknowable. Although every component of her physical features is simplified to the point of abstraction, Agnes’ presence is not compromised. The urgency and simplicity of documentation invests the image with an emotional power, albeit one that invokes an unusual rhetorical program 22. Christiane Andersson and Larry Silver, “Dürer’s Drawings,” The Essential Dürer (Philadelphia: The University of Philadelphia Press, 2010) 16. 23. As Christopher White writes, this was a scene “not to be matched until Rubens and Rembrandt provided us with similar intimate family records.” See Christopher White, Dürer: The Artist and his Drawings (London: Phaidon Press, 1971), 52.


(L) Fig. 5. Albrecht Dürer, Barbara Dürer, 1490. Oil on panel. Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg. (R) Fig. 6. Albrecht Dürer, Mein Agnes, 1494-1498. Pen and brown ink on paper. Albertina, Vienna.

in representation of the beloved. When discussing portraiture’s ability to capture the soul of the subject, Frank Zöllner suggests that it was best communicated “with the help of attributes, signs, symbols, metaphors and references to a number of texts, both antique and genuinely Christian.”24 Despite Agnes’s lack of external referents, I posit that Zöllner’s argument— pivoted—still holds ground. The intimacy of the drawing, augmented by the subject-artist relationship, serves to capture the spirit of Agnes, thus “shap[ing] the profane works of art to spiritual dimensions.”25 In spite of the abstract nature of his Mein Agnes drawing, Barbara and Agnes became recognizable figures among Dürer’s compendium of female portraits. Take, for example, Dürer’s silverpoint drawing from his Netherlandish travel journal of 1521, A Girl from Cologne and Agnes Dürer (fig. 7). Here, Agnes, her heavy jowls and deeply set nasolabial lines a reference to the years gone by since the Mein Agnes drawing, is contrasted against a young girl in standard Cologne dress. This ensemble format begs 24. Zöllner, “The Motions of the Mind in Renaissance Portraits: The Spiritual Dimension of Portraiture,” 40. 25. Ibid.


Fig. 7. Albrecht D端rer, A Girl from Cologne and Agnes D端rer, 1521. Silverpoint drawing on prepared paper. Albertina, Vienna.

(L) Fig. 8. Albrecht D端rer, Creszentia Pirckheimer, 1503. Charcoal on paper. Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin. (R) Fig. 9. Albrecht D端rer, Profile of Willibald Pirckheimer, 1503. Charcoal on paper. Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin.

Fig.10. Israhel van Meckenem, Portrait of Israhel van Meckenem and his wife, Ada, 1490. Engraving. Rosenwald Collection, Washington.


no interpretive purpose; as Erwin Panofsky observes “Dürer economized on paper by using only one-half of the sheet and leaving the rest to be used later.”26 However, the comparison of the figures’ facial characteristics demonstrates how the artist visualized the human form differently when it came to the private sphere. Later in his argument, Panofsky describes this portrait of Agnes as “dourly looking,”27 and some have chosen to see this as a comparison of age, the youthful maiden contrasted against the ‘grim’ older woman. These are readings that have been reinforced by the mythology of Agnes and Dürer’s unhealthy relationship. In light of letters sent between Dürer and his friend Willibald Pirckheimer, Agnes has historically been interpreted as aggressive and nagging—the preferred melodramatic anecdote being Pirckheimer’s bitter accusation of Agnes as emotional ‘murderer’ of the painter.28 By revisiting primary source epistolary and documentary literature, as well as problematic 18th and 19th century art history, Corine Schlief effectively rejects this historiographic misogyny.29 In light of her recent scholarship, we might reconsider this ensemble silverpoint and interpret Dürer’s depiction of Agnes within a very different context. First, it is helpful to look to different examples of spousal portraiture, from both Dürer and his contemporaries. Dürer’s 1503 drawing of his close friend Willibald Pirckheimer is largely accepted as the partner to Dürer’s drawing of Pirckheimer’s wife, Creszentia (fig. 8 and 9). Like the drawing of Agnes in close company with the Cologne girl, Creszentia and Wilibald are neither idealized nor denigrated. Jacob Heller recorded that Pirckheimer was a “Thick-set, strong-built man, with a soft round face and a smooth 26. Erwin Panofsky, The Life and Art of Albrecht Dûrer (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1955), 215. 27. Ibid. 28. In a letter to architect Johann Tscherte, Pirckheimer wrote: “For God’s sake, I can blame no one other than his wife, who made his heart heavy and tormented him, to the extent that he took leave of this life all the more quickly…she alone is the cause of his death” See Corine Schlief, “Albrecht Dürer between Agnes Frey and Willibald Pirckheimer,” The Essential Dürer. Ed. Larry Silver, Jeffrey Chipps Smith, 191. 29. Corine Schlief, “Albrecht Dürer between Agnes Frey and Willibald Pirckheimer,” The Essential Dürer. Ed. Larry Silver, Jeffrey Chipps Smith (Philadelphia: University of Pensylvania Press, 2010) 185-205.


chin…His eyes betrayed vivacity, and his mouth gentleness.”30 Dürer’s portrait here illustrates these observations quite clearly. The face is soft and doughy, the double chin, corpulent neck, and fleshy cheeks support the clear facial features but do not overpower them. Creszentia’s image formally compliments Willibald, and their marital partnership is thus emphasized. There was clearly precedence for these compositional formats, specifically Israhel van Meckenem’s groundbreaking double portrait engraving of him and his wife Ada, from 1490 (fig. 10). The facial features of the artist and wife seem caricatured in comparison to the delicate pen-lines of Dürer or Holbein. However, this format—the conflation of self-representation and domestic portraiture—functions as a theoretical bridge in my argument towards the symbolism of Dürer’s presentation of Agnes. To revisit the original discussion of Holbein’s family portrait, we might observe how familial subjects could create a metaphorical ‘index’ of the artist, and an aid towards an evolved self-awareness. While Dürer was certainly influenced by van Meckenem’s composition, there is an obvious discrepancy: based on his extant oeuvre, the artist never drew himself alongside his wife. Instead of supporting scholarship against Albrecht and Agnes’ relationship, I recall the literature of Camerarius and Zöllner and the allegory of the artist’s self-portrait as present throughout all he produces. Following this logic, Dürer’s drawings of Agnes implicate the artist’s hand and likeness. Like Holbein, he is present in spite of his absence, as the familial subject is a point of self-reference—a symbolic synecdoche of the artist’s body. To return to the drawing of his wife alongside the flat, slightly generic features of the girl from Cologne, Agnes’ physiognomy appears doubly specific. Images of her become a literal and theoretical documentation of a life and relationship over time This is a portrait of a recognizable person, and to borrow from Hans Belting’s discussion of the ex voto, it is an icon that indicates the sacred through resemblance to its original.31 By showing Agnes’ non-idealized form, a resemblance without 30. Ernst August Hagen, Norica, or, Tales of Nürnberg from the Olden Time. After a ms. Of the sixteenth century (London: J. Chapman, 1851), 113. 31. Belting, Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image Before the Era of Art, 30.


(L) Fig. 11. Albrecht Dürer, Agnes Dürer as St. Anne, 1519. Grisaille. Albertina, Vienna. (R) Fig. 12. Dürer, Portrait of the Artist’s Mother: Barbara Dürer, geb. Holper, 1514. Charcoal. Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin.

mediation, we might further conflate the Renaissance conception of the hallowed with that of the domestic: both are intimate, both are precious, and there are clear symbolic connections between the two. I would be remiss not to acknowledge here the 1519 grisaille of Agnes Dürer as St. Anne (fig. 11), a preliminary drawing for Linhart Tucher’s Virgin and Child with St. Anne for which Agnes served as model.32 The potent presence of Agnes as the apocryphal mother of the Mother recalls the Holbein family portrait and synthesizes the discussion of the intimate and the sacrosanct. Belting reminds us that the conflation of the philosophical and the theological holds its roots in the evolution of the icon, for they both partook in the “revelation of a higher truth through ‘grace’ (charis),” and that both are “rooted in the Neoplatonic distinction between inward and outward, soul and body, spirit and nature.”33 Furthermore, the sense of unmediated purity in Dürer’s representation of Agnes across all three images is undeniable. By depicting his wife as he saw her in secular life and as he imagined her in spirit, Dürer was aiming to “capture” the temperament, or soul, of Agnes. 32. Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Albrecht Dürer, Walter Koschatzky, and Alice Strobl. Dürer drawings in the Albertina. (London: Secker & Warburg, 1972), 286. 33. Belting, Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image Before the Era of Art, 264.


Dürer’s motivations for this “capture” are best illustrated when we turn to the artist’s representation of his mother, Portrait of the Artist’s Mother (fig. 12). Dürer fastidiously recorded her life and death in his Gedenkbuch, or Family Chronicle: “My mother…. saw great poverty, mockery, contempt, scorn, fright, and great hardship. Yet she was never vindictive.”34 In the same year as her death in anticipation of that most final absence, Dürer tenderly but honestly portrayed the ravages of age. As David Rosand explains in his study of Castiglione, “The portrait’s evocation of life…assumes its special urgency in the face of death.”35 This is the crux of Renaissance portraiture, whose poetry is “predicated on a profound recognition of the absolute truth of death.”36 The temporality of this portrait’s creation is obvious, as with the early drawing of Agnes: no marks are final, the nose and jaw have been delineated multiple times over, the lines bleeding into and over each other. Her neck is a network of hollow caverns in between ridges of muscle and tendon, creating the appearance of draping fabric, frail and worn. Barbara’s head is tilted downward, just subtle enough to suggest piety and humility in the face of such pain on the threshold of death, referencing the ars moriendi theory of the time. Barbara has accepted the reality of death and she has prepared herself correctly to ensure future salvation.37 It is an unflinching presentation: Barbara appears to be wasting away before our very eyes; fragile and insubstantial as the paper upon which her portrait was made. I would now like to draw attention to the inscription on the drawing. On the actual day of completion, Dürer wrote: “1514 an oculy Dz ist albrecht dürers/mutter dy was alt 63 Jor” (On March 19, this is Albrecht Dürer’s mother, when she was 63 years old). This was written in the same charcoal used for 34. Jane C. Hutchison, Albrecht Dürer: A Biography (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990), 122. 35. David Rosand, “The portrait, the courtier, and death,” Castiglione: the ideal and the real in Renaissance culture. Ed. Robert W. Hanning and David Rosand (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983), 95. 36. Ibid., 115. 37. Helmut Puff. “Memento Mori, Memento Mei: Albrecht Dürer and the Art of Dying”, Enduring Loss in Early Modern Germany: Cross Disciplinary Perspectives. Ed. Lynne Tatlock (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 108.


the portrait.38 On May 16th he added, in ink: “vnd ist verschiden/Im 1514 Jor/ am erchtag vor der crewtzwochen/vm zwey genacht” (and she passed away in the year 1514 on Tuesday before Cross Week, two hours before nightfall). Note the word choice. Dürer writes: This is Albrecht Dürer’s mother. Not: This is a portrait of Albrecht Dürer’s mother. Just as Agnes’s 1494-1498 drawing has been marked: “Mein Agnes,” instead of: “This is a portrait of my Agnes.”39 This fine differentiation, in addition to the hypermimetic quality of the work, raises an interesting discussion in relation to semiotics and portraiture theory. For this I turn to Jean-Paul Sartre’s, The Psychology of the Imagination. The relationship between the sign and the portrait, or signifier, is a complicated one, but it is generally agreed that the portrait serves as material for the image. That is to say, the artistic representation— the lines of charcoal on paper that create Barbara’s face—contributes to the sign which signifies, or references, the actual human: Barbara Dürer. However, Sartre complicates this definition by acknowledging human consciousness, and the psychodynamics of perception: “The material of our image when we look at a portrait, is not only the jumble of lines and colors…it is, in reality, a quasi-person, with a quasi-face, etc.”40 He continues, using ‘Peter’ for the subject (the reader is encouraged to replace Peter with Barbara): “The portrait acts upon us—almost-like Peter in person, and because of this fact the portrait invites us to make the perceptual synthesis: Peter of flesh and blood and bone.”41 Regardless of Dürer’s use of the third person indicative, “is,” and the interesting choice to remain in the present tense, “this is” allows the art historian to muse on the artist’s opinion of the purpose and function of portraiture–can it replace a body? And can the artist see himself in that ‘replacement’? Hans Medick points out that in sixteenth-century Germany: “The bereaved endure their loss by imagining the ongoing presence of the 38. Hutchison. Albrecht Dürer: A Biography, 122. 39. However, Israhel van Meckenem’s marked the engraving of himself and Ada with this clear indicator: “Portrait of Israhel van Meckenem and his wife, Ada, ” thus implicating himself and the material divide between the image and the real. 40. Jean-Paul Sartre. The Psychology of the Imagination (New York: Washington Square Press, 1966). 41. Ibid.


deceased…by trying to resuscitate past incidences and moments by means of their imagination.”42 This portrait, then, would become for Dürer the main “physical” reference point for his mother, as well as an embodiment of his own grief. Dürer himself wrote on painting that, “It preserves also the likeness of men after death.”43 This vocabulary is telling: ‘preserves’ and ‘likeness’ are both words that support Sartre’s theory of portraiture as material for the image. Dürer says: “This is a portrait of Albrecht Dürer’s mother.” Sartre writes: “My intention is here now; I say: ‘This is a portrait of Peter’, or more briefly: ‘This is Peter.’ There the picture is no longer an object but operates as material for an image…Everything I perceive enters into a projective synthesis which aims at the true Peter, a living being who is not present.”44 In this way, so too does the portrait of Barbara Dürer operate, a highly mimetic projective synthesis of a being who is no longer present and an illustration of faith and death’s intimate relationship with personal identity. Let us draw this semiotic analysis outward to the earlier discussion of Holbein’s family portrait and Dürer’s depictions of Agnes. By analyzing the nuances of the inscription, we acknowledge that this drawing is an index of Barbara—but might it also be an index of Dürer as well? Valentin Groebner addresses the specific urban phenomenon of fashioning the gestalt through intimate pictures of “private life” with the fascinating case study of Matthäus Schwarz’s “Book of Clothes.”45 As Groebner illustrates, the Renaissance “I” was in “playful and close relationships with the alliances, groups, and contexts to which the speaker belonged.”46 For Schwarz and other participants in the Renaissance milieu, self-awareness was closely linked to self-documentation, where crafting an index was then used as an instrument of personal control against imminent deception. 42. Hans Medick, “The Thirty Years’ War as Experience and Memory: Contemporary Perceptions of a Macro-Historical Event”, Enduring Loss in Early Modern Germany: Cross Disciplinary Perspectives. Ed. Lynne Tatlock. (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 51. 43. Holt, A Documentary History of Art, 313. 44. Jean-Paul Sartre, The Psychology of the Imagination. (New York: Washington Square Press, 1966). 45. Valentin Groebner, “Inside Out: Clothes, Dissimulation, and the Arts of Accounting in the Autobiography of Matthäus Schwarz, 1496-1574.” Representations (1999): 100-121. 46. Ibid., 102.


There were also mystical motivations for this knowledge. As St. Augustine writes in his Critique of Skepticism, “We (1) exist and (2) know that we do, and this existing and knowing is something we (3) love. No fear of falsity disguised as truth troubles us where these three items I have mentioned are concerned.”47 While Schwarz used clothing as an index of himself, the artists of this essay turned towards their family members and close friends. By representing the essence, or spirit, of his mother and wife within a religious rhetoric, the 1514 drawing of Barbara and his images of Agnes exemplify Dürer’s love of God, love of family, and sublimated through both, his love of self. Studied in conjunction with documentary materials such as Dürer’s Gedenkbuch, private portraiture takes on a twofold existence. It is both documentarian, predicated upon an anticipation of absence, and it is sacred, cultivated by the intimate symbolism of the familial subject. Within the theoretical analysis of the artist’s presence, there is a functional aim, that is, to protect the Renaissance artist against the dangerous ambiguity of identity. This aim is equally applicable to private domestic portraiture, for when the viewer is also the creator, and the subject is an intimate relation, there is a profound synthesis that negates any absolute binary between presence and absence. The painter paints himself: Barbara begets Dürer and within her (final) image, he envisions himself. It is the irony of the portrait, created to preserve a specific, external person, and yet polluted forever by the presence of the artist. Intimate portraiture, inherently rooted in the sacred, explains theoretical automimesis as the construction of the self through the representation of the family. For, motivated by an individual exploration of semiotic presence, fear of loss, and spirituality externalized, only then can the personal become enmeshed with the exemplary. 47 Through the scholarship of Erasmus, Dürer was aware of Augustine’s theology. In fact, it’s influence in visually present in the rhetorical program of his woodcuts—specifically St. Jerome in His Study, is “an allusion to textual controversy between Augustine and Jerome over the translation of the “gourd” in Jon. 4:6-10.” See David Price, Albrecht Dürer’s Renaissance: Humanism, Reformation, and the Art of Faith. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003), 211. For St. Augustine’s quote, see John F. Wippel and Allan B. Wolter, Medieval Philosophy; from St. Augustine to Nicholas of Cusa (New York: Free Press, 1969), 40.


About the author:

Emily is an Art History and English Literature major in her fourth year at McGill University. Next year, she will be pursuing post-graduate work in Northern Renaissance art history with a specific interest in Albrecht Dürer and Matthias Grünewald.


Andersson, Christiane and Larry Silver. “Dürer’s Drawings.” The Essential Dürer. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010. 1234. Ashcroft J. “Art in German: Artistic Statements by Albrecht Dürer”. Forum for Modern Language Studies. 48 (2012): 376-388. Belting, Hans. Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image Before the Era of Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994. Dürer, Albrecht, Larry Silver, and Jeffrey Chipps Smith. The Essential Dürer. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010. Dürer, Albrecht. Writings. London: P. Owen, 1958. Filedt Kok, J. P., and Master of the Housebook. Livelier than life: the Master of the Amsterdam Cabinet, or, The Housebook Master, ca. 14701500. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum in association with the Rijks prentenkabinet, 1985. Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Albrecht Dürer, Walter Koschatzky, and Alice Strobl. Dürer drawings in the Albertina. London: Secker & Warburg, 1972. Greenblatt, Stephen. Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shake speare. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980. Groebner, Valentin. “Inside Out: Clothes, Dissimulation, and the Arts of Accounting in the Autobiography of Matthäus Schwarz, 14961574”. Representations. (1999): 100-121. Hagen, Ernst August. Norica or, Tales of Nürnberg from the Olden Time. After a ms. of the sixteenth century. London: J. Chapman, 1851. Holbein, Hans, Stephanie Buck, and Jochen Sander. Hans Holbein the Younger: painter at the court of HenryVIII. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2004. Holbein, Hans, and Christian Müller. Hans Holbein the Younger: the Basel years, 1515-1532. Munich: Prestel, 2006. Holt, Elizabeth Basye Gilmore. A Documentary History of Art. Garden


City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1957. H. P. R. “Israhel van Meckenem’s Portrait of Himself and His Wife, Ida”. Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin. 18 (1920): 29-30. Hughes, Diane Owen. “Representing the Family: Portraits and Purposes in Early Modern Italy,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 17/1 (1986): 7-38. Hutchison, Jane Campbell. Albrecht Dürer: A Biography. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990. Hutchison, Jane Campbell. The Master of the Housebook. New York: Collectors Editions, 1972. Koerner, Joseph Leo. The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993. Major, Emil and Erwin Gradmann. Urs Graf. London: Home & Van Thal, 1947. Medick, Hans. “The Thirty Years’ War as Experience and Memory: Contemporary Perceptions of a Macro-Historical Event”, Enduring Loss in Early Modern Germany: Cross Disciplinary Perspectives. Ed. Lynne Tatlock. Leiden: Brill, 2010. id/10439184. Miles-Morillo, Lynne J. “Composing a Self: Translation & Transformation in Dürer’s Humanism”. Prose Studies 32 (2010): 134-142. Panofsky, Erwin. The Life and art of Albrecht Dürer. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1955. Parshall, Peter. “Graphic Knowledge: Albrecht Dürer and the Imagination”. The Art Bulletin 95 (2014): 393-410. Pliny, and H. Rackham. Natural history. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1938. Price, David. Albrecht Dürer’s Renaissance: humanism, Reformation, and the art of faith. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003. Puff, Helmut. “Memento Mori, Memento Mei: Albrecht Dürer and the Art of Dying.” Enduring Loss in Early Modern Germany: Cross Disciplinary Perspectives. Ed. Lynne Tatlock. Leiden: Brill, 2010. Rosand, David. “The portrait, the courtier, and death.” Castiglione: the ideal and the real in Renaissance culture. Ed. Robert W. Hanning and David Rosand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983. Sartre, Jean-Paul. The Psychology of the Imagination. New York: Washington Square Press, 1966. Schlief, Corine. “Albrecht Dürer between Agnes Frey and Willibald


Pirckheimer.” The Essential Dürer. Ed. Larry Silver, Jeffrey Chipps Smith. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010. 185205. Smith, Alistair, and Albrecht Dürer. “’Germania’ and ‘Italia’ Albrecht Dürer and Venetian Art.” Journal of the Royal Society of Arts. 127 (1979): 273-290. Smith, Jeffrey Chipps. “Dürer’s Losses and the Dilemmas of Being.” Enduring Loss in Early Modern Germany: Cross Disciplinary Perspectives. Ed. Lynne Tatlock. Leiden: Brill, 2010. http://site.ebrary. com/id/10439184. Strieder, Peter, and Albrecht Dürer. Albrecht Dürer, Paintings, Prints, Drawings. New York: Abaris Books, 1982. Ward, H. “Holbein in Germany,” Nature and Art. v. 2, (1867): 49- 54. White, Christopher. Dürer: the artist and his drawings. London: Phaidon, 1971. Wippel, John F., and Allan B. Wolter. Medieval philosophy; from St. Augustine to Nicholas of Cusa. New York: Free Press, 1969. Wolf, Gerhard. “The Origins of Painting,” Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics 36 (1999): 60-78. Wölfflin, Heinrich. The Art of Albrecht Dürer. New York: Phaidon [distributed in the U.S. by Praeger], 1971. Zöllner, Frank. “Ogni pittore dipinge sè”. Leonardo da Vinci and “automimesis.” Der Künstler über sich in seinem Werk. Internationales Symposium der Bibliotheca Hertziana, Rom. 1989. Ed. Matthias Winner. Weinheim: VCH, 1992. 137-160. Zöllner, Frank. “The Motions of the Mind in Renaissance Portraits: The Spiritual Dimension of Portraiture.” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 68 (2005): 23–40


Differences in Perspective: Western Linear Perspective in Japanese Art and Its Legacy on Japanese Ways of Seeing

Muhan Zhang

Differences in Perspective: Western Linear Perspective in Japanese Art and Its Legacy on Japanese Ways of Seeing During the nineteenth century, Japan underwent major social and political changes as the country sought to re-organize itself internally as well as re-orient itself externally with regards to the West and other neighbouring countries as a modernizing, imperialistic nation. These simultaneous geopolitical shifts in spatial orientation were accompanied by similar shifts within the conventions for depicting space. In fact, Western techniques of linear perspective had been introduced and widely popularized in Japanese printmaking long before the Meiji Restoration and even before the “opening” of Japan by the Perry Expedition. This new way of depicting space and the human perspective in art, I will argue, did not merely reflect the socio-political changes of its historical context, but, in fact, directly contributed to these changes. The induction of Western linear perspective in Japanese art had direct implications not just on sight and space in two-dimensions, but also on how the individual, the artist, and the nation perceived and oriented themselves in real space. The term most associated with early Western perspective in Japanese art is uki-e, “floating pictures,” and one of the first artists to work within this artistic convention was Okumura Masanobu. Uki-e, not be confused with ukiyo-e or “floating world pictures,” was also otherwise known as kubomi-e, meaning “sunken picture.”1 The defining characteristic of this genre, as hinted at by its etymology, is the effect of receding space produced by techniques of Western linear perspective.2 The extreme recessions in space thusly produced differed considerably from pre-existing conventions of depicting space—namely, the “floating world” of ukiyo-e, in which flatness of space was the norm. The emphasis on recession and depth changed the overall composition of artworks; no longer could characters “float” on top and around one another on a twodimensional plane—they now had to follow, with regards to size and their 1. Screech, Timon. "The Meaning of Western Perspective in Edo Popular Culture." Archives of Asian Art 47 (1994): 58-69. JSTOR. Web. 08 Jan. 2015. 2. Ibid., 58.


spatial relations to each other, the rules of linear perspective. Similarly, on a symbolic level, the hedonistic realm of the ukiyo “floating world,” now had to be grounded within the so-called realistic and scientific methods of representing space. However, the plethora of technical and pictorial rules to the precise execution of this perspective, in many other respects, rendered it more contrived than natural a mode of representing the “real.”3 Indeed, Western linear perspective was not, in fact, considered a scientific or empirical technique. For one, Japanese artists did not possess texts explicitly explaining the mathematics behind perspective as it was developed in Europe and learned to draw in perspective largely through trial-and-error.4 Perspective and uki-e were also strongly associated with objects and subject matter to do with the entertainment sector, such as the “peeping box” and kabuki theatre.5 As a result, the effect of threedimensional space in two-dimensions was presented and viewed more as an optical illusion and novelty than a precise, empirical representation of reality. The images that employed perspective, themselves, would have appeared exaggerated and convoluted—the exact denotative opposite of empirical and realistic—to the contemporary Japanese viewer. The experience of “seeing” into the world of a picture was previously conceived of as one of viewing another world, especially within the genre of ukiyo-e. As such, the guiding objective for the artist was not to produce an image that looked like a “hole in the wall,” but rather to depict an other-worldly space that existed beyond the restrictive social hierarchies of reality. To that end, the myriad rules guiding the production and viewing of perspective images rendered them too unnatural and restrictive to be acceptably “real” as a reflection and expression of ukiyo escapism. If anything, the induction of Western perspective into Japanese popular prints led to inconsistent depictions of depth and threedimensionality. A coincidence in Japanese architecture of the time led to a prevalence of interior scenes in uki-e: the post-and-lintel structures in Japanese architecture lent themselves particularly well to 3. Screech, 58. 4. Ibid., 59. 5. Ibid., 66.


Fig. 1. Okumura Masanobu, Enjoying the Cool at Ryogoku, c. 1740, hand-colored woodblock print, (17.5 x 25.8) 44.6 x 65.5 cm.

Fig. 2. Okumura Masanobu, Second-story Parlor in New Yoshiwara, Looking Toward an Embankment, c. 1745, hand-coloured woodblock print, 15 x 20 in. (38 x 51 cm).


early experimentations with perspective, as they gave interiors built-in orthogonal lines.6 On the other hand, however, there was comparatively greater difficulty in depicting exteriors and landscapes, without such guidelines, in a similar perspectival fashion. In Masanobu’s Enjoying the Cool at Ryogoku (fig. 1), for instance, the strict observance of perspectival rules in the interior portion of the picture are completely abandoned when depicting the Ryogoku Bridge, water, and fields just beyond the balcony.7 This apparent dissonance in the logic of depicting space is once more exemplified in a similar Masanobu print, Looking Toward the Embankment (fig. 2), in which the balcony opens at the back of the room and the scene outside appears almost as a flat painting against a non-existent back wall. While the interior scenes of both images may appear more “real” than the exterior ones, the artificiality of the former’s precise deployments of vanishing points and orthogonal lines seems to self-reflexively highlight, rather than conceal, the two-dimensionality of the medium. The illusion of receding space is therefore so forceful that it draws attention to itself as a carefully fabricated illusion and away from the actual subject matter of the image. In addition to the juxtaposition of a receding interior and flat exterior was the continued use of many other traditionally Japanese conventions of art in spite of the injection of Western perspective. Most notably, the faces of the figures continue to be shown almost exclusively in three-quarter view and with little to no shading in any of the objects depicted.8 These conventions, which date back to the emaki scrolls of the Tale of Genji from the thirteenth century, prevent the illusion of a “hole in the wall” from being complete. Moreover, the preservation of these traditional conventions seems to indicate a general rejection of total Westernization in favor of a mere re-orientation of space—perspectivally, in the realm of two-dimensional art, socio-politically, as the internal social organization of Japan changes with the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate, and geo6. Ibid., 59. 7. Screech, 59. 8. J., D. "An Eighteenth Century Japanese ‘Perspective Painting’" Calendar of the Art Institute of Chicago 65.5 (1971): 10-13. JSTOR. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.


politically, as Japan faces increasing European and American interaction and influence. In Nihonbashi Bridge in Edo (fig. 3), Hokusai employs perspective in such a way as to challenge the new organizations of space and society. In this image, part of the 36 Views of Mount Fuji series, the canal along with the buildings that run along its banks replace the post-and-lintel structures of building interiors as equivalent man-made structures providing perspectival guidelines. The merchants are crammed into the bottom edge of the composition, encompassed within the wide end of the converging perspective lines, while, on the opposite end, Mt. Fuji “floats” just above and off to the side of the vanishing point.9 In this manner, Hokusai conflates Western artistic methods and culture with the lowly mercantile, material world while elevating Mt. Fuji as an eternal, otherworldly entity that exists—literally and figuratively—beyond the planes of transient cultural and mercantile endeavors.10 In other words, even as the West intrudes into the artwork and economy of Japan or the chonin merchant class rebel against and dismantle (as we know with hindsight) the feudal social hierarchy, certain eternal concepts like nature, or perhaps even aspects of Japanese culture as imbibed in its geography, will endure. Even as such prints by Masanobu and Hokusai play with the lines of sight and organizations of space within works of art, the Japanese art world at large was reacting to the intrusion of more and more Western styles of art. Especially after the Meiji Restoration, Japanese nationalism began to affect how traditional and non-traditional styles of art were perceived and understood in relation to one another. The genre of “traditional” Japanese art called nihonga emerged in opposition to Western-style art, or yoga.11 Nihonga, however, possessed an intrinsic contradiction, in that its existence as a genre was predicated on the fact that Japanese culture and society was indeed Westernizing. All nihonga was created within a Westernizing context 9. Screech, 67. 10. Ibid., 67. 11. Weisenfeld, Gennifer, “Western-Style Painting in Japan: Mimesis, Individualism, and Japanese Nationhood,” Mavo: Japanese Artists and the Avant-Garde 1905-1931. Berkeley: University of California Press (2002): 11-27.


Fig. 3. Katsushika Hokusai, Nihonbashi Bridge in Edo from the series 36 Views of Mt. Fuji, c. 1830-32, polychrome woodblock print, ink and colour on paper, 10 x 14.5 in. (25.4 x 36.8 cm).

and thus very deliberately and self-consciously employed “traditional” conventions of art.12 Just as the “real” is juxtaposed with the “un-real” in such uki-e prints as Masanobu’s Enjoying the Cool at Ryogoku, so too are the “authentic” and the “traditional” now juxtaposed with the “inauthentic” and “non-traditional”. In fact, even what appeared to be authentically and traditionally Japanese could not escape from interaction with Western perspectives in and of art. “Traditional” style landscape paintings of the Meiji period called sansuiga drew simultaneously from both Chinese brush paintings and romantic landscape paintings of Europe.13 Firstly, places depicted in sansuiga were not meant to be locations seen by a single person at a fixed point in time and space like the perspectival prints of uki-e, but rather transcendental places that referenced both the ideal realm of the ancient Chinese sages and the realm of Western Scripture and divinity.14 In this 12. Ibid., 14. 13. Karatani, Kōjin, “The Discovery of Landscape,” The Origins of Modern Japanese Literature. Brett de Bary, trans. and ed. Durham: Duke University Press (1993). 14. Ibid., 21.


way, sansuiga landscapes did not merely show what existed in reality but also strove to capture the transcendental.15 However, even though sansuiga did not consciously endeavor to capture the “real” with the realistic visualspatial sensibilities of linear perspective, it nevertheless continued to be impacted by the “modern visual sensibility” resulting from usage of Western perspective. The phenomenon of this particular “modern visual sensibility” was noted by Usami Keiji, who wrote that position, as established by rules of perspective, is that of a “single person with a fixed point of vision,” and that, subsequently, all other things are “seen” or depicted in relation to the individual.16 In a manner of speaking, linear perspective gives the viewer a greater sense of subjectivity in viewing a picture, as everything depicted is shown in relation to the individual viewer. It follows that the experience of looking, not just into a picture but also in reality, then becomes intensely subjective. Western linear perspective therefore contributed in this way, not towards a greater objectivity in depicting and viewing the “real,” but rather to an increased subjectivity. With this understanding of the effect of perspectival devices on the experience of seeing, we can re-consider the “real”-ness of sansuiga as representations of real exterior spaces. In fact, sansuiga does not aim to capture real spaces and landscapes at all, but rather seeks to romanticize the outside world to reflect the internal subjectivity of man. Artists and writers of the time were especially interested in the trends towards individualism and the conception of the artist in Europe as an autonomous self engaged in an (internal) heroic struggle.17 For example, Kuroda Seiki, a yoga artist, was especially concerned with painting allegorical scenes that, while not concerned with the “real” daily life of contemporary Japan, nevertheless engaged with the internal psyche (naikoka).18 In that sense, sansuiga, just like perspectival images of uki-e, conflates the internal with the external, the subjective with the objective, and the individual with the transcendal or even divine. 15. Karatani, 21. 16. Ibid., 20. 17. Ibid. 18. Weisenfeld, 16.


The subjective and internalistic perspective lent itself well to both intellectual and political dissidents such as the Mavo artists and the increasingly imperialistic and nationalist government.19 Critics of the status quo in Meiji Japan utilized the introverted, tunnel-vision perspective to depict their diverse and oftentimes ambivalent attitudes towards Westernizing and modernizing society as well as towards the new government and social hierarchies. At the same time, the imperialist and nationalist government re-applied the individual subjectivism found in artistic and creative perspectives to a form of cultural subjectivism, as it sought to surpass the West and conquer neighbouring states. Here marks also a cultural shift in Japan’s self-orientation with regards to the modernizing, internationalizing world; no longer a subordinate to China or the powers of the West, the quickly modernizing and militarizing Japanese national body re-oriented itself in geo-political space as a rising East-Asian power. In this, Japan mirrored the European “inventors� of linear perspective in her newfound imperial focus as well as in her visual and artistic culture. To conclude, the Westernization of Japan is not as straightforward as a cursory glance at this period in history may reveal. The integration of the specific Western idea of linear perspective in Japanese art, as demonstrated in this paper, was ultimately not so linear. The understanding and employment of this foreign mode of spatial representation was subject to pre-existing pictorial customs, and Western linear perspective took on both new form and new meaning through its unique iterations in Japanese uki-e. The intrinsic subjectivity of linear perspective ultimately reflected and reinforced not only the changes in Japanese depictions of fictive space, but the Meiji imperial conceptions and encroachments of real space as well.

19. Ibid.


About the author: Muhan Zhang is a second-year honours Art History major and East Asian Studies minor. Her academic interests lie primarily in modern to contemporary Japanese and Taiwanese art. Her pseudo-academic interests involve contemplating the cross-temporal self-exhibitionism of museum-goers from eighteenth-century Salons to present-day Instagram cyberspace.

References: J., D. “An Eighteenth Century Japanese “Perspective Painting”” Calendar of the Art Institute of Chicago 65.5 (1971): 10-13. JSTOR. Web. 11 Mar. 2015. Karatani, Kōjin. “The Discovery of Landscape.” The Origins of Modern Japanese Literature. Brett de Bary, trans. and ed. Durham: Duke University Press, 1993. Screech, Timon. “The Meaning of Western Perspective in Edo Popular Culture.” Archives of Asian Art 47 (1994): 58-69. JSTOR. Web. 08 Jan. 2015. Weisenfeld, Gennifer. “Western-Style Painting in Japan: Mimesis, Individualism, and Japanese Nationhood.” Mavo: Japanese Artists and the Avant-Garde 1905-1931. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. 11-27.


Transport for Everyone: An Analysis of the Underrepresentation of Disable Persons in STM Infrastructure

Ida Mahmoudi

Transport for Everyone: An Analysis of the Underrepresentation of Disabled Persons in STM Infrastructure For the purpose of this project, I analyze past and current legislation and policy regarding wheelchair accessibility in Montréal transport. I argue that Graham Pullin’s notion of resonant design has not been executed in the STM, which translates into budget mismanagement and lack of presentation for disabled persons as a result. Broadly, resonant design involves the inclusion of groups for which certain ideas, infrastructures, and technologies are created. In this case, while there may be some attempts to include disabled persons in the conversation, the STM has yet to allocate a significant portion of its budget and attention to this aggregate of people. It is important to note that, to personalize my project and to supplement my explanatory notes, I contacted Catherine Bouchard, Customer Relations Agent, to answer several questions about the Ministry’s connections with the STM, since it was not explicitly made available on the website or through their annual budgetary or activity reports. She had extracted the data from seven departments over roughly three weeks, which speaks to the bureaucratic inefficiencies and inaccessibility within the STM’s information management and implementation. Despite initially receiving several links, which were on average seventy four pages long, through which I had to scan to answer these questions, I asked more specific questions that I could not find the answers to, including how much Paratransit receives from Transports Québec, whether or not the Board has considered measures to help those temporarily disabled and how Paratransit currently accommodates, if at all, disabled persons. Other questions included: “How many people have you, to date, accommodated with Paratransit? How many people have you rejected and on what grounds, generally? How many complaints do you receive from those who, because of funding, are not able to make use of this service? What measures have you taken to alleviate the blatant rejection of disabled persons boarding buses during extreme weather conditions?” I asked for any answers, unfinished or in French—not yet translated—


before submitting this paper. She did not respond, but assured me she was working her hardest and gathering information from seven departments, which might explain why the general public believes it to be so inaccessible. Eight of sixty eight Metro Stations in Montreal are wheelchair accessible.1 Eight of sixty eight Metro Stations, on one Orange line, have elevators, in Laval, comparable to an equal distribution of elevators on all four lines of the TTC.2 The rest surround the city, though Station Bonaventure is inconsistent as a result of frequent construction.3 Thus, only twelve percent of metro stations are wheelchair accessible, compared to fifty percent in Toronto and twenty four percent in New York.4 While the New York number is also disappointing, it is worth mentioning that they have four hundred more stations than Montréal.5 The Tube, London’s metro system, posted seventeen accessibility guides for disabled persons planning their trips, including an audio guide, large print and colour services maps for visually impaired or elderly persons, large print black and white maps for those who are colour blind, and one for those in wheelchairs to plan their “Step-free” trip or to avoid stairs using lifts, escalators, or ramps between the street and platform.6 Both New York and London stations have, for the most part, WiFi accessibility as well. According to the STM budget report, four more stations will be equipped by 2016. However, this changed according to the STM Accessibility Plan, which indicates a prospective three more stations, with a potential fourth based on funding, by 2017.7 At 1."City Unveils STM's Eight Accessible Metro Station - 60 More to Go." CTV News Montreal (December 9, 2014), accessed February 19, 2015. city-unveils-stm-s-eighth-accessible-metro-station-60-more-to-go-1.2140589. 2. Ibid. 3. Fortin, Jean-Louis, "Des Travaux De 500 Millions $ Dans Le Metro," 24 Heures (November 24, 2014), accessed February 19, 2015. http://24hmontreal.canoe. ca/24hmontreal/actualities/archives/2010/11/20101124-151648.html. 4. "Elevators and Escalators," Elevators and Escalators: Easier Access at TTC Stations, accessed April 15, 2015. TTC/Elevators_and_escalators.jsp. 5. "How to Ride the Subway," MTA.Info, accessed April 15, 2015. nyct/subway/howto_sub.htm. 6. "Wheelchair Access & Avoiding Stairs," Transport for London, accessed April 15, 2015. 7. "Setting the Wheels of Tomorrow's Mobility in Motion Today: 2013 Activity Report," Société De Transport De Montréal - Info, accessed April 16, 2015. sites/default/files/pdf/en/a-ra2013.pdf. 18.


this rate, by 2085, the transit system will be fully accessible, through adding elevators to the stations, compared to 2025 in Toronto.8 STM commits its recently developed 2011 Accessibility Plan, whereby the Board hopes to apply “universal accessibility” to the metro system.9 Elevators are not the only problems. Currently, according to the STM Accessibility Plan, they have projected 58% of buses owning a front ramp, which those who are not with disabilities, those with baby strollers, and those of old age use to board.10 During heavy accumulations of snow and precipitation, wheelchair users are given an apology, since “bus stops may not be possible over the next few hours”.11 When it is snowing heavily, “extending the ramp at accessible bus stops may be impossible”.12 Finally, during a major snowstorm, they write, “we suggest that you postpone your plans and travel another time”.13 Despite these inefficiencies, the Sociéte provides over 80% of public transit trips in Montréal, accounting for over 70% of those trips made across Québec.14 Providing almost 1.2 million trips per day, the STM employs almost 9000 workers, half of whom work in customer relations.15 It provides the bus network comprised of 1680 buses over 209 bus routes, metro network comprised of 759 cars (336 MR-63s and 423 newer MR73s), and paratransit program, which caters to over 21,000 customers a year through its minibus and wheelchair-accessible taxis for over 2.7 million trips.16 The STM promulgates its bus network as highly successful, 8. Louw, Aimee, Marie-Eve Veilleux, and Laurence Parent, "Opinion: Montreal Has a Long Way to Go on Accessibility," Montreal Gazette. November 5, 2014, accessed February 19, 2015. 9. "Universal Accessibility." Société De Transport De Montréal, accessed April 10, 2015. 10. Plan De Développement D'accessibilité Universelle De La STM 2012-2015. Montréal, Québec: STM, 2012. 33. 11. "Wheelchair Accessibility in Bad Weather." Société De Transport De Montréal, accessed February 17, 2015. wheelchair-accessibility-bad-weather. 12. Ibid. 13. Ibid. 14. "Strategic Plan 2020." Société De Transport De Montréal - Info, accessed April 15, 2015. 3. 15. Ibid. 16. Ibid.


having 156 or 209 bus routes wheelchair-accessible.17 It does not promote the number of elevators on its company profile, though it takes pride in its door-to-door service for people with functional limitations. What it does not clarify is the forty five day waiting time for an application to be reviewed and accepted for those with motor disabilities to utilize the service. STM Policies circumvent accessibility while promoting it universally. According to their website, STM would like to apply a universal model to their corporate policy, “allow[ing] one to enter a building or public area, find one’s bearings and adequately make one’s way, as well as make full use of the services provided to the population, supported by appropriate communications and information tools.”18 They implemented this policy in 2011, while subsequently receiving a systemic human rights complaint from disability rights activisit group RAPLIQ for “fail[ing] to produce adequate incomes” after years of negotiations.19 They have also initiated a Strategic Plan 2020, wherein their goal is to handle 540 million passenger trips, a 40% increase in ridership.20 Through analysing their budget, most of the allocation goes towards improving the wear and tear of the rolling stock, or railway vehicles, including their power systems. Accessibility features are one among the 46 projects of the Capital Expenditure Program.21 Almost 94% of the budget, 2.3 billion dollars, is going towards the acquisition of 468 new AZUR cars, design and simulation of commissioning conduct for operators, continuation of the Reno-Métro program, replacing the bus fleet to diesel-electric hybrids, elevators in three stations, and the major repair of the Berri-UQAM station businesses in 2010.22 The construction of these elevators is not among the “Major Projects” of the STM, as indicated on their website, as opposed to Azur Métro, Stinson (a bus 17. Ibid. 18. "Universal Accessibility," Société De Transport De Montréal, accessed April 10, 2015. 19. Eliadis, F. Pearl, Speaking Out on Human Rights: Debating Canada's Human Rights System, Montréal, Québec: McGill-Queen's University Press (2014): 119. 20. "Strategic Plan 2020." Société De Transport De Montréal. Accessed April 15, 2015. 21. "Programme Triennal D'Immobilisations (PTI) 2015, 2016, 2017." Société De Transport De Montréal - Info, accessed April 15, 2015. files/pdf/fr/pti_15-17.pdf. 22. Ibid., 2


garage), iBus, and the electrification of the surface system.23 Roughly, each new elevator will cost 15,000,000 dollars CND, which means 60,000,000 dollars will be spent on accessible stations. The STM is spending 1.3 billion dollars, approximately 50% on the replacement and addition of its rolling stock. However, it allocates barely 3% of the investments to the construction of new elevators. By investing more into the machinery and infrastructure, thereby leading to an increase in the flow of traffic, accessibility standards rise as well. However, since most of the budget will be used to cover these costs, accessibility “takes the back seat” and its progress will lessen substantially in relation to these changes. In addition, the building of these elevators is not categorized as a “Major Project” according to Transports Québec.24 The only time the STM is mentioned at all is in relation to the construction of utility conduits on Herron Road and Dorval Avenue in the parking lot of the AMT and STM bus terminal.25 Hence, the universal accessibility model, only beginning in 2012 requires improvement, especially when it comes to building more elevators and other infrastructures incorporating resonant design. This is important to consider when reading through the projections made by the Board of Directors with the Strategic 2020 Plan and speaks to the disproportionate allocation of their budget toward reaching accessibility goals. In their Strategic Plan 2020, the Board of Directors of the STM fail to explicitly include accessibility standards as one of eleven major development programs, which include the rebuilding of Rue Notre-Dame, creating tramways at the centre of the agglomeration, and developing local transportation plans.26 Meanwhile, the phrase “universal accessibility” is used eighteen times in the plan, with words like “accessibility” or “accessible” used 27 and 6 times, respectively.27 Yet there is no standard definition of any of these words within the plan. On their website, however, STM writes, “An accessible transit network [through universal accessibility] promotes the independence and contributes 23. Ibid. 24. "Infrastructures De Transport - Diffusion Des Grands Chantiers," Transports Québec (March 16, 2015), accessed April 15, 2015. pes/f?p=diff:DGC. 25. Ibid. 26. "Strategic Plan 2020." Société De Transport De Montréal - Info. Accessed April 15, 2015. 11. 27. Ibid.


to the social inclusion of persons with one or more functional limitations”.28 This claim might hold on the surface, but through analysing the current efforts of including resonant design in bus and train infrastructure, the STM has ways to go before this statement can resonate with its constituents. While Paratransit, the renowned door-to-door public transit service for handicapped persons is, according to Transports Québec, directed towards “person[s] with a deficiency causing a significant and persistent disability (impairment)…liable to encounter barriers in performing everyday activities,” it excludes those who have temporary disabilities and consequent difficult mobility or lack thereof. On the Paratransit application form, it explicitly states, “Accordingly, temporary limitations, such as a broken leg, cannot be used to apply for admission,” with directions to the Eligibility for Paratransit page of the Ministry of Transport’s website.29 Torontonian fares are marginally less expensive than Montréal fares, but the Montréal OPUS card fee is almost sixty dollars cheaper than the $141.50 spent by adults and sixty two dollars cheaper than the $112 spent by seniors above the age of sixty five and students ages thirteen to nineteen.30 While it is not yet feasible to introduce a temporary paratransit program, in addition to increasing the number of elevators, we can condense the waiting time for applications from 45 to 14 days to incorporate as many persons with disabilities as possible. This could be done through raising the price of monthly OPUS cards from 82 to 100 dollars for adults and 49 to 65 dollars for seniors and young adults. Depending on results from this increase, appropriate revenue could be forwarded to a separate, temporary paratransit program. Toronto and London follow similar models. There are only two drafts of legislation in Montréal that explicitly regard and acknowledge notions of accessibility in culture and in the workplace. None examine its existence, and importance or lack thereof, 28. "Accessibility," Société De Transport De Montréal - Info, accessed April 15, 2015. 29. "Application for Admission to Transport Adapté," Société De Transport De Montréal - Info, accessed April 10, 2015. ta.pdf. 30. See "Monthly Pass," Société De Transport De Montréal, accessed April 15, 2015. for Montréal and "Prices." Prices: Fares Effective March 1, 2015. Accessed April 15, 2015. Fares_and_passes/Prices/index.jsp. for Toronto.


in transit. Partially, it is not the faulty of the city; its old infrastructure, and arguably older societal norms have not seen innovation in quite some time. Pearl Eliadis, human rights lawyer and McGill alumnus explains that Canadian legislation and policy regarding disability is considerably underdeveloped, largely in part because disability rights were considered essential in the context of war veterans; the United States acted quicker because of the need to accommodate veterans after the Vietnam War.31 According to Eliadis, the first notable human rights initiative with the disabled minority was the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling against Via Rail, mandating, in a 5-4 majority, for rail cars to be accessible to passengers, dismissing claims that the costs were too high, both through monetary means and “undue hardship.”32 According to their Consultation Paper, “Towards a New Quebec Policy on Immigration, Diversity, and Inclusion,” there is one means of accessible accommodation – an equal access plan regarding employment. This was written on December 18th, 2014, a mere year ago. The paper targets women and people from visible ethnic minorities, but does not include disabled persons. The other legislative document, Bill 52, allows persons in “advanced or irreversible decline in capability” to be lethally injected – the Euthanasia Bill.33 Thus, the inclusion of resonant design in STM infrastructure is vital for the promotion and institutionalization of human rights in regards to peoples with disabilities. No prior legislation has mandated local or municipal organizations to execute even rudimentary orders to infuse governmental recommendations with corporate policy. Though the STM works with the Ministry of Transport, their communication centralizes on financial budgets, grants, and allocations. Fostering a mutually reinforcing relationship between Transports Québec and the Société de Transport de Montréal is a firm step towards enhancing accessibility measures, to ensure the equal participation of disabled and non-disabled persons in the public 31. Eliadis, F. Pearl, Speaking Out on Human Rights: Debating Canada's Human Rights System (Montréal, Québec: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2014): 118-119. 32. Ibid., 118 33. News, CBC, "Quebec Passes Landmark End-of-Life-Care Bill," CBCnews, June 5, 2014, accessed April 15, 2015.


and private sphere. Providing persons with impairments the opportunity to travel freely will not only legitimize the workings of the STM, but ensure its consistent and pragmatic progress.

About the author: Ida is a U3 student studying Political Science, Communication Studies, and World Islamic and Middle East Studies. She wrote this paper because disability studies is, in my opinion, understudied at McGill and underrepresented in government policy. I chose to mesh my newfound interest in disability rights and representation with my political science background and analyze the lack of incorporation of this group into the design of transportation infrastructure and the conversation that gives rise to it.


“Accessibility.” Société De Transport De Montréal - Info. Accessed April 15, 2015. “Application for Admission to Transport Adapté.” Société De Transport De Montréal - Info. Accessed April 10, 2015. http://www.stm. info/sites/default/files/application_form_ta.pdf. “City Unveils STM’s Eight Accessible Metro Station - 60 More to Go.” CTV News Montreal. December 9, 2014. Accessed February 19, 2015. “Elevators and Escalators.” Elevators and Escalators: Easier Access at TTC Stations. Accessed April 15, 2015. Accessibility/Easier_access_on_the_TTC/Elevators_and_escalators.jsp. Eliadis, F. Pearl. Speaking Out on Human Rights: Debating Canada’s Human Rights System. Montréal, Québec: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014. Fortin, Jean-Louis. “Des Travaux De 500 Millions $ Dans Le Metro.” 24 Heures. November 24, 2014. Accessed February 19, 2015. archives/2010/11/20101124-151648.html. “How to Ride the Subway.” MTA.Info. Accessed April 15, 2015. http:// “Infrastructures De Transport - Diffusion Des Grands Chantiers.”


Transports Québec. March 16, 2015. Accessed April 15, 2015. Louw, Aimee, Marie-Eve Veilleux, and Laurence Parent. “Opinion: Montreal Has a Long Way to Go on Accessibility.” Montreal Gazette. November 5, 2014. Accessed February 19, 2015. http:// “Monthly Pass.” Société De Transport De Montréal. Accessed April 15, 2015. News, CBC. “Quebec Passes Landmark End-of-Life-Care Bill.” CBCnews. June 5, 2014. Accessed April 15, 2015. news/canada/montreal/quebec-passes-landmark-end-of-lifecare-bill-1.2665834. Plan De Développement D’accessibilité Universelle De La STM 2012-2015. Montréal, Québec: STM, 2012. “Prices.” Prices: Fares Effective March 1, 2015. Accessed April 15, 2015. “Programme Triennal D’Immobilisations (PTI) 2015, 2016, 2017.” Société De Transport De Montréal - Info. Accessed April 15, 2015. http:// “Setting the Wheels of Tomorrow’s Mobility in Motion Today: 2013 Activity Report.” Société De Transport De Montréal - Info. Accessed April 16, 2015. pdf/en/a-ra2013.pdf. “Strategic Plan 2020.” Société De Transport De Montréal - Info. Accessed April 15, 2015. “Strategic Plan 2020.” Société De Transport De Montréal. Accessed April 15, 2015. corporate_information/strategic-plan-2020. “Universal Accessibility.” Société De Transport De Montréal. Accessed April 10, 2015. universal-accessibility. “Wheelchair Accessibility in Bad Weather.” Société De Transport De Montréal. Accessed February 17, 2015. info/network-accessibility/wheelchair-accessibility-bad-weather. “Wheelchair Access & Avoiding Stairs.” Transport for London. Accessed April 15, 2015. wheelchair-access-and-avoiding-stairs.


Blood Divided: Illuminations of Animus in the Golden Haggadah

Elias Rabinovitch

Blood Divided: Illuminations of Animus in the Golden Haggadah The holiday of Passover, when Jews celebrate the Exodus from Egypt over a feast at the Seder ceremony, requires more than a mere recognition of the Israelites’ liberation. The central task of the Jews at the Seder table is not simply to remember, but to imagine oneself having lived in Egypt.1 The Haggadah is an entry point into this experience; while it maintains the ritual progression of the Seder by providing songs and commentaries on the Torah, it also facilitates a meditative connection to the Exodus, confirming God’s divine providence for the Jews when read on an annual basis.2 Regardless of time or place, the Haggadah promises salvation to the Jews who read it because according to Jewish custom, God had always foreseen the Exodus, just as he had foreseen that all Jews in diaspora would be reunited in Jerusalem.3 The Golden Haggadah, an illuminated manuscript dating from ca. 1320-35 Catalonia, was executed by two unknown artists and is perhaps the most elaborate example of a Haggadah.4 Preceding the text is a series of opulent biblical image cycles, arranged in chronological order with four panels per page. Because many of these stories are unrelated to the Exodus, I contend that their insertion into this Haggadah necessarily served a specific purpose. By presenting the biblical foundation of the Jews prior to the text of the Haggadah, the subject of Passover—a collective recollection of the Israelites’ redemption—is visually confirmed during the process of the ceremony. Furthermore at the time this Haggadah was made, the Sephardic Jews in Catalonia were experiencing a cultural transition from living within an Islamic dominated al-Andalus to a Christian dominated Iberia. A threat of assimilation arose, as well as a trend of scholarship 1. Marc Michael Epstein, “Illustrating History and Illuminating Identity in the Art of the Passover Haggadah,” in Judaism in Practice, From the Middle Ages through the Early Modern Period, ed. Lawrence Fine (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001), 299. 2. A traditional prayer book used during the first two days of Passover as a guide to the Seder. 3. Epstein, “Illustrating History,” 300. 4. Julie Harris, "Polemical Images in the Golden Haggadah (British Library Add. MS 27210)," Medieval Encounters, 8, no. 2 (2002): 115, accessed 15 October 2015, doi: 10.1163/15700670260497006.


(L) Fig. 1. Golden Haggadah, Detail: Cain and Abel, illuminated manuscript, ca. 1320-35; British Library, London, MS. 27210, fol. 2v (scan from Marc Michael Epstein’s book, Medieval Haggadah). (R) Fig. 2. Golden Haggadah, Detail: the Tower of Babel, illuminated manuscript, ca. 1320-35; British Library, London, MS. 27210, fol. 3r (scan from Epstein, Medieval Haggadah).

that sought to preserve traditional Jewish values. I will argue that these conservative Jewish scholars commissioned the Golden Haggadah primarily as a pedagogical tool to highlight the importance of traditional Judaism in preserving cultural continuity. Through a discussion of two illuminations— Cain and Abel (fig. 1) and the Tower of Babel (fig. 2)—I will show that the Golden Haggadah subtly communicates hostile messages concerning Jews who were assimilating in a time of cultural decline, positioning them as the ultimate threat to Sephardic cohesion. However, upon carefully comparing the stylistic execution of this manuscript to a Christian illuminated psalter from France, it becomes clear that as much as the conservative Sephardic Jews sought to preserve their Jewish identity in a time of precariousness, even they could not forestall the pressures of assimilation and the growing power of Christianity in Iberia by the early 14th century. Prior to their inhabitance of the Christian kingdoms in Northern Spain, the Sephardic Jews lived in Umayyad al-Andalus (711-1031 AD). Centred in Cordoba, the Umayyad emirs tolerated Jews and Christians as dhimmis, or protected minorities who were treated as second-class citizens


but nonetheless granted free worship.5 Inspired by this relatively tolerant atmosphere, the Jews began their own era of intellectual advancement resulting in a trend of biblical scholarship that was in dialogue with the Jews’ Islamic surroundings.6 However, this prosperous cultural climate began to progressively disintegrate after the collapse of the caliphate in 1031, and by the late 12th century, the extremist Muslim Almohads had invaded AlAndalus, forcing any Jews or Christians they encountered to convert or leave.7 As a result, Jews began to flee to the Northern Christian kingdoms of Spain, such as the Crown of Aragon, which, by the end of the 12th century, included Catalonia, Aragon, Valencia, and other territories in the Mediterranean.8 Throughout most of the 13th century, the Aragonese kings valued the Jews, whom they viewed as crucial components to the Crown’s socioeconomic prosperity.9 Somewhat like the prosperous atmosphere of Umayyad Al-Andalus, the protection the Crown afforded to the Jews gave rise to a thriving age of cultural production in Sephardic society.10 This golden age began to disintegrate by the early 14th century due to a host of socioeconomic changes such as the general economic downturn and Jewish class inequality in Aragon, dissatisfaction with the governing strategies of elite Jewish communal authorities, increasing persecution of the Jews by the Inquisition and epidemic violence within the Jewish community. 11 These factors resulted in significant shifts in the stratification of Sephardic society. As the Reconquista spread across Iberia and Jews who were expelled from France in 1306 settled in Spain, the Jewish centre of gravity 5. Benjamin R. Gampel, “Jews, Christians and Muslims in Medieval Iberia: Convivencia through the Eyes of Sephardic Jews,” in Covivencia: Jews, Muslims and Christians in Medieval Spain, ed. Vivian B. Mann, Thomas F. Glick, and jerrilynn D. Dodds (New York: George Braziller, in association with the Jewish Museum of New York, 1992), 14. 6. Ibid., 17; Katrin Kogman-Appel, “Hebrew Manuscript Painting in Late Medieval Spain: Signs of a Culture in Transition,” The Art Bulletin 82, no. 4 (June 2002): 260, accessed 30 October 2015, doi: 10.2307/3177268. 7. Gampel, “Jews, Christians and Muslims,” 20-21. 8. Ibid., Yom Tov Assis, The Golden Age of Aragonese Jewry: Community and Society in the Crown of Aragon, 1213-1327 (London and Portland, OR: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 1997), 2. 9. Assis, The Golden Age, 10. 10. Ibid., 1; Harris, "Polemical Images," 105. 11. Kogman-Appel, “Hebrew Manuscript Painting,” 263; Assis, The Golden Age, 238, 61-62.


began to shift northward, causing a growing upper-middle class to adopt the values of traditional Ashkenazi rabbinic exegesis known as the Midrash (popularized by the 12th century scholarship of rabbis in France).12 As a result, the preexisting elite, rationalist scholars of Aragon who were largely inspired by the Judeo-Islamic intellectual milieu of Muslim Spain began to lose their influence in the Jewish community.13 The new traditional uppermiddle class scholars, such as R. Solomon ibn Adret (1235-1310), R. Bahye Ben Asher (1255-1340) and many others were well aware of the legacy of the Judeo-Islamic era. They absorbed the rationalist teachings of scholars like Maimonides in their youth.14 However, when they were faced with the challenge of social decline and political change their collective impulse was to adopt more conservative Jewish values in order to preserve the purity of Jewish culture in opposition to increasing Christian power.15 These scholars began to clash with the rationalists, whose allegorical interpretations of the bible and the Midrash—often influenced by Greek philosophy—were branded as absurd.16 The elite rationalists and Jewish courtiers, who were highly assimilated and frequently corrupt, were the targets of acrimonious polemics on the part of the conservative scholars.17 The conflict between the three strata coupled with the destabilizing social changes in the Crown tore the Jewish communities in Aragon apart by the mid-to-late 14th century.18 The Golden Haggadah, along with several other illuminated Haggadot from early 14th century Spain, was likely commissioned by the conservative Jews of Catalonia as the inclusion of distinct Midrashic narrative sequences in all of these manuscripts is consistent with the contemporary revival of Midrashic exegesis in Aragon.19 Although the two artists associated with the Golden Haggadah are unknown, the patron was necessarily Jewish, as the Haggadah serves no function outside of a Jewish 12. Assis, The Golden Age, 302-303; Gampel, “Jews, Christians and Muslims,” 21. 13. Kogman-Appel, “Hebrew Manuscript Painting,” 260. 14. Kogman-Appel, Illuminated Haggadot from Medieval Spain (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 216. 15. Ibid., 216-217. 16. Kogman-Appel, Illuminated Haggadot, 139-141. 17. Assis, The Golden Age, 333-334. 18. Ibid. 19. Kogman-Appel, “Hebrew Manuscript Painting,” 263.


context.20 Since illuminated manuscripts were substantial investments the patron would have likely closely supervised the artists responsible for the Golden Haggadah, and thus he or she would have played a large role in the final realization of its images.21 As art historian Katrin Kogman-Appel has proposed, the Midrashic cycles in the Catalan Haggadot may have developed as an antirationalist, iconographic response to the Judeo-Islamic mode of biblical interpretation, “an issue especially pertinent in the years after 1300.”22 Using Kogman-Appel’s observation as a point of departure, I argue that the biblical cycles in the Golden Haggadah—while primarily functioning as a visual aid to faith—subtextually convey a corrosive characterization of the rationalist scholars and the assimilated courtiers, identifying them as responsible for the contemporary degradation of Sephardic status. Furthermore, these illuminations implicitly communicate that only the maintenance of traditional Judaic values and scholarship could allow for the preservation of Sephardic prosperity. Cain and Abel, the third panel of folio 2v (fig. 3), and read from rightto-left, follows the bible chronologically. Adam and Eve, the biological parents of Cain and Abel, are shown in the preceding panels. By placing these stories in sequential order according to the Torah the continuity of Jewish history leading up to the Exodus and ultimately, to a Seder table in the early 14th century, is underlined. As Jewish historian Chaim Raphael has argued, “For those with the talent to produce, or the means to acquire, an elaborate version [of the Haggadah in the middle ages], the happiness of the Seder would find visible expression in a book that was proud to the touch, noble with bold letters and resplendent initials, gay with decorative margins, evocative with illustrations.”23 Indeed, the opulent gold background used throughout the manuscript, coupled with the application of a diverse palette to the clothing, vegetation, landscapes, and even the blue and gold frames surrounding each panel highlights the figural 20. Bezalel Narkiss, The Golden Haggadah (London: The British Library, 1997), 66-67. 21. Kogman-Appel, Illuminated Haggadot, 12. 22. Kogman-Appel, “Hebrew Manuscript Painting,” 264. 23. Chaim Raphael, A Feast of History: Passover through the Ages as a Key to Jewish Experience (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972), 98.


Fig. 3. Golden Haggadah: Adam naming the animals, the Temptation, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Arc, illuminated manuscript, ca. 1320-35; British Library, London, MS. 27210, fol. 2v (scan from Epstein, Medieval Haggadah)

designs of the biblical figures, and animates the narrative progression of the cycles—an effect which cannot be achieved to the same extent by the textual description of these events. A series of immersive and shimmering illustrations, such as the illumination of Cain and Abel, would emphasize the historical progression of the Jewish people by presenting a striking visual means of grasping the spiritual weight of the Torah, which Moses received from God directly following the Exodus. But beneath its face value the Jews who commissioned the illuminated Haggadot were also aware that such illustrations could act as a catalyst for those at the Seder to envision themselves within the boundaries of biblical history, thereby providing them with ancient material to compare to the state of society in which they lived.24 The story of Cain and Abel and its portrayal in the Golden Haggadah may thus be 24. Epstein, “Illustrating History,” 317.


read as a biblical metaphor for the antirationalists’ antagonistic opinions of the rationalists and the Jewish courtiers. In the Torah, God refuses Cain’s offering of produce for its inferiority to Abel’s offering of meat, and Cain kills his brother in a jealous fit of rage (Gen. 4:5-8). In the corresponding illumination in the Golden Haggadah, Abel, the glorious hunter, is shown carrying a lamb to the far right of the panel, whereas Cain—the petty farmer to Abel’s left wearing a luscious blue and red toga—holds an abnormally large sheaf of corn between his hands. In this context, Cain can be equated with the elite rationalists: his lush robes identify him as more affluent than Abel. God refuses Cain’s offering despite the time and effort exerted by him to create such a large piece of corn, which parallels the hundreds of years the Jewish rationalists of Muslim Spain required to fashion their own distinct Judeo-Islamic exegetical field— regardless, it could never be accepted by God as a legitimate mode of biblical commentary. On the far left, Cain holds an axe in his left hand, and Abel’s bloodied corpse lies on his right in the dirt. An angel above extending out from a stormy cloud—a surrogate for God—reprimands Cain with an outstretched hand for murder. Similar to the previous scene, the angel’s condemnation of Cain’s unholy actions can be read as a hidden polemic. In the original Midrashic commentary on the biblical passage, “And Cain rose up against his brother Abel” (Gen 4:8), R. Johanan bar Nappaha writes, “Abel was stronger than Cain for the expression ‘rose up’ can only imply that he [Cain] lay beneath him.”25 Considering the fact that the Midrash was essentially common knowledge among the Jewish communities in Spain the patron of this manuscript more than likely would have known about this specific commentary when he commissioned the Haggadah.26 Therefore the act of rebuking Cain for his destruction of Abel, the superior brother, who, in this context, represents the ultimate superiority of Ashkenazi scholarship and the only possible way to salvage the deteriorated Sephardic heritage, can be read as a social commentary, a symbolic admonishment of the rationalist denigration of prosperous Jewish culture under the Crown. This parallel is 25. “Genesis (Bereshith), XXII. 7,” in Midrash Rabbah, vol. 1, ed. R. Harry Freedman and Maurice Simon, trans. R. Harry Freedman (London: The Soncino Press, 1961), 189. 26. Kogman-Appel, Illuminated Haggadot, 144-5.


strengthened by the homicidal state of the Jewish community: at least sixty murders of Jews by Jews occurred in the Crown between the years of 1257 to 1327, in addition to widespread violence from social unrest.27 Several of these recorded homicides occurred within families, and between siblings.28 Cain represents the forces of assimilation and deviance, which, for the conservative scholarly Jews of Aragon, congealed around the rationalists and the Jewish courtiers; as Cain is lambasted for his murder of Abel, so too is he blamed for bringing about the social unrest that caused the deaths of brothers among brothers in the Sephardic community. The murder of Cain by Abel, however, acts as but a metaphor for the larger, more violent erosion of the society within which Iberian Jews had prospered for hundreds of years. Mark D. Meyerson, a Jewish historian who has closely studied violence within medieval Jewish society, observes that “Jewish intracommunal violence in Spain was both a product and symptom of the blurring of borders between Jewish and Christian societies and of excessive Jewish acculturation to Christian norms,” and that as a result of this violence and assimilation, Jewish communal identity in Christian Spain was progressively weakening in the late medieval period.29 By the early 14th century the conflict and in-fighting of the Sephardic Jews had grown from its small beginnings in the late 13th century into a community rife with rape and brutal violence between Jews, outrageous behaviour in synagogues on holy days and a continual disregard by Jewish courtiers for the traditional values of their culture. All this was framed by depressed economic conditions and widespread persecution by the Inquisition.30 The Tower of Babel, the second panel of folio 3r (fig. 5), would have been a poignant biblical illumination to behold, especially against this turbulent social background. In the Torah, the tale describes how all the men on earth—who then spoke only one language—built a tower in order to reach heaven and to 27. Assis, The Golden Age, 293. 28. Ibid., 295. 29. Mark D. Meyerson, “Bloodshed and Borders: Violence and Acculturation in Late Medieval Jewish Society,” in Late Medieval Jewish Identities: Iberia and Beyond, ed. Carmen Caballero-Navas and Esperanza Alfonso (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 13. 30. Assis, The Golden Age, 295-296, 60-62.


defy God’s power (Gen. 11:2-4). As punishment, God gave the workers different languages making completion impossible due to a lack of mutual comprehension (Gen. 11:7-9). In the Midrash, a narrative of violence was added to the tale, wherein it is written that God propelled the workers into open conflict for their contumacy.31 In the Golden Haggadah this Midrashic addition is actualized in disturbing fashion: in the centre, two men stab each other in the back and in the stomach while blood oozes from their wounds and stains their clothing. Above them a man throws stones out of a window goring a worker’s face who wields a pickaxe below. Finally, on the far left, another worker, whose mangled forehead has been struck by a rock, points to his mouth to indicate the source of the conflict in linguistic misunderstanding. Examining Tower of Babel through the lens of decline, scholarly conflict, and the rise of violence in Aragonese Sephardic society is especially powerful. One can imagine sitting at the Seder table, viewing the Golden Haggadah with family and encountering this image with a feeling of shock. The overt portrayal of violence on display in Tower of Babel is a sharp contrast to the relatively subdued scenes of Noah and Cain and Abel that precede it, and because violence was a part of daily life in the Crown’s Jewish community, this specific panel was likely particularly impactful.32 Framed by the Hebrew inscription above the illumination that reads “the divided generation,” this aggressive image implicitly communicates that the Jewish rationalists’ and Jewish courtiers’ deviance from traditional Judaism was the cause for the gradual death of Sephardic culture and the violence from social unrest that had become so prevalent in their community. Much like in the original biblical tale, the rationalists and the Jewish courtiers had disregarded the word of God, and built their own unique structures in defiance of Ashkenazi tradition. The rationalists merged their scholarship with the intellectual climate of Muslim Spain, whereas the courtiers and elites left behind their dedication to the Torah and the Midrash in favour of their prominent public positions. When analyzed from this social 31. “Genesis (Noach), XXXVIII. 10,” in Midrash Rabbah, vol. 1, ed. R. Harry Freedman and Maurice Simon, trans. R. Harry Freedman (London: The Soncino Press, 1961), 309. 32. Assis, The Golden Age, 295.


perspective, the message behind the inclusion of the midrashic motif of violence among the builders of Babel crystalizes into a forceful statement on the power of traditional Ashkenazi Judaism. The subtext of this image conveys that assimilation, corruption, and a lack of traditional observance led to the death of Sephardic unity, whereas in opposition, an appeal to the maintenance of time-honoured Hebrew exegesis and Jewish customs could re-establish the community’s prosperity. These conservative desires, however, seem to be betrayed by the Christian stylistic influences on the manuscript’s production. Scholars have debated for decades on potential pictorial precedents to the Golden Haggadah. Esteemed Jewish art historian Bezalel Narkiss argued that the Jewish patron of the Golden Haggadah possibly viewed Christian illuminated psalters from France prior to their commissioning of the manuscript—specifically, the Pierpont Morgan Picture Bible of ca. 124454, made for King Louis IX (r. 1226-1270).33 More recently KogmanAppel has proposed that the first artist (responsible for the narrative cycles from folio 2v to 9r) showed a preference for iconographic types reminiscent of an illuminated bible from ca. 1400 Padua, now in the Biblioteca dell’Accademia dei Concordi, whereas the second miniaturist (folios 10v to 15) was more influenced by Gothic French psalters such as the Morgan Bible, and the Bible Moralisée, from ca. 1215-1230 Provence, and now in the Austrian National Library.34 Establishing an exact model for the Golden Haggadah, however, is not of concern to the present argument. Instead, I will compare the Haggadah to the most frequently cited example, the Morgan Bible, and suggest that the stylistic similarities in their respective visual programs attest to the increasing influence of Christendom in Iberia.35 Similar to the Golden Haggadah, most of the Morgan Bible’s pages are divided into four framed panels, each depicting a scene from the Old 33. Narkiss, The Golden Haggadah, 51, 53, 66-67. 34. Kogman-Appel, Illuminated Haggadot, 62-65. 35. See, for example, Marc Michael Epstein, The Medieval Haggadah (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011), 292, and Scott M. Langston, Exodus Through the Centuries (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2006), 38.


Fig. 4. Golden Haggadah: The Drunkenness of Noah, The Tower of Babel, Abraham Thrown into Flames, The Hospitality of Abraham, illuminated manuscript, ca. 1320-35; British Library, London, MS. 27210, fol. 3r (scan from Epstein, Medieval Haggadah).

Fig. 5. Morgan Picture Bible: Drunkenness of Noah, the Tower of Babel, the Binding of Isaac, the Four Kings preparing for war, illuminated manuscript, ca. 1244-54; Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, MS M. 638, fol. 3r (photograph provided by Pierpont Morgan Library image database: http://www.themorgan. org/collection/crusader-bible/5, accessed 22 November 2015).


Fig. 6. Morgan Picture Bible, Detail: Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, illuminated manuscript, ca. 1244-54; Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, MS M. 638, fol. 4v (photograph provided by Pierpont Morgan Library image database: http://www.themorgan. org/collection/crusader-bible/8, accessed 22 November 2015).

Fig. 7. Golden Haggadah, Detail: Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, illuminated manuscript, ca. 1320-35; British Library, London, MS. 27210, fol. 5r (photograph provided by the British Library digitized manuscript database: digitisedmanuscripts/2012/05/ wrestling-mania.html, accessed 22 November 2015).Fig.


Testament leading up to the life of Christ, often set against stamped and diapered gold leaf backgrounds which are all typical elements of French illuminated manuscripts of the Gothic period.36 There are also several instances of stylistic overlap between the two manuscripts. For example the panels depicting the Drunkenness of Noah, in fol. 3r of the Golden Haggadah (fig. 4) and fol. 3r of the Morgan Bible (fig. 5), are especially alike. In both cases, Noah is shown cutting grapes from a grapevine to capture in his basket below (on the left in the Morgan Bible, and on the right in the Golden Haggadah). After a hedonistic binge, Noah falls asleep atop a small cluster of rocks, subsequently being covered with a blanket by two friends. In either manuscript, these scenes are set against a gold background, and precede an illumination depicting the Tower of Babel. While the Morgan Bible’s characters are more slender, and their extremities are carefully contoured to match the actions they are engaged in—Noah’s left arm, for example, is delicately outlined and bent so as to create the impression that he is cutting directly from the vine—the compositions are nonetheless inextricably related. Furthermore, in some cases the visual similarities between the two manuscripts are impossible to ignore. Both the Morgan Bible and the Golden Haggadah contain the biblical scene of Jacob wrestling with an angel. In the Morgan Bible’s version (fig. 6), as in the Golden Haggadah’s (fig. 7), Jacob is depicted standing with his arms clasped around the back of an angel wearing a long robe, its wings lavishly illuminated in either case, with alternating colours and with each feather made distinguishable. Behind them, a group of Jacob’s followers walk into the distance. Even the strategic placement of a curved tree in the Golden Haggadah which acts as a divider between the ordinary Jews on one side, and the prophetic and heavenly figures on the other, seems to be appropriated from a similar tree in the Morgan Bible’s Jacob scene. Based on these examples alone, which represent only a small portion of their shared visual language, it is clear that the two manuscripts are stylistically interconnected. By way of conclusion, I maintain that the aesthetic correspondence between the Golden Haggadah and the Morgan Bible is a reflection of 36. Narkiss, The Golden Haggadah, 51.


the socio-political atmosphere of 14th century Spain and Europe. The Morgan Bible was specifically produced during a period in Europe that was “dominated by an evolving conception of militant Christian kingship,” and as such the manuscript visually justified Louis IX’s crusader mission: to Christianize France according to the superior power of Christ.37 As we have seen, the antirationalist scholars’ express goal was to preserve Jewish cultural continuity by an appeal to traditional Ashkenazi exegesis in opposition to the growing success of the Reconquista. While the Golden Haggadah is very much injected with these concerns, the fact that it mirrors Christian manuscripts, specifically a manuscript designed to confirm to the holiness of Louis IX’s Christianizing campaign, is in direct conflict to the conservative goals of the antirationalist Jews. This contradiction can be better understood by considering the historical circumstances of early-mid 14th century Spain. As the Reconquista and the Inquisition continued to increase their power throughout the Iberian Peninsula, Jews were persecuted and forced to suffer papal-sanctioned punishments, and as a result many Sephardic Jews began to convert to Christianity.38 By the 1320s, the Sephardic Jews of Aragon were in decline, as they were not only marginalized but also attacked by Christians as heretics, which caused their numbers and their communal integrity to weaken.39 Therefore, as much as the antirationalist Jews sought to emphasize their cultural and religious separation from contemporary life, they were inevitably pulled into the growing influence of Christianity in the Iberian Peninsula, and the paradoxical appropriation of Christian manuscript motifs in the Haggadah is symbolic of this transition. Even as the antirationalist Jews created such striking pedagogical objects as the Golden Haggadah to communicate a message of the value of traditional belief in a time of uncertainty, there was no way to divorce this message from reality. Christianity unavoidably seeped through the cracks resulting in increasing violence and persecution 37. Laura H. Hollengreen, “The Politics and Poetics of Possession: Saint Louis, the Jews, and Old Testament Violence,” in Between the Picture and the Word: Manuscript Studies from the Index of Christian Art (Princeton, NJ and University Park, PA: The Trustees of Princeton University, in association with Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005), ed. Colum Hourihane, 52. 38. Assis, The Golden Age, 61-62, 49-50. 39. Assis, The Golden Age, 63.


against Jews by the end of the 14th century, and their final expulsion from Spain in 1492.40 Above all the Golden Haggadah was made by a dying culture, and today, it physically illuminates the antirationalist Sephardic Jews’s internal struggles, their hopes and dreams, and their vision of a world that was slowly absorbing their legacy. 40. Ibid., 333-334.

About the author: Elias is an undergraduate student currently completing his last year in the Art History department at McGill University. His research interests range from Jewish art in the early modern period, to fin de siècle Parisian painting, to film studies. He wrote this particular piece to highlight one of the ways in which art can shape the practice of even the most intimate communal traditions, and to acknowledge how Sephardic visual culture is in fact inseparable from broader Iberian art history.


Assis, Yom Tov. The Golden Age of Aragonese Jewry: Community and Society in the Crown of Aragon, 1213-1327. London and Portland, OR: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 1997. Epstein, Marc Michael. “Illustrating History and Illuminating Identity in the Art of the Passover Haggadah.” Judaism in Practice, From the Middle Ages through the Early Modern Period, edited by Lawrence Fine, 298-317. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001. Epstein, Marc Michael. The Medieval Haggadah. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011. Gampel, Benjamin R. “Jews, Christians and Muslims in Medieval Iberia: Convivencia through the Eyes of Sephardic Jews.” Covivencia: Jews, Muslims and Christians in Medieval Spain, edited by Vivian B. Mann, Thomas F. Glick, and Jerrilynn D. Dodds, 11-37. New York: George Braziller, in association with the Jewish Museum of New York, 1992. “Genesis (Bereshith), XXII. 7.” Midrash Rabbah, vol. 1, edited by R. Harry Freedman and Maurice Simon, translated by R. Harry Freedman,


187. London: The Soncino Press, 1961. “Genesis (Noach), XXXVIII. 10.” Midrash Rabbah, vol. 1, edited by R. Harry Freedman and Maurice Simon, translated by R. Harry Freedman, 309. London: The Soncino Press, 1961. Harris, Julie. “Polemical Images in the Golden Haggadah (British Library Add. MS 27210).” Medieval Encounters, 8, no. 2 (2002): 105-22. Accessed 15 October 2015. doi: 10.1163/15700670260497006. Hollengreen, Laura H. “The Politics and Poetics of Possession: Saint Louis, the Jews, and Old Testament Violence.” Between the Picture and the Word: Manuscript Studies from the Index of Christian Art, edited by Colum Hourihane, 51-71. Princeton, NJ and University Park, PA: The Trustees of Princeton University, in association with Pennsylvania, University Press, 2005. Kogman-Appel, Katrin. “Hebrew Manuscript Painting in Late Medieval Spain: Signs of a Culture in Transition.” The Art Bulletin 82, no. 4 (June 2002): 264-272. Accessed 30 October 2015. doi: 10.2307/3177268. Kogman-Appel, Katrin. Illuminated Haggadot from Medieval Spain. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006. Langston, Scott M. Exodus Through the Centuries. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2006. Meyerson, Mark D. “Bloodshed and Borders: Violence and Acculturation in Late Medieval Jewish Society.” Late Medieval Jewish Identities: Iberia and Beyond, edited by Carmen Caballero-Navas and Esperanza Alfonso, 13-26. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. Narkiss, Bezalel. The Golden Haggadah. London: The British Library, 1997. Raphael, Chaim. A Feast of History: Passover through the Ages as a Key to Jewish Experience. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972.


‘Enfrailing’ the Feminine Form; Victorian Aesthetic and Narrative Depictions of Subjugation

Jemma Elliott-Israelson

‘Enfrailing’ the Feminine Form; Victorian Aesthetic and Narrative Depictions of Subjugation “One of Shakespeare’s’ most beautifully drawn female portraits. With the exception of his Juliet, I know nothing beyond it for love, for tenderness, for constancy, and feminine sweetness… Gentleness seems to be the predominant quality of this interesting heroine… and I know scarcely anything in a young female (before she is led into the world) more attractive or pleasing than a gentle demeanour.” 1 Henry Mercer Graves on Ophelia

‘the woman is perfected Her dead Body wears the smile of accomplishment’ Sylvia Plath

“On the calm black water where the stars are sleeping White Ophelia floats like a great lily; Floats very slowly, lying in her long veils... In the far-off woods you can hear them sound the mort” Ophelia, Arthur Rimbaud The subjugation of the white female body in Victorian society was a process created predominantly by the heterosexual white male. This process worked to debilitate the white female body in a variety of ways. These means could include physically constraining costumes, prescribed domesticated roles and the perpetuation of an embodied aesthetic of illness. In his Symphonies in White painted between 1862 and 1867, the American-born, London-based white painter James McNeill Whistler depicted the body of the female in various states of ‘enfrailment,’ fragility and infantilism. When looked at collectively, the corporeal progression of 1. Henry Graves Mercer. An essay on the genius of Shakespeare, with critical remarks on the characters of Romeo, Hamlet, Juliet, and Ophelia ; together with some observations on the writings of Sir Walter Scott. To which is annexed, A letter to Lord --, containing a critique on taste, judgment, and rhetorical expression, and remarks on the leading actors of the day (London: J. Bigg, 1826), 61.


the women depicted shows a clear decline in the agency and strength of the female figures. The paintings manifest an evolution from free-standing woman in Symphony in White No. 1 (1862, fig. 1), to a leaning lady depicted in Symphony in White No. 2 (1864, fig. 2) to two reclining supplicants in Symphony in White No. 3 (1865-67, fig. 3). This gradual subjection of the female body pictorially culminates in the white Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir John Everett Millais’ Ophelia (1851-52, fig. 4). The haunting and affecting image shows the full yoking of the female, as the tragic heroine’s innocence, agency and life is crushed by her male oppressors. Here, she lies not reclined and not resting, but dead. She is drowned purportedly by her own volition, but in reality by the weight of her male tyrants. This paper critically examines how and why these two white male painters, one working in an Aesthetic style and one in a narrative Pre-Raphaelite style, chose to depict the white female body. The examination of these art works will be contextualized in the larger socio-cultural and political narrative of 19th century Britain. The works in question date from 1851-1867, a period marked by the rise of British imperial, nationalist, and colonial mindsets. Indeed, the cultural theorist and academic Richard Dyer presents a view of racism in society as an architecture that permeates every aspect of both black and white lives. His work on the representation of white bodies in Western art presents the white body as a carefully controlled white creation. In the narrative of western art history, white people have had superior access to the tools to control their images and identities compared to the equivalent potential access for marginalised races.2 Dyer’s notion of white supremacy in society can be applied to the discussion of the depiction of the fragile, infantile and unempowered white woman. I propose to look at the aforementioned images maintaining that they represent “racial imagery of white people.”3 These images have commonly been studied in compliance with the standard adage in the 2. Richard Dyer, White, London: Routledge, 1997, xiii. 3. Ibid.


study of Western art; “other people are raced” and white people are ‘normal,’ positing white skin as the ‘default.’4 Whistler and Millais’ works were produced in a specific social, cultural, political and economic milieu— one constructed according to a colonial mindset. This milieu enabled them to produce their work from the advantaged position of their class, gender and race. Their privilege in Western society in tandem with their “unearned and conferred dominance” is a key factor in the production of their artworks, and thus should be critically assessed when discussing these images.5 Dyer’s theoretical conception in the context of this paper should remind us that the representation of bodies is the representation of people. Thus we must look critically at who is being excluded from these depictions and why, and who is the default ‘person’ in the Victorian period. For the purposes of this discussion, the Victorian era will be understood as beginning in 1837, the year when the 18 year old Victoria ascended to the throne, and ending in 1901, when she died on the Isle of Wright at Osborne House, marking the end of her 63-year reign.6 The term ‘Victorians’ will thus refer to those citizens of the United Kingdom living in Britain or its colonies in these years. Within this time frame, the thesis will account for the multitude of societal restraints placed on white women, and the consequent impact of these restraints through the readings of the artworks discussed. Integral to this discussion is the use of the racial and gendered architecture of British Victorian society. This society excluded people of colour from both aesthetic and narrative representation. It also neglected to represent women in social, corporeal or economic positions that showed power or agency. Thus it is proposed that Dyer’s ‘architecture of racism’ can be transferred into a theory of the ‘misogynistic architecture’ in Victorian society. The representation of the white female body lies in the “narrative structural positions, rhetorical tropes, and habits of perception” exercised when studying Western art.7 This discussion uses the term ‘enfrailment’ to denote the systematic mechanism of male oppression and the modelling 4. Ibid., 1. 5. Ibid., 9. 6. “Timeline: Victorian Era,” Oxford Reference Online. Web. 2015. 7. Richard Dyer, White, 12.


of the female body as weak, ill and incapable. Such ‘enfrailment’ will be seen as a key factor in the discussion of both Whistler’s and Millais’ works. An explanation of the styles in which Whistler and Millais were working must be undertaken to better understand the society in which they painted and the artistic theories that underpin their work. Their inherent biases in subject, theme and representation as well as the politicized message that their images convey betray their gendered and racial inheritance. This inheritance played out in their respective oeuvres despite differences in theoretical approaches to painting. Pre-Raphaelitism was a practical and theoretical approach to painting established by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais in 1848.These artists expressed the paramount importance of genuinely expressed ideas and truths, as well as the attentive study and representation of nature.8 An emphasis was placed on creating sympathetic and emotionally charged images by removing the conventionality of academic style from painting.9 Their group name indicates a desire to revive British painting by returning to various facets of art dating from before the time of Raphael (1483-1520).10 Key to achieving this goal was the use of the narrative, drawing their subject matter from Classical and Norse mythology, Biblical texts, and contemporary literature. Sources included the works of Ovid, Dante, the Old and New Testaments, Shakespeare and Alfred Lord Tennyson. The support of the acclaimed art critic John Ruskin made the Pre-Raphaelites more visible in the London art scene. Their increased visibility enhanced the impact that their ideals had on the spread of “high moral value” and the centrality of art’s position in societal life.11 Turning to the post-Pre-Raphaelite style of Whistler, we can see shifts in the intended purpose of the creation of artworks. The Aesthetic 8. Luke, Herrmann, Nineteenth century British painting (London: Giles de la Mare, 2000) 237. 9. Ibid. 10. Tim Barringer, Reading the Pre-Raphaelites (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998), 7. 11. Luke Herrmann, Nineteenth century British painting, 241.


movement is often thought of as the descendant of Pre-Raphaelitism.12 It was not only a movement in visual culture, but also one that was regarded by its proponents as a way of life, encompassing dress, literature, interior design, personal comportment, rhetoric and the affectation of specific social milieus.13 Walter Pater’s essay Renaissance states that, “A counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life. How may we see in them all that is to be seen in them by the finest senses?” 14 The emphasis on seeing was the model for the Aesthetic approach to life, in the sense that seeing should be a harmonious and beautiful experience. This ‘seeing’, consequently did not include the representation of lower classes, or black and other marginalised peoples in art. According to Michel Foucault, there are three types of obstacles in the fight against domination; ethnic, social and religious.15 These types of ‘struggles’ can be seen as factors which separate individuals from what they produce, leading them to work against forms of subjectivity and submission.16 For this paper, ethnic and social struggles are particularly relevant as the female subjects fail to assert power, especially in relation to the dominating agency of their privileged male creators. Let us also keep in mind Pater’s emphasis on the sense of sight, which will tie into the ensuing discussion of the male heteronormative gaze and its implications on the female subject in painting.17 The central aim of Aestheticism was to separate art from the triviality and un-harmonious realities of real life.18 This platform was made possible due to the inherent societal, academic and economic privileges of 12. Elizabeth Prettejohn, After the Pre-Raphaelites: art and aestheticism in Victorian England (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1999), 1. 13. Ibid. 14. Walter Pater ed. D.L Hill, The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry, d. D.L Hill (Berkley& London: University of California Press, 1893. ed. 1980), 188. 15. Michel Foucault, Paul Rabinow, and James D. Faubion. 1, Power, Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984. New York: New Press, 1994, 331. 16. Ibid. 17. Ibid., 326-327. Foucault’s theories surrounding the subject and power largely centre around the way in which human culture creates and are made into subjects. The definitions of power must be defined and explored in their various dimensions in order to properly study the objectification of the subject. 18. Elizabeth Prettejohn, After the Pre-Raphaelites: art and aestheticism in Victorian England, 7.


figures like Pater, Oscar Wilde, and Whistler. Feminist art historian Marcia Pointon eloquently sums up the idea of the creation and reading of art based on male makers: “Subjectivities of artist, of makers of images are interpolated in readings- whether consciously or unconsciously- by readers whose other, different, but in some ways complimentary subjectivities are brought into play.”19 Pointon makes clear the inherent cultural, gendered and racial biases that inform our interpretations of artworks, created under an Aesthetic theory or otherwise. It is clear that regardless of whether the representation of the female body is rendered through a narrative format or a denarrativized and ‘depoliticized’ one, the effects of female enfrailment are (equally?) rampant. To problematize Whistler’s notion of ‘art for art’s sake,’ we can turn to his Symphony in White No. 1. Aesthetes trumpeted that their art was free from the constraints of narrative binding, producing harmonious, beautiful and unaffected art.20 This theory is one that in essence seems to bear a positive message of creating beauty in the world. However, Whistler’s political, economic and societal conditions for creating such images were undeniably privileged due to his class, race, and gender. The images discussed in this paper show painting as his “instrument of subjection;” its primary function is to create “ideological subjects that can be smoothly inserted into existing institutions of government, economy, and, perhaps most crucially, sexual identity.”21 Whistler was, if anything, a cosmopolitan man. Born in Massachusetts in 1834, his family moved to St. Petersburg in 1843 when 19. Marcia Pointon, Naked Authority, The Body in Western Painting 1830-1908 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), I. 20. Solomon Fishman, The interpretation of art: essays on the art criticism of John Ruskin, Walter Pater, Clive Bell, Roger Fry, and Herbert Read (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1963), 78. Clive Bell’s Aesthetics share commonalities with Romantic Aesthetics. “Bell counteracts the stigma that is attached to the idea of from as decoration, that is, as a purely visual pattern devoid of emotional force. But Whereas Ruskin conceded of at as expressive of the totality of man’s spiritual life, Bell restricts aesthetic phenomenon to an emotion so specialized, so peculiar to itself that the term expression is hardly applicable.” 21. Craig Owens, The Medusa Effect or the Spectacular Ruse” in Art in America (1984): 132.


Fig. 1. Whistler, Symphony in White No. I, 1862, Oil on Canvas, 213 x 107/9 cm, National Gallery of Art,

he was nine years old while his father worked on building railroads for the Czar.22 They returned to America in 1849 following his father’s death.23 He lived off and on in England after his half sister Deborah married an Englishman, Seymour Hayden.24 At the age of 22 following his education at West Point military academy (1851-1854) and stints at both the Winans locomotive factory and the U.S. coast survey where he worked as a cartographer, Whistler decided to pursue a career as an artist.25 He worked in London and Paris, influenced by the likes of Courbet, Edward Poynter, Thomas Armstrong and George Du Maurier.26 As early as 1859, he became acquainted with members of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood and especially admired the work of Sir John Everett Millais. 27 Millais grew up in Southampton, and attended Henry Sass’s private art school before entering the Royal Academy in 1840.28 There he befriended William Holman Hunt and they developed their own ideas on the nature of art.29 These brief biographies are intended to highlight the advantageous positions these men occupied based on their education and upbringing, which were made possible due to their race, class and gender. 30 To return to Whistler’s involvement in the Aesthetic movement, we must look critically at the feasibility of art being what Gerald Graff describes as an “autonomous, self sufficient universe unto itself, and not an imitation of the real world, a universe impervious to extra aesthetic criteria of judgement.”31 The logic that art can be disengaged from social

22. Allen Stanley and Whistler, James McNeill, From realism to symbolism: Whistler and his world (New Haven: Connecticut. Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art by Yale University Press, 2011), 11. 23. Ibid. 24. Ibid. 25. Ibid. 26. Ibid. 27. Ibid.,13. 28. Malcolm Warner, ‘Sir John Everett Millais.’ Grove Art Online, Web. 2015. 29. Ibid. 30. These opportunities were not afforded to people of colour who occupied laboring classes and vocations. Subsequently working men, with exception would find it difficult to find the resources and time to pursue an artistic career. Finally, women were excluded from formal training in nude life drawing even when admitted into the Royal Academy, resulting in a major default in their artistic education and technical development. 31.Gerald Graff, ‘Aestheticism and Cultural Politics’ in Social Research. 40 (2) (1973): 311.


and political issues can be viewed as a type of escapism.32 It negates the fact that Aestheticism was born of a particular social, historical, and political environment.33 The idea that Whistler and his contemporaries created depoliticized works of art must ultimately be qualified. This is not to say that it is invalid to interpret Whistler’s work through a formal lens in the tradition of, for example, the art critic Clive Bell. Bell’s argument that to “associate art with politics is always a mistake” goes in tandem with his assertion that art’s function is to communicate a pure form.34 This form should be perceived as “independent of questions of representational adequacy” and is crucial to Bell’s development of the idea of ‘significant form.’ He determines that an image’s form is its most significant factor, rather than its potential to moralise. However, to evaluate these works solely on their formal elements is to ignore extra-aesthetic social and political aspects of their production and consumption. By adopting both politicised and formalist methods of analysis, key issues pertaining to the subjugation of the female body in Whistler’s work can be uncovered. As an extension of this discussion, the pathology of the Victorian white male who sought and idealized sick or deadly qualities in spousal partners will be problematized. Turning to the first painting in Whistler’s Symphonies in White, the key formal aspects which inform this analysis include the work’s figural composition and the artist’s use of the colour white. A formalist analysis of this painting would focus on the depiction of a woman standing on a bear skin in a white dress, staring demurely out at the viewer and engaging us in a somewhat uncharged interaction. A Panofskyan approach would argue that bear skin and other accessories carry iconographic meaning. Conversely, Clement Greenberg’s formalist approach would not suggest that a formal analysis leads to the conclusion that there is even a woman, bear skin or a white dress; his formalism is purely about brush strokes and technique. However, as recent scholarship has noted, this painting is not without political baggage; in fact, it is quite the opposite, as it has been linked with 32. Ibid. 33. Ibid. 34. Clive Bell, Art (New York: Capricorn Books, 1958), 24.


Wilkie Collin’s The Woman in White.35 The painting points to the Victorian fascination with the “spectacularized, white, female body,” insinuating that literary and artistic cultures were very much enmeshed.36 This fact has immediate ramifications on the socio-cultural reading of this work. To be associated with the text, whether intentional on the part of Whistler or not, leads to a corruption of literary influence, potentially indicating political contamination of the purely aesthetic work. Pointon astutely points out that the “historical presences of artists and the desires of consumers of works of art, cannot be adequately accounted for by the authority of a discourse that is restricted to a hypothetically homogeneous realm of production and public reception.”37 This assertion is apt in thinking about the inherent nature of Victorian art consumption and the contemporary reception of Symphony in White No. I. The image, which was displayed regularly from 1862 onwards, would have inevitably been consumed in conjunction (consciously or subconsciously) with popular literature and culture. We must also note that culture and society can create a “source of authority for imperial, patriarchal, or fundamentalist identities.”38 The conflation of the cultural architecture surrounding gendered behaviour and characterization suggests an embedded rhetoric of male dominance which is shown in Whistler’s Symphonies. When combined with the formal elements—the white muslin dress, the white draped curtain, and the whiteness of the woman’s’ face—we can perceive an attempt by Whistler to experiment with modernist aesthetics.39 White as the ideal colour for modernism can be problematic, as it infers that white is the ‘default’ tone, due to its inherent purity, neutrality and beauty. These associations relate to Christian theological theories according to which white is a marker of virginity and purity. This no doubt resonated with Victorian viewers, as it still does with modern viewers. With the aforementioned connotations 35. Rachel Teukolsky, "White girls: avant-gardism and advertising after 1860", in Victorian Studies, 51 (3) (2009): 422. The Woman is White was a serial novel published between 1859-60 in All the Year Round. 36. Ibid. 37. Marcia Pointon, Naked Authority, The Body in Western Painting 1830-1908, I. 38 Rosemary Betterton, An intimate distance: women, artists, and the body (London: Routledge, 1996), 166. 39. Rachel Teukolsky, “White girls: avant-gardism and advertising after 1860,” 422 .


embedded in the image, this free-standing woman seems to lose her agency. Her frailty and innocence, and thus her naiveté and incapacity to act freely are shown through the de-colouring of costume and skin, as well as through her stance. She seems ambivalent, not knowing where to turn, how to pose, or how to emote concretely. She stands liminaly, as if awaiting instruction from her male creator and domineer. The extreme pallor and specific bodily formation of the female subject in Symphony in White No. 2 further exacerbate these themes. Here, several formal aspects can be noted in order to delineate the increasing sense of male heterosexual dominance in this series. There is an impending sense of sickliness in this figure. She can no longer stand freely, but rather leans on the mantle piece, confined to her domestic sphere. Her face is purely white, while her reflection in the mirror is muddied and dark. This invites a potentially sinister reading, which reveals that the male gaze and the male who created her are draining her vivacity. The mirror incorporates a play of relations between the individual figure in the painting and the artist.40 The structures of power in Victorian society necessarily designated relationships between “partners,” yet the use of the sickly darkened reflection in the mirror delegates this relationship as unilateral in its disproportionate favour of the artist as creator of the image.41 The literary theorist Roland Barthes argues that the female is the only one who is confined to seeing herself as an image; she never sees her eyes unless they are “dulled by the gaze they rest upon the mirror or the lens.”42 In regards to her own body, she is “condemned by the repertoire of its images.”43 The wedding ring she wears denotes her status as a married woman, and thus in the context of Victorian Britain, a ‘kept woman.’ This image is the antithesis of the feminist project to combat the “prevailing concepts of middle-class femininity which defined women as dependent 40. Michel Foucault, Paul Rabinow, and James D. Faubion. Power, Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984, 337. 41. Ibid. 42. Roland Barthes, ‘The Grain of the Voice’ in Image, Music, Text. (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 31. 43. Ibid.


Fig. 2. Whistler, Symphony in White No II, The Little White Girl, 1864, Oil on Canvas, 765x51mm, TateBritain.

and self-less.”44 The inclusion of the wedding ring reinforces the dependency mechanism employed in Victorian patriarchal society. John Ruskin noted in an 1865 lecture that “The Man’s power is active, progressive, defensive. He is eminently the doer, the creator, the discoverer, the defender. His intellect is for speculation and invention; his energy for adventure, and for conquest whenever war is just and conquest necessary.”45 Consequently, Ruskin felt that the woman’s power and intellect was to be used “not for invention or creation…she is protected from all danger and temptation.”46 It is clear from his writing that the eminent art critic and theorist favoured the notions of gendered spheres and supported the Pygmalion narrative of man as ‘active creator,’ woman as passive and docile. Japanese porcelain vases were popular in the late nineteenth century among the Bourgioues classes. They coincided with the development of Aesthetic and Deccadent styles in art and literature. The vase shown in Whister’s work links to the idea of the female body as a vessel or object to be owned and controlled. 47 This metaphor, strongly connected to the Christian narrative of the Virgin or virgins as vessels, is referenced in Whistler’s use of white.48 The porcelain materiality of the vase indicates fragility, preciousness, delicacy and collectability. These qualities can be linked to Victorian societal conventions and expectations 44. Deborah Cherry, Beyond the frame: feminism and visual culture, Britain 1850-1900 (London: Routledge, 2000), 9. 45. John Ruskin, Of Queens’ Gardens (London: George Allen, 1902), 20 46. Ibid., 21 47. Luke Herrmann, 355. Whistler’s known fascination with Japonaiserie is shown through the inclusion of the fan, pink flowers in the lower right corner, and the blue and white porcelain vase on the mantle. 48. Metaphors of the Virgin Mary and other female protagonists in the bible figure the woman as a ‘vessel’ to be ‘filled’ in a sexual sense, but also in reference to her being empty and pure, later to be filled and consumed by her male counterpart. These theological ideas would have been prevalent in the Victorian period, with an increased likening of the female as fragile, delicate and ethereal. See: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Wheaton: Illinois. Crossway Bibles, 2001. Genesis 24: 14-16. “now may it be that the girl to whom I say, 'Please let down your jar so that I may drink,' and who answers, 'Drink, and I will water your camels also'--may she be the one whom You have appointed for Your servant Isaac; and by this I will know that You have shown loving kindness to my master." Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Abraham's brother Nahor, came out with her jar on her shoulder. The girl was very beautiful, a virgin, and no man had had relations with her; and she went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up.”


of female identity and behaviour. There was increasing anxiety about women entering the public sphere. These anxieties were reflected via the reinforcement of the status quo through the writings of Anna Jameson, John Ruskin, and Sarah Stickney Ellis.49 Angela Rosenthal links maleprescribed limitations on women to the popularity of the Pygmalion myth in the long 18th century.50 For Rosenthal, the myth references the “power of the male artist” and cements his sensual investment “in his object of desire.”51 The idea of the male creator in the Pygmalion myth resonates in Symphony in White No. 2. The woman as vase and the porcelain quality of the woman’s skin correlate to the marbled flesh of the statue in Pygmalion. The removal of agency through petrifaction or enforced sickliness could reflect male anxiety surrounding desire. When a woman is desirable, she becomes an object of fear.52 The title’s incorporation of the word ‘symphony’ implies a harmonious and collaborative artistic product, yet this image created by a male could well be a ‘Tragedy in White.’ Whistler’s definition of beauty is taken as the correct definition, and thus constitutes the line between high art and ‘mere sensual entertainment.’53 If the image is created with the aim of ideal, well-formed and harmonious visual displays, does not the inclusion of an idealized and enfrailed female figure somehow contribute to a form of heterosexual male pleasure? In creating more ‘sickly’ images, artistic creation works to eradicate and exclude natural human qualities eliciting more agency for the artist/male.54 The sickly symptoms alluded to are the extreme paleness, languid limp posture, and sunken eyes. The process of subverting the 49. Kimberly Rhodes, Ophelia and Victorian visual culture: representing body politics in the nineteenth century (Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2008), 20. See The Women of England (1839) and The Daughters of England (1842) 50. The Pygmalion Myth refers to the Greek myth largely popularized in the Latin West by Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Pygmalion created sculpture of a beautiful woman from ivory and fell in love with her. So veristic was his execution that his love and artful craft galvanized her into existence. 51. Angela, Rosenthal, “Visceral Culture: Blushing and the Legibility of Whiteness in Eighteenth-Century British Portraiture” in Art History, col. 27. issue 4 (2004): 564. 52. Elisabeth Bronfen, Over Her Dead Body (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1992), 123. 53. Rachel Teukolsky, 432. 54. Elisabeth Bronfen, Over Her Dead Body, 126.


natural in women necessarily resulted in the pale, deadened aesthetic; posturing the body as dead or on the threshold of death.55 The woman is an embodiment of the split self in the psychoanalytic and social sense, becoming the vehicle for the representation of death.56 Furthermore, the sickened pallor of this individual and her darkened reflection in the mirror invite a sinister foreshadowing of death. This leads us to question why, other than a male anxiety around female power in the public sphere, this aesthetic was sought-after and considered beautiful. The fascination with an ill or dead aesthetic likely has roots in the “fear and loathing of the female body” which had a “long and well-founded tradition within European culture” but it is also a visual compensation for anxieties surrounding masculinity.57 The mirror does not foster any significant ideal of a “self-conscious, self motivated, or self-reliant” individual, but rather emphasises the woman’s’ lack of agency and melancholia.58 In this way, the white of her dress and pallid skin paired with the dark reflection in the mirror can be interpreted as indicators of impending death. The corporeal progression of indisposition is further seen in Symphony in White No. 3. Here, two female figures recline in languid postures.59 The postures reflect the increasing subjection of the figures to the male gaze. Several formal aspects of this painting inform and support the issues of aestheticism, politics, submission and captivity of the female in the domestic sphere. The basis for this discussion is the “conventional idea of art as a transformation of living matter into inanimate form.”60 This notion centers around the male artist’s rhetorical privilege in the depiction of a female subject, placing “symbolicity over iconicity” with the claim of producing pure but unmotivated, ungrounded ‘signs’ or images.61 This aim parallels Aesthetic rhetoric, and yet it is clear that an ‘unmotivated’ image 55. Ibid. 56. Ibid., 215. 57. Rosemanry Betterton, An intimate distance: women, artists, and the body, 130. 58. Deborah Cherry, Beyond the frame: feminism and visual culture, Britain 1850-1900, 9. 59. The sitters are Jo and Milly Jones, the former who appears in the previous two symphonies was Whistler’s mistress. 60. Elisabeth Bronfen, 111. 61. Ibid.


Fig. 3. Whistler, Symphony in White No III, 1865-67, Oil on Canvas, 51.4 X 76.9 cm, Barber Gallery, Birmingham.

Fig. 4. Sir John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1851-52, Oil on Canvas 76.2 x 111.8 cm, Tate


is impossible to create when the Western tradition of art figures the man as the maker and woman as the made.62 John Berger expands on theories of male spectatorship, stating male hegemony exists strongly in Western art and artistic production. Males occupy positions of agency in both creation and spectatorship.63 The ideal spectator is “always assumed to be male, and the image of the woman is designed to flatter him.”64 The use of a pacified, reclining women in Symphony in White No. 3 would certainly seem to flatter the male viewer. Their postures are reminiscent of classic postural configuration of the female nude. Note how the arm is raised suggestively above the head in both Felix Trutat’s Nude Girl on a Panther Skin (1844, fig. 5) and George Frederick Watts’ A Study with Peacock Feathers (1865, fig. 6), making both analogous to the figure on the left in Whistler’s work. All that the viewer must do is imagine the figure nude rather than clothed. The use of white to costume these women correlates with the alabaster complexion of the sitters, suggesting nudity. The enervated and nearly comatose postures of the nudes are clearly evoked in Whistler’s figures. They lie inert, indifferent and uninterested, beholden to his depiction and to the gaze of the male spectator. Thus, the figural composition of Symphony in White No. 3 creates a strong sense of melancholic feminine beauty, a foil for the artist’s own creative melancholia. The female version, though, is one that is perhaps even “singed by death.”65 The use of white in all three of these works has significant ramifications on our interpretations. Whistler denotes through the labeling of this series that it is the colour itself that is the subject of the image rather than the figures, omitting the possibility for self-reflexivity.66 This places the colour white at the center of the narrative and postures the women as mannequins. The word narrative seems appropriate, as the painting appears to include human figures in a story of some kind, with their very existence bringing emotion, physicality and intellectual curiosity to the 62. Ibid., 112. 63. John Berger, Ways of Seeing (London: Penguin Books, 1972), 58. 64. Ibid. 65. Elizabeth Bronfen, 170. 66. Allen Staley, The new painting of the 1860s: between the pre-Raphaelites and the aesthetic movement, 173.


(L) Fig.5. Felix Trutat, Nude Girl on a Panther Skin, 1844, Oil on Canvas, 110 x 178 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris (R) Fig. 6. George Frederick Watts, A Study with Peacock Feathers, ca 1865, Oil on Panel, 26x22 in, Private Collection

image. Although Whistler used white as the default or neutral colour in which to allow for a meditation on aesthetic beauty, in fact when people are depicted, narrative is implied.67 Using white and intentionally not naming the sitters usurps their identity. They are consumed therefore in a cultural narrative of female submissiveness, naiveté and chastity. The Christian rhetoric of white as an emblem of purity becomes subsumed into the enterprise of the cultural register of whiteness.68 69 The visual depiction of these females in white must be explored in reference to the notion of the ‘dead’ female body. Aestheticizing illness contributes to the sentimentalization, and sanitation of female sensuality often construing mental illness as ‘female malady.’70 It should be noted 67. Richard Dyer, 14. Whistler also used white in his exhibition spaces and is sometimes thought of as a father of modernist aesthetics for gallery spaces. This use of white could make reference to the colonial structures that governed Whistler’s England. This structure is one of the fundamental elements that subtends the ‘construction of white identity’. 68. Ibid. 69. Sally Mitchell, Daily life in Victorian England (Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1996), 159. Upper Class Brides who were presented to the Queen wore white when introduced to ‘society’ for the second time (the first time would have been before her marriage as a debutante, the second as a married woman). For this reason, white became a popular choice for wedding dresses as the same dress could be worn twice. The frocks in the Symphonies in White are reminiscent of the afternoon tea dress styles which were considered appropriate for wedding ceremonies. 70. Kimberly Rhodes, Ophelia and Victorian visual culture: representing body politics in the nineteenth century, 18.


that the 19th century diagnoses of ‘Hysteria’ was commonly used to address almost every type of female ‘malady’ including sexual frustration, depression, anxiety or a more than usual desire to entre the public sphere. Freud explains that hysteria’s symptoms could include; “petit mal  and disorders in the nature of tic, chronic vomiting and anorexia, carried to the pitch of rejection of all nourishment, various forms of disturbance of vision, constantly recurrent visual hallucinations.”71 It can only be asserted that the architecture of misogyny in Victorian Britain utilized hysteria as a means of both explaining the psychological and physical reactions of extreme subjugation and of creating a form of subjugation which manifested itself physically. With this in mind, Michel Foucault’s summation that there is a ‘residue’ left on supposedly sexually cleansed images and texts becomes relevant. This residue can help to uncover the power struggles which lie at the centre of control and oppression.72 The Symphonies in White present the viewer with a fundamental dilemma as we attempt to decipher the “visual signifiers of illness” which allude to its normalization as a convention of femininity.73 This convention is directly tied to Foucault’s dissection of the mechanism of control and oppression. Foucault’s ‘mechanisms’ of societal control tie in with institutionalized central powers, such as the church, government or in this case the pater familias. They function in this way due to their depiction of liminality between life and death.74 The lived experiences of Victorian women are reflective of an internalized aesthetic of illness and incapability as they were restricted largely to the indoors and wore constraining corsetry which encumbered the consumption of adequate amounts of food and easy movement.75 The women depicted in the Symphonies function as pictorial foils for “masculine usurpation of 71. Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud, On The Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume II (1893-1895): Studies on Hysteria, 1893, 3. 72. Kimberly Rhodes, 18. 73. Ibid. 33. 74. Ibid., 170. 75. Sally Mitchell, Daily life in Victorian England, 139. Indeed many of the fashions such as outrageously sized hooped skirts could not be put on or taken off without aid. The woman could literally not clothe herself—let alone go about her day without physical help.


activity, productivity, creativity and health.”76 The woman in Symphony in White No. 2 exhibits an infantile quality and weakness—to the point of not even being able to hold on to the Japanese fan, likening this image to John Everett Millais’ Ophelia (1851-2). Indeed, although Whistler had perhaps not seen Millais’ Ophelia, its influence on his Symphonies in White was clear to contemporaries such as Léonce Bénédite.77 While Whistler painted this series some eleven to fifteen years later and employed a more brushy, painterly style rather than the hyper-detailed naturalism of Millais, formal and thematic elements resonate. For instance, the hazy quality of Ophelia’s submerged dress can be seen reflected in the white frock in Symphony in White No. 1. The mournful, melancholic and meek facial expression seen in Symphony in White No. 2 is similar to Ophelia’s visage. Finally, the movement towards the corporeal recession of the figures and erotic charge of Symphony in White No. 3 show links to Millais’ Shakespearean heroine. Ophelia can be seen as the pinnacle of female suppression in the Victorian era. Despite the literary and narrative subject matter, there are visual, circumstantial, literary and societal elements which support this claim. Visually, this image brings to light the questioning of the “naturalization of femininity” particularly in the ideology of separate male and female spheres.78 The character of Ophelia is often cited as the classic depiction of femininity and fragility. Indeed the sitter in Millais’ rendition, Elizabeth Siddal, is also commonly seen as an embodiment of a “Victorian saintly, angelic woman as she fades into death.”79 Ophelia acts as the surrogate metaphor for the Victorian fallen woman, showing a particular “relational position to the Victorian conception of natural womanhood.”80 The painting laid out a moral and sentimental model for the feminine type, cementing ideologies of gendered spheres, inspiring fear and pity in Victorian women when encountered with the more “unsavoury aspects of the modern world.”81 76. Elisabeth Bronfen, 173. 77. Allen Staley, 162. 78. Kimberly Rhodes, 3. 79. Elisabeth Bronfen, 168. 80. Ibid. 81. Ibid., 3.


Many nineteenth-century critics saw Ophelia as the epitome of femininity, surpassing all of Shakespeare’s other heroines.82 Ophelia is presented to the viewer as a pale white body being drowned in a muddy river, palms open in a gesture of submission. She provides the quintessential image of the “consumptive ill woman, supportive to the conventional notions of the transitory nature of beauty, femininity as virginal, vulnerable, ideal and tainted.”83 The depiction is indeed supportive to a patriarchal and colonial society. The systematic enfrailment of women, as reiterated and enforced in Victorian visual culture, served to strengthen the power of the male spectator, artist and patron. This representation of death places her squarely in the middle of the contending sides of femininity, these being the fallen woman and the innocent supplicant.84 The innocence and supplication alluded to in the work are shown in the graceful, passive, and objectively beautiful visual portrayal. Her supplication comes through her submissive and vulnerable posture, palms open, mouth agape, body subsumed by the current. Thus, she simultaneously embodies both positive and negative social roles prescribed to the white Victorian woman.85 The circumstances surrounding the creation of this work must be noted as they hold a particular bearing on Victorian gender roles and behaviour. Elizabeth Siddal was the championed model of the PreRaphaelites, being painted numerous times by Holman-Hunt, Rossetti and 82. Ibid., 73. This painting is in no way an anomalous representation of the white Victorian female as fallen. Further examples can be seen in the frequent use of the ‘fallen woman’ as a subject. The fallen woman refers to the result of a woman’s infidelity, which was her exile and disownment from the marriage. The gross gendered disparity in the allowments of sexual transgression is a product of the period seen pictorially both in terms of the didactic message of how not to act, and in communicating a moral narrative. Some examples of include Frank Bramley’s A Hopless Dawn (1888, fig. 7), and George Frederic Watts’ Found Drowned (1848-50, fig. 8). Watt’s painting brings to light the contemporary resonances of an image like Millais’ Ophelia, as many fallen women resorted to suicide via. drowning, especially in urban centres when they were cast out of their homes. Often they would kill their children too as a means to protect them from having to prostitute themselves or enter a work house. 83. Elisabeth Bronfen, 170. 84. Ibid. 85. Ibid.


Fig. 7. Frank Bramley, A Hopeless Dawn, 1888, Oil paint on Canvas, 1226 x 1676, Tate Britain

Fig. 8. George Frederick Watts, Found Drowned, 18481850, Oil on Canvas, 119.4 x 213.4 cm, Watts Gallery, Surrey.

Millais, respectively. When sitting for Ophelia, Siddal was placed in a bath heated by lamps. The process took multiple sittings and on one occasion Millais was so engrossed in his work that he neglected to realize the lamps had gone out. Lizzy, not wanting to disturb the artist, said nothing and as a result contracted a severe cold and was ill and weak for much of her life.86 Elisabeth Bronfen eloquently describes the scene and Siddal’s temperament: “though of a sickly nature, she was cramped into a magnificent brocade dress with silk embroidery and asked to lie for hours in a bath tub filled with warm water with small candles beneath the tub to preserve the temperature.”87 These facts support the subjugatory mechanism of illness in the female body in not only contemporary terms, but also in a context directly correlated with the painted image. Ford Maddox Brown, a contemporary British painter, noted on October 6, 1854, that Elizabeth looked “thinner, 86. Lawrence B Siddall,“The Sad, Short Life of Elizabeth Siddal, Pre-Raphaelite Model and Artist” in The Pre Raphaelite Society Review, Web (2002): 2. 87. Elisabeth Bronfen, 169.


more death like, more beautiful and more pale than ever.”88 These remarks show a clear artistic and societal veneration for a sickly female aesthetic. Continued illness was thought to be ‘predestined” in portraiture, keeping its sitter incapable in perpetuity.89 In the same way that Ophelia sinks to her muddy death, Lizzy Siddal sunk to her premature death ‘in the name of art’ but more likely in the name of maintaining her role as a silent and obedient female. The expedient of the sickly female in Victorian art resonates with nineteenth century artistic and medical practices and training whereby the examination of the body both externally and internally simulated each other formally and practically.90 Pointon points out that the lecture rooms in medical schools and the Life Class in art academies were founded on the same types of gendered exclusions preventing women from entering the “higher echelons” of professions as well as objectifying women in front of all male audiences. Elizabeth Siddal was subject to both formal exclusion in art training and objectification through her vocation as model and muse to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. A talented artist and poet in her own right, her lover and pre-Raphaelite art teacher Dante Gabriel Rossetti systematically kept her style looking more primitive, failing to teach her proper aspects of anatomy and perspective.91 To enhance her deamination, Rossetti always depicted her sitting, sewing, reading, or in repose, with her eyes looking internally, partially closed, demurely avoiding the assumed male gaze.92 Siddal’s agency was never allowed to come to fruition, thus the issue of subject agency in Millais’ work comes to encompass the break between the empowered individual versus one who is “subjected to external authority.”93 External authority can be credited not solely to Millais, whose capacity to depict her as weak, infantile and pale wields a patriarchal power in itself, but also her lover and teacher Rossetti, and the larger societal architecture which demanded such oppression of the white female by her 88. Ibid., 170. 89. Ibid. 90. Marcia Pointon, 54. 91. See Elizabeth Siddal’s, Lady Clare (1854-57, fig. 9) and Clerk Saunders, (1857, fig. 10). 92. Elisabeth Bronfen, 170. 93. Rosemary Betterton, 166.


Fig. 9. Elizabeth Siddal, Lady Clare, 1854-57, Watercolour on Paper, 34 x 25 cm, Private collection.

Fig. 10. Elizabeth Siddal (18321864), Clerk Suanders, 1857, Watercolour, body colour and coloured chalk, 11 Âź x 7 1/8 in, Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum


husband, father or guardian. The proliferation of flowers in Ophelia bore significance in terms of iconography to Victorians but has more recently been interpreted by feminist art historians as analogous to the female sex organs and female availability.94 Siddal’s poem “A Year and a Day” is reminiscent of her sittings and posture for Millais’s Ophelia. 95 She seems to be “internalizing her own oppression” through her work as demonstrated through these lines; “I lie among the tall green grass That bends above my head And covers up my wasted face And Folds me in its bed Tenderly and lovingly Like grass above the dead.”96 In speaking of covering her ‘wasted’ face, Siddal points to her oppression. The final line cements the outcome of this oppression. Millais’s Ophelia is both the precursor to the embedded ideology of femininity and male dominance in Whistler’s aesthetic series Symphonies in White, while also demonstrating the end result of this imposed dominance on the white Victorian female body—death. Ophelia is a multifaceted figure, embodying a range of female roles in society, not only the fallen woman but also the suppressed daughter, sister and wife, while simultaneously visually outlining female limitations.97 The use of flora in all four paintings discussed could serve as a metaphor for equating women as delicate and easily perishable flowers which are 94. Leslie Parris, The Pre-Raphaelites, Exhibition Catalogue (London: Tate Gallery, (ed.).1984 (reprinted 1994)): 96-98, “The plants, most of which have symbolic significance, were depicted with painstaking botanical detail. The roses near Ophelia's cheek and dress, and the field rose on the bank, may allude to her brother Laertes calling her 'rose of May'. The willow, nettle and daisy are associated with forsaken love, pain, and innocence. Pansies refer to love in vain. Violets, which Ophelia wears in a chain around her neck, stand for faithfulness, chastity or death of the young, any of which meanings could apply here. The poppy signifies death. Forget-me-nots float in the water.” Marcia Pionton, 103. 95. Kimberly Rhodes, 99 . 96. Ibid. 97. Elisabeth Bronfen, 8.


for decoration only. As such, the heterosexual male can both possess and control the flower, pointing to a larger allegory of man’s jurisdiction over nature. It is necessary to reiterate that the structures of white male dominance in Victorian society provided ample ammunition and political motivation for the pictorial representations of the female body in both Aesthetic and Pre-Raphaelite art. The male desire to be partnered with women who exhibited a ‘deathly’ aesthetic must reflect a deeper and more sinister male pathology. Somehow the architecture of the male dominated society perpetuated the need to overcompensate male heterosexual dominance. When looking at the Symphonies in White and Ophelia, we can see a visual language being built that uses figural composition as its vocabulary. This vocabulary serves to describe the increasing enfrailment of the female body. This enfrailment was imposed due to the anxiety surrounding women’s roles and their place in the public sphere, as well as to the undergirding rhetoric of female ‘madness’ and hysteria as explications for women either of superior intellect or those actually suffering from mental illness. In sum, from standing free in the centre of the room, to lying dead in muddied waters subsumed by male dominance, these images demonstrate the levelled process of subjugation of the female corpus as a method of control, objectification and petrification.

About the author: Jemma is completing her third year Honours degree in Art History, with a minor in Classics. Her undergraduate dissertation explores the work of Whistler, Millais and Aesthetic theory from a socio-cultural methodology. The thesis was supervised by Dr. Charmaine Nelson.  Her research interests are focused on late 19th century British portraiture, namely the works of Millais, Whistler, De Lázsló and Sargent in conjunction with Aesthetic philosophical theory drawn from of Wilde, Ruskin, Bell and Pater.



Barringer, T. J. Reading the Pre-Raphaelites. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998. Barthes, Roland. ‘The Grain of the Voice.’ Image, Music, Text. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977. Bell, Clive. Art. New York: Capricorn Books, 1958 Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin Books, 1972 Betterton, Rosemary. An intimate distance: women, artists, and the body. London: Routledge, 1996. Breuer, J. and Freud, S.  “On The Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena” The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume II (1893-1895): Studies on Hysteria, 1-17, 1893. Bronfen, Elisabeth. Over her dead body: death, femininity and the aesthetic. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1992. Cherry, Deborah. Beyond the frame: feminism and visual culture, Britain 1850-1900. London: Routledge, 2000. Fishman, Solomon. The interpretation of art: essays on the art criticism of John Ruskin, Walter Pater, Clive Bell, Roger Fry, and Herbert Read. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1963. Dyer, Richard. White. London: Routledge, 1997. Foucault, Michel, Paul Rabinow, and James D. Faubion. Power, Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984. New York: New Press, 1994.  Graff, Gerald. “Aestheticism and Cultural Politics” Social Research. 40 (2): 311-343, 1973. Graves, Henry Mercer. An essay on the genius of Shakespeare, with critical remarks on the characters of Romeo, Hamlet, Juliet, and Ophelia ; together with some observations on the writings of Sir Walter Scott. To which is annexed, A letter to Lord --, containing a critique on taste, judgment, and rhetorical expression, and remarks on the leading actors of the day. London: J. Bigg, 1826. Herrmann, Luke. Nineteenth century British painting. London: Giles de la Mare, 2000. Mitchell, Sally. Daily life in Victorian England. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1996. Owens, Craig. January. “The Medusa Effect or the Spectacular Ruse” in Art in America. pp. 97-106. 1984. Parris, Leslie. The Pre-Raphaelites, Exhibition Catalogue. London: Tate


Gallery, (ed.).1984 (reprinted 1994). Pater, Walter, The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry, ed. D.L Hill, Berkley& London: University of California Press, 1893. ed. 1980. Pointon, Marcia. Naked Authority, The Body in Western Painting 18301908. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Prettejohn, Elizabeth. After the Pre-Raphaelites: art and aestheticism in Victorian England. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1999.  Rhodes, Kimberly. Ophelia and Victorian visual culture: representing body politics in the nineteenth century. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2008. Rosenthal, Angela.“Visceral Culture: Blushing and the Legibility of Whiteness in Eighteenth-Century British Portraiture” Art History. col. 27. issue 4.pp. 563-592, 2004. Ruskin, John. Of Queens’ Gardens. London: George Allen, 1902. Siddall, B Lawrence.“The Sad, Short Life of Elizabeth Siddal, Pre-Raphaelite Model and Artist” Pre Raphaelite Society Review, 2002. Web. Accessed Nov 5. 2015. Staley, Allen. The new painting of the 1860s: between the pre-Raphaelites and the aesthetic movement. New Haven: Connecticut. Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art by Yale University Press, 2011. “Symphony in White, No 1: The White Girl”. National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2015.Web. Nov 24. 2015. Teukolsky R. “White girls: avant-gardism and advertising after 1860.” Victorian Studies. 51 (3): 422-37, 2009. The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Wheaton: Illinois. Crossway Bibles, 2001. “Timeline: Victorian Era”. Oxford Reference Online, 2015. Web. 4 Nov. 2015. Tusan, Michelle Elizabeth.“Inventing the New Woman: Print Culture and Identity Politics During the Fin-de-siecle: 1997 Vanarsdel Prize” Victorian Periodicals Review 31 (2). Research Society for Victorian Periodicals: 169–82. 1998. Warner, Malcolm. ‘Sir John Everett Millais’. Grove Art Online, 2008. Web. Nov 4. 2015. Whistler, James McNeill. From realism to symbolism: Whistler and his world. New York: Trustees of Columbia University, 1971.


The Icon in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility

Chloe Rowan

The Icon in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility The aura, as discussed by Walter Benjamin in The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility, can be understood as the ‘essence’ of the original art work. Benjamin believes that the aura of a work of art is that which sanctions its uniqueness, as an art work, into the context of its tradition and making.1 Such objects of aura, in their sphere of tradition, have been worshipped in ritual for centuries. However, once the original is no longer valued for itself (occurring in the process of technological reproduction), the aura ceases to exist and worship can no longer be based in ritual.2 Andy Warhol, who based his artistic practice in the commodification of the art process and the proliferation of images, became self-consciously more reliant on the copy of the original than the original itself. His serial images of culturally significant icons—of products, persons and celebrities—reflect the ways in which capitalist America creates consumer society by means of spectacle. By then using infinitely reproducible images, like advertisements, Warhol then reveals the condition under which society is suspended when encountered with spectacularized images. This situation is not confined to capitalist America. In Soviet Russia, the commodification of the art process played an equally large role in societal manipulation. This was done by the use of propaganda, including mass produced and mass reproduced visual imagery and iconography, as a tool to proliferate the communist ideology amongst the public. Komar and Melamid, through their Sots-Art movement, sought to reclaim aesthetic value in this propaganda-infiltrated system by using elements of Pop Art and conceptualism as they appropriated proliferated images, as well as words or slogans, in their satirical art work. This essay will analyze the political significance of both Warhol’s artistic practice and the Sots Art movement, and explore how each demonstrate and challenge 1. Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in its Age of Technological Reproducibility and other Writings on Media, 20. 2. Ibid., 22.


the role of art in the process of societal manipulation under both capitalism and communism, which both use images as a means of controlling their respective societies. Rosalind Krauss and Thierry De Duve, in “Andy Warhol, or the Machine Perfected,” see Warhol as embodying Benjamin’s notion of the perfect technological reproduction in his desire to become in effect an artistic machine.3 In “the factory,” as his studio was dubbed, Warhol used silkscreen techniques which allowed him to create infinitely reproducible images. This process, if understood in terms of the capitalist system, reflects the negation of the labourer’s intrinsic value while at the same time increasing the exchange value of the product of his labour. Warhol’s dependence on surface images such as consumer products, American icons and other symbols proliferated by the media reveals his adherence to the methods by which capitalism approaches its society. However, if we look at Warhol’s work in an environment of high art, the images he used constantly show the referent but ultimately deny their existence in our reality, as the depicted images bear no attachment to reality despite the fact that they bear its semblance. Here, we can define Warhol’s oeuvres as simulacrum, described by Jean Baudrillard as “the precession of the model.”4 The simulacrum becomes devoid of meaning since the copy has no underlying connection to the original, other than its appearance. This dislocates it from our reality, invoking a mirage in the public eye. Such a mirage can be understood as ‘hyper reality,’ where nothing is real and any truth lies only in simulacrum. 5 In order to understand the impact of this hyper reality, we must consider the relationship that we, as citizens under capitalism, have with the proliferation of images as well as the value we unthinkingly attribute to simulacra which are themselves devoid of meaning. These images are constantly proliferated throughout the capitalist world in advertising and the media at large, and they eventually colonize private 3. Thierry de Duve and Rosalind Krauss, “Andy Warhol, or The Machine Perfected,” in October, Vol 48 (Spring 1989): 5. 4. Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings, ed. Mark Poster, 170. 5. Ibid., 171.


life by means of consumerism. Because images bear resemblance to reality (even though they are neither the original nor real), they have the power to evoke emotion in humans. The capitalist system depends on human nature and our material desires as we become seduced with simulacra and plunge into consumerism, wanting the commodity which is promised to us in advertising. Benjamin may have anticipated much of what capitalism became, although he perhaps did not foresee how we would be so caught up by the spectacle of these images, even when devoid of an aura. An example from Warhol’s oeuvres is his depictions of Marilyn Monroe in the wake of her suicide. Warhol represents the infamous American icon in a Diptych series (fig. 1), building a hyper real understanding of her identity similar to how viewers of the spectacle understand her ubiquitous status in the media. A symbol of beauty, fame and sex, she is worshipped throughout the public sphere to this day. In this work, art and life collide with spectacle—her symbolic media life contrasted with the fading series of images depicting her death. Warhol treats her being like a commodity as he plasters her images like one would see on a billboard. The repetition alludes to Warhol’s fetishization of the commodity that was Marilyn Monroe as her image is depicted over and over again. Warhol then reconstitutes her identity with an aura of desire, of meaning, like the media does as they use her image as a tool to sell, imbuing her perceived identity with exchange value. Despite the fact that the images Warhol depicts may seem like universally intrinsically valuable icons, brands, and symbols, they exist only with underlying ‘value’ as a product of the capitalist system. As noted above, one dimension of the ideology of capitalism involves its selflegitimation through the proliferation of images in an attempt to instill meaning into its void. Blake Stimson, in “Andy Warhol’s Red Beard,” sees Warhol as adhering to the ideological/political ideal of capitalism by proliferating these legitimizing icons, but at the same time reveals the deceptiveness of the media in its manipulation of our value systems.6 This 6. B. Stimson, “Andy Warhol’s Red Beard” The Art Bulletin, Vol. 83, No. 3 (Sep. 2001), 540.


(L) Fig. 1. Andy Warhol, Marilyn Diptych, 1962. (R) Fig. 2. Any Warhol, Tuna Fish Disaster, 1963.

position—between that of political idealism and political cynicism—can be clearly seen in Warhol’s 1963 Tuna Fish Disaster (fig. 2). Repeating the image series of tuna fish cans alongside the images of those who died from eating this tainted product pokes fun at consumers’ ability to be affected up to the point of death by giving into the brand image. Anthony Grudin in “A Sign of Good Taste” illuminates concepts of Marx and class division in the analysis of this artwork, as it was the working class consumer who would give into brand images in the 60’s due to the fact that they valued such a product both for its relative affordability and also for its branded status, as opposed to its quality.7 Warhol’s cynical vision of class difference in consumer society demonstrates how the selling of an image can have impact on the actual survival of members of a class. By depicting consumerism’s evident impact on the lives of individuals as they fetishize the brand image, Warhol acts as a “solvent for neutralizing morality,” confronting the art lover with their own consumer identity.8 In the communist world, mechanical reproduction infiltrated the art process by means of propaganda (not that the U.S. didn’t also have massive propaganda). The constant proliferation of motivational slogans and signs were aimed at the proletariat worker in order to 7. A. E. Grudin, “‘A Sign of Good Taste’: Andy Warhol and the Rise of Brand Image Advertising,” in Oxford Art Journal, 33(2) (2010): 220. 8. Stimson, “Andy Warhol’s Red Beard,” 542.


reinforce the political base of the Soviet State and to sanction the revolutionary impact of communism into its society’s mindset. In this sense, Soviet communism used technological reproduction in order to sell and legitimize its ideology. Figures such as Lenin and Stalin, symbols of this ideology, were treated as icons, repeated and proliferated throughout society as leaders of this hopeful, “utopian” system. These easily recognizable symbols were a reflection of communism’s attempt to fill the political void of their ideology. The USSR’s aspirations to have a real socialist proletariat revolution were impossible as power was concentrated in elitist bureaucrats while its society did not possess the potential for revolution to spring from the fruits of its labour. These images then, asserting hope and the glory of the labourer under the leadership of a revolutionary elite, are a reflection of the communist void of revolutionary legitimacy and a society suffering from a lack of any democratic tradition. Its society, as understood by Baudrillard, is then suspended in a hyper reality when confronted with these hopeful symbols as they look into the face of the ideological system in which they inhabit. Since democratic political progress in the Soviet Union was at a standstill, its citizens were left only with simulacrum images that had no connection to a successful system of governance. Vitaly Komar and Alekandr Melamid, in their Sots-art movement emerging in the early 70s, incorporated elements of Western Pop Art alongside aspects of conceptualism as a means to reclaim endlessly proliferated icons from the hands of elitist-controlled mass media and return it to the hands of the individual by intervening artistically in these icons’ intended messages. By appropriating the public cliché of mass culture, they emphasized the repetitive and kitschy nature of their sources, just as Warhol’s appropriation techniques did in post-war capitalist America. Vitaly Komar describes this process as “art as imitation that poses questions.”9 By making the viewer pose questions, Sots art aimed to pour life and meaning back into the symbols, empowering the individual 9. V. L. Hillings, "Komar and Melamid's Dialogue with (Art) History." Art Journal, 58(4): 48-61.


to recognize the faults of the system as opposed to the legitimization of elitist power and “revolutionary” tactics. What differentiates Sots-art from the Soviet Union’s statist propaganda is their fluctuation between political idealism and cynicism as they parody the very system they replicate and inhabit, an irony similar to Warhol. Sots-art incorporates conceptualist semantic weight as a means of confronting the spectator. Mary Nicholas, in “We Were Born to Make Fairytales Come True,” discusses Komar and Melamid’s search for “perfect slogans” and “perfect citations” of a genuine believer of the system. She believes this allowed their work to take on a life of its own as these slogans said exactly what the artists wished to express.10 An example of these “perfect slogans” is their 1972 Slava Trudu [Glory to Labour] (fig. 3); the white capital block letters on the red background references State Soviet conceptual propaganda. As opposed to fetishizing these symbols of mass culture in an ideology saturated system (as done by consumer society in the spectacularization of images), this type of text-based propaganda results in what Komar describes as “self conscious attempts by the ‘liberal Moscow intelligentsia’ to block these visual saturations from their psyches” 10. Mary Nicholas, “'We Were Born to Make Fairytales Come True': Reinterpreting Political Texts in Unofficial Soviet Art," in Canadian Slovanic Papers, Vol. 53: 340

Fig. 3. Vitaly Komar and Aleksandr Melamid, Slava Trudu [Glory to Labour], 1972


as a form of psychological self-defense from the state.11 As Komar and Melamid confronted the texts at face value, they were forced to ‘mean what they said.’ Coupling the state’s hollow propaganda with Sots-art’s message forced spectators to think of the system as a whole, evaluating the meaning or lack thereof behind their system of signs. Doing so, the irony of their work reveals the reality of this hyper real system as one devoid of meaning, where truth lies only in simulacra that exist independent of an inhabited reality. The use of the icon in both capitalist Pop art and communist Sots-art reveals many parallels between the two social systems. The use of mock-heroic figures such as Lenin and Stalin by Sots-art reveals the hyper reality asserted by the selling of the communist ideology. In capitalist America, the society of the spectacle expanded the exchange value of their icons, resulting in a hyper real understanding of the icons’ identities in mass culture re-appropriated for high art purposes by Warhol. Leonid Sokov, a member of the Sots-art movement, heightens the parallels between both systems in their mutual proliferation of the icon. Occurring after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Sokov uses kitsch imagery to emphasize the banality and commonness of the “Soviet trash heap” (understood as simulacral images) as it enters the world of high art.12 An example of his iconographic work includes Staline and Monroe (fig. 4). Combining central myths from the East and the West, Sokov highlights the iconographic usage of historical yet mythical icons in each of these systems as a tool to legitimate and pour life back into each system’s void, in what he calls “Two myths—cocktail!” Stalin’s image as the face of both the successes and failures of the Soviet Union’s revolutionary forces spurs an incomplete understanding of communist history for its citizens, and the rest of the world, as his image was incessantly distributed.13 Marilyn Monroe, understood for her central iconographic presence in the universe 11. Nicholas, “We Were Born to Make Fairytles Come True,” 340 12. Saatchi Gallery, “Leonid Sokov’s Biography,” accessed November 24, 2014, http:// 13. R.C. Baker, “Leonid Sokov’s Cocktails and 500 cocks,” in The Village Voice (February 6 2013), accessed online on November 25, 2014


Fig. 4. Leonid Sokov, Staline and Marilyn, 1991


of spectacuralized images, provides an equally ironic understanding of capitalism’s warped utopia as it was the spectacle’s power surrounding her identity which arguably led to her suicide. Sokov uses each of the icons in conjunction with gold leaf surrounding them as he alludes to iconographic traditions of Western art, and specifically to the original icon, the Virgin Mary. In this sense, Sokov attempts to bring each icon back to an original sphere of tradition where an aura of originality and ritual worship are still accessible for these omnipresent, over-used, and inevitably meaningless signs. The painterly touch of the artist provides an aura of authenticity to these infinitely reproduced icons, allowing an ironic understanding of their hyper real identities as they attempt to attain Benjamin’s standard for originality in the process of technological reproduction. To conclude this (art) historical dialogue between the methods in which the communist East and capitalist West approached technological reproduction of the aesthetic process, one last example is worth noting. When Komar and Melamid emigrated from Soviet Russia to New York City in 1977, they extended their satirical artistic wit to a setting whose condition is similar to that of the communist world (as illustrated throughout this essay). The two established a company which was based in the buying and selling of human souls. Posters and print ads for the business circulated throughout the media and an electronic video advertisement was erected in Times Square, with the fictional company’s objectives clearly outlined. Standing beside ads from “legitimate” companies, this project by Komar and Melamid publicly revealed the traumatic reality of the very companies which they attempted to replicate—an irony akin to Warhol’s Tuna Fish Disaster. Indeed, the two managed to purchase several hundred American souls, including that of Andy Warhol who donated his soul for free.14 Having Warhol’s “soulful” support for this fictional company reaffirms each artist’s position as fluctuating yet firmly in between political idealism and cynicism in relation to societal manipulation by means of artistic spectacle. 14. Y. Kalinsky (n.d.), Parallel ChronologiesAn Archive of East European Exhibitions. Retrieved November, 2014, from


The common use of infinitely reproducible images to create modern icons played an essential role in both capitalism and communism’s ideological assertions as they were distributed throughout society. Capitalism did (does) so in order to exhort people to buy and thus legitimate the culture of consumerism, while conversely Soviet communism did so to exhort its citizens to believe in and thus legitimate the culture of domination and subservience within the system. Warhol’s serial work provided a new perspective on the rise of the image and its impact on citizens’ value systems within capitalism, revealing the simulacral reality society is exposed to when confronted with such images. Sots-art then furthered our understanding of the image’s power in society as the movement’s artists attempted to empower the ones dominated and manipulated by these institutions. In each respect, the artists’ satirical approach to the systems they critiqued allowed humor to infiltrate the process, revealing the moral indignation of a system without appearing too serious, or in Warhol’s case, without appearing overtly political at all.

About the author: Chloe is a U2 Art History student studying Political Science as a minor. As the daughter of two labour lawyers, she grew up with Marxist theory flung at her at every applicable opportunity. This, along with her keen interest in contemporary aesthetics, produced this critical paper.


Baker, R. C. “Leonid Sokov’s Cocktails and 500 Cocks”. February 6, 2013. Baudrillard, J., & Poster, M. Selected writings. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988. Baudrillard, J., Foss, P., & Pefanis, J. Revenge of the crystal: Selected writings on the modern object and its destiny, 1968-1983. London: Pluto Press in association with the Power Institute of Fine Arts, University of Sydney, 1990.


Benjamin, W., Jennings, M. W., Doherty, B., Levin, T. Y., & Jephcott, E. F. The work of art in the age of its technological reproducibility, and other writings on media. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008. Debord, G. The society of the spectacle. New York: Zone Books, 1994. Duve, T. D., & Krauss, R. “Andy Warhol, or the Machine Perfected”. October, Vol 48 (April 1989). Grudin, A. E. “‘A Sign of Good Taste’: Andy Warhol and the Rise of Brand Image Advertising”. Oxford Art Journal, 33 (2010): 211-232. Hillings, V. L. “Komar and Melamid’s Dialogue with (Art) History”. Art Journal, 58(4) (1999): 48-61. Accessed November 19, 2014. Kalinsky, Y. (n.d.). “Parallel Chronologies An Archive of East European Exhibitions” Nicholas, M. A. “’We Were Born to Make Fairytales Come True’: Reinterpreting Political Texts in Unofficial Soviet Art”. Canadian Slavonic Papers / Revue Canadienne Des Slavistes, 53 (2011): 335359. Rudova, L. (2000). “Paradigms of Postmodernism: Conceptualism and Sots-Art in Contemporary Russian Literature”. Pacific Coast Philology, 35(2000): 61-75. Stimson, B. “Andy Warhol’s Red Beard”. The Art Bulletin, 83 (2001) 527547.


Le Nightmare de Fuseli : désir, mythe et représentation

Lola Brière de la Hosseraye

Le Nightmare de Fuseli : désir, mythe et représentation Quand Henry Fuseli présente, en 1782 à l’Académie Royale de Londres l’œuvre The Nightmare qui signera sa renommée, le public est à la fois choqué et fasciné. Quoiqu’en l’absence d’activité sexuelle explicite, l’érotisme évident de l’œuvre et la présence démoniaque fut l’objet de toutes les interprétations. C’est plus d’un siècle plus tard, avec l’apparition de la psychanalyse que l’œuvre semble dévoiler son sens caché  : le rêve de la dormeuse serait la matérialisation inconsciente d’un désir incestueux. L’objectif entrepris ici, s’inscrivant dans la méthode poststructuraliste est de déstabiliser cette interprétation aujourd’hui ancrée dans l’œuvre elle même, de sorte que son sens semble incontestablement fixé. Par le recours à l’intertextualité, la polysémie et la mise en contexte de l’œuvre en dialogue avec son époque, j’entends déconstruire la signification tant répandue du Nightmare comme illustration de la théorie des rêves de Freud. Grâce à l’étude philologique du mythe du cauchemar et des informations biographiques éclairant le cadre de la création de l’œuvre, je montrerai que la psychanalyse ignore la multiplicité de significations qui hante les éléments qu’elle interprète, couvrant ainsi les réels enjeux inhérents au Nightmare de Fuseli. En effet, je soutient que par la volonté d’exceller dans les conventions artistiques d’une institution de pouvoir telle que L’Académie Royale, Fuseli perpétue l’objectivation de la femme en s’inscrivant dans la tradition du nu occidental, offert au regard voyeur masculin. Les narratifs misogynes duquel le mythe du cauchemar tire son origine sont incarnés par la représentation visuelle de cette femme et la perspective psychanalytique qui lui est aujourd’hui attachée perpétue la fascination construite pour une sexualité féminine mystique et menaçante. Dans The Nightmare, tableau peint par Fuseli en 1781, on observe une jeune femme allongée sur son lit, dans un état oscillant entre la transe et la léthargie. Comme possédée, elle fait vraisemblablement l’expérience d’un mauvais rêve, puisque sont présents dans la pièce un genre de gnome maléfique assis sur sa poitrine ainsi que la tête d’un cheval en délire qui semble avoir soudainement pénétré la pièce par le rideau rouge en arrière


plan. L’œuvre indique donc tout de suite son thème onirique : l’on assiste au sommeil agité de cette femme ainsi qu’à la vision de son cauchemar luimême1. Avec la naissance de la psychanalyse et l’interprétation des rêves de Sigmund Freud en 1900, la conception du phénomène onirique est désormais entendue comme l’expression de l’inconscient. Plus précisément, le rêve devient le domaine qui permet aux désirs censurés par le ‘Surmoi’ de s’évacuer lors de l’état inconscient du sommeil. «  The Nightmare  », peint plus d’un siècle auparavant est très vite devenu l’objet d’une lecture psychanalytique jusqu’à devenir une icône de la théorie des rêves de Freud. Selon cette dernière, l’œuvre donne à voir l’accomplissement angoissé d’un désir incestueux de la femme envers une figure paternelle2. Il faut dire que le ‘matériel’ ne manque pas dans l’œuvre pour assimiler les éléments visuels au narratif psychanalytique  : La fente triangulaire des tentures pénétrée par le pompon d’une part et par la tête de cheval aux oreilles étrangement dressées d’autre part, les taches rouges sur le sol sans cause explicable, l’aspect déchiqueté de la draperie qui accompagne la chute du bras droit, nombres de «clairs  » symboles qui s’ajoutent à la posture chavirée de la dormeuse!3 Le report de la figure du père s’inscrit dans celles du cheval et de l’incube, ce dernier étant d’autant plus horrifiant qu’il correspondrait à un désir plus énergiquement refoulé. Enfin l’acte sexuel serait lui même déplacé dans le soulèvement de la cage thoracique de la jeune femme4. Au cours du temps le sens (‘meaning’) proposé par l’approche psychanalytique à l’œuvre semble s’être cristallisé dans la peinture elle-même, faisant du Nightmare une allégorie de ce mythe du désir incestueux. Subordonnée à cette interprétation, l’œuvre ne se réfère plus à elle-même5, mais tient aujourd’hui le statut d’illustration de cette méthode : Sharon Packer indique que Freud possédait une reproduction encadrée du Nightmare dans son bureau, et Ernest Jones, autre ponte de la psychanalyse en a fait l’image de 1. Jean Starobinski, "La vision de la dormeuse," Nouvelle Revue de Psychanalyse, numéro 5 (Gallimard, printemps 1972), 10 2. Ibid., 14. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. Mieke Bal, "Dispersing the image: Vermeer story," dans Looking In : The Art of Viewing, (Routlege, 2004), 71.


couverture de son étude psychanalytique ‘On the Nightmare’6. Pourtant la pensée poststructuraliste, favorisée dans cet essai déclare que ‘there can be no such thing as a fixed, predetermined, or unified meaning7’ au sein d’une oeuvre. Il convient donc ici d’effectuer un travail de “deconstruction” et de “dissemination” de The Nightmare afin de d’exposer les autres significations possibles de l’oeuvre. Malgré l’importance des rêves dans la psychanalyse, Freud n’accorde pas au cauchemar un intérêt spécifique. Il l’assimile à sa théorie générale  : le cauchemar est une réalisation franche d’un désir sexuel refoulé dans laquelle l’angoisse prend la place de la censure. Pourtant traditionellement le cauchemar n’est pas un rêve. C’est Claude Lecouteux, dans son article «  Mara—Ephialtes—Incubus. Le cauchemar chez les peuples germaniques »8 publié en 1987 qui restaure grâce à son étude des croyances et du folklore médiéval l’identité réelle du cauchemar. Grace à son analyse philologique, Lecouteux explique que le cauchemar, Ephialtès ou Incubus, est une figure mythologique de l’Antiquité. Il est devenu dans la croyance médiévale un démon nocturne agissant selon un scénario précis et récurrent : c’est « un être indéterminé qui se jette sur le dormeur et l’écrase de tout son poids9  ». Ainsi le sens classique du cauchemar n’est pas un type de rêve mais un être surnaturel maléfique qui agresse physiquement le dormeur ou la dormeuse. Sophie Bridier va plus loin, indiquant que le cauchemar est un démon chevauchant le dormeur, scène terrifiante présentée dans la littérature folklorique comme réelle ou évoquée comme un rêve particulièrement angoissant.10 L’idée de « chevauchement » indique selon elle directement la présence du cheval : en effet tout l’annonce dans la tradition qui veut que le visiteur surnaturel venu de loin traverse les airs sur une monture prodigieuse avant de s’appesantir sur sa victime.11 Ainsi The 6. Sharon Packer, Dreams in Myth, Medicine, and Movies. (Praeger Greenwood, 2002), 42. 7. Mieke Bal, "Dispersing the image," 71. 8. Claude Lecouteux, Mara – Ephialtes – Incubus. Le cauchemar chez les peuples germaniques, (Paris : Didier Erudition, Janvier-Mars 1987), 2. 9. Claude Lecouteux, Mara – Ephialtes – Incubus. Le cauchemar chez les peuples germaniques, (Paris : Didier Erudition, Janvier-Mars 1987), 17. 10. Sophie Bridier, Etude d’une figure mythique, (Presses Paris Sorbonne, 2002), 19. 11. Ibid.


Nightmare, avec la présence physique de ce démon et de sa monture, venus perturber le sommeil de la jeune femme, aurait été dicté à Fuseli dans sa structure même par les croyances ancestrales. Le tableau « philologique » témoigne donc de la spécificité du cauchemar, que la tradition médicale établit également. En effet depuis l’Antiquité les médecins s’interrogent sur les causes d’un sentiment d’étouffement thoracique qui saisit parfois les dormeurs, surtout lorsqu’ils sont couchés sur le dos. Certaines sources soutiennent que c’est leur imagination qui interprètent une « compression » en inventant la figure du démon. Mieke Bal définit l’intertextualité comme « the readymade quality of signs, that the maker of images finds in earlier images and texts produced by a culture ».12 Alors que l’analyse Freudienne utilise les éléments visuels de The Nightmare comme des « signifiants » de cette scène de désir incestueux, elle ne prend pas en compte que ces éléments sont déjà les signes d’une précédente chaine sémiotique : celle du mythe du cauchemar. Fuseli, lui fut l’un des premiers artistes à reconnaitre l’énorme potentiel de la superstition folklorique européenne.13 Spécialiste d’études classiques il avait conscience de l’importance des allusions démoniaques au sein de la mythologie classique. Ainsi, dans notre déconstruction de la signification de la composition du Nightmare dans le cadre de l’intertextualité poststructuraliste il est important de souligner l’absence de “singular authorship14” de l’oeuvre: au contraire, plus de sens est à trouver au sein des textes de la culture de l’auteur qui prennent le statut de pre-text pour Fuseli. Exemple le plus frappant, Fuseli est connu pour être l’un des plus importants illustrateurs des pièces de Shakespeare. Aux nombreux tableaux s’ajoutent dessins, fresques et aquarelles utilisés comme illustrations aux diverses éditions des pièces du dramaturge.15 Comme l’explique Stuart Sillars dans Painting Shakespeare, les peintures supernaturelles ‘shakespeariennes’ de Fuseli produisent un réseau d’allusions iconographiques allié à une originalité de la composition exceptionnelle. 12. Mieke Bal, "Dispersing the image," 72. 13. Gert Schiff, Henry Fuseli, 1741-1825, (London: Tate Gallery Publications, 1975), 12. 14. Stephen Bann, "Meaning/Interpretation" dans Critical Terms For Art History, ed. Robert S. Nelson, Richard Schiff (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003), 129. 15. Stuart Sillars, Painting Shakespeare (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 98.


Quand bien même, comme c’est le cas pour The Nightmare, l’œuvre n’illustre pas exactement un passage précis de l’œuvre de Shakespeare, Fuseli prend l’habitude vers la fin du 19e de combiner sa passion pour la représentation d’états humain extrêmes à des ‘citations’ visuelles faites à des textes littéraires pré existants16. Ce faisant, il empreinte la signification pré-existente de thèmes et de figures et devient l’auteur actif d’un nouveau narratif. Ainsi la figure de l’incube, loin de la figure du père que veut lui attribuer Freud, est récurrent comme sa propre incarnation du cauchemar dans plusieurs illustration de Fuseli : dans un tondo de Cobweb (1785-6) on remarque un petit personnage qui tient au bout d’une chaine l’incube du Nightmare, dans l’attente d’être libéré afin d’ « attaquer » les femmes ensommeillées17 : la référence est faite au personnage de Queen Mab dans Roméo et Juliette : « This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs, that presses them and learns them first to bear ». Dans A Midsummer Night’s Dream, le personnage de Puck apparaît comme un gnome a dos de cheval qui galope au dessus de la tête de Bottom : ainsi reconnaissable dans l’incube du Nightmare de Fuseli. Les légendes dont le personnage de Puck tire son origine sont d’ailleurs similaires à celles du cauchemar  : « many times I get on men and women, and so lie on their stomachs, that I cause their great pain, for which they call me by the name of Hagge, or Night-mare.”18 Ainsi Puck devient l’incube lui meme, et Fuseli emporte avec lui le texte dont il emprunte les éléments en même temps qu’il construit un nouveau texte avec les “debris”19. Si ces recherches permettent de mettre en évidence les relations intertextuelles dont dépend le texte du Nightmare et sa signification, s’arrêter à cette enquête iconographique ne saurait satisfaire la volonté poststructuraliste de disséminer l’œuvre jusque dans son ontologie même et la relation qu’elle entretient avec son contexte d’origine d’une part, et les relations de pouvoir auxquelles elle participe. Afin de mieux comprendre les enjeux de The Nightmare, quelques informations biographiques et contextuelles sont indispensables. Comme 16. Ibid., 219. 17. Ibid., 220. 18. Ibid., 234. 19. Mieke Bal, "Dispersing the Image," 71.


l’indique Peter Tomory dans The Life and Art of Henri Fuseli,20 l’artiste a peint The Nightmare peu de temps après son retour d’un séjour en Suisse, où il tombe amoureux fou de la jeune Anna Landolt, nièce de son ami Johann Kaspar Lavater. Anéanti par la rejection du père de cette dernière qui refuse leur union, c’est empreint de passion et de colère qu’il fait son retour en Angleterre. Aussi écrit-il à Lavater une lettre en 1779 où il lui raconte son rêve : « Last night, I had her in my bed- my bed was rumpledmy hot, grasping hands wound around her- her body and soul melted into mine- my spirit breath and strengh poured into her. Anyone who touches her now commits adultery and incest. She is mine and I am hers.»21 De plus un portrait d’Anna Landolt peint par Fuseli est accroché au dos de la première version du Nightmare ; or la ressemblance entre les deux femmes ne peut être niée. A la lumière de la similitude entre la scène racontée par Fuseli et celle de son oeuvre, il semble donc plausible que, tourmenté par sa frustration amoureuse, l’artiste ait « envoyé » lui même à la jeune femme l’incube comme l’incarnation de sa jalousie et son ressentiment. La peinture alors apparaît comme l’acte ‘magique’ de revanche, et l’incube lui même pourrait prendre les traits de l’amant rejeté. Ainsi, les informations biographiques participent à redessiner une nouvelle interprétation de l’œuvre phare de l’artiste. Si le philosophe Jacques Derrida lui même affirme que toute interprétation d’une œuvre d’art est possible, il convient maintenant de se détacher de l’approche de l’historien de l’art traditionnel qui, comme le dénonce Owens, dans sa volonté de «  restituer la vérité  » n’a de cesse de supplanter l’interprétation à ce qu’il considère comme un « manque » à l’œuvre seule. Cette femme, malgré ses traits humains, appuyés par les information biographiques de Fuseli, est irréelle, tout comme les autres figures de l’œuvre  : ils sont des représentations. Ainsi il faut s’intéresser à cette femme en tant que construction, dérivée des choix formels de l’artiste : stylistiquement la femme du Nightmare est une démonstration de la maitrise de Fuseli du Classicisme. Exposée au sein de L’Academie Royale 20. P.A Tomory, The life and art of Henri Fuseli (London : Thames and Hudson, 1972), 31. 21. Ibid., 32.


anglaise, Fuseli semble utiliser la femme pour montrer au public anglais tout ce qu’il a appris pendant son séjour à Rome quelques années plus tôt.22 Sa robe, aussi blanche que du marbre, rappelle d’ailleurs les draperies des statues antiques. Comme insiste Mieke Bal, il est important d’analyser les conventions de l’époque pour comprendre la lecture d’une œuvre.23 Dans cette oeuvre l’artiste montre qu’il maitrise à la fois la rigueur des classiques, l’intensité des romantiques et la profondeur gothique; Il montre sa connaissance de l’histoire de l’art italienne (les liens faits entre la position de la femme et de nombreux chefs d’oeuvres de la Renaissance sont nombreux) et celle de la littérature anglaise ancestrale et contemporaine.24 Avant tout donc, la femme est prétexte pour Fuseli d’exposer son talent. Mais elle est aussi objectifiée au sein de l’oeuvre et de son système de représentation. Ce corps féminin est ainsi syntaxiquement placé au premier plan, ceci étant accentué par l’effet de chiaroscuro qui met en lumière cette femme pourtant “absente” mentalement de la scène, et donc vulnérable. Cet arrangement s’inscrit inévitablement dans la tradition du nu féminin, avec comme mode sémiotique dominant le voyeurisme et comme objet d’interprétation premier le corps de la femme.25 C���est l’histoire du voyeur masculin et de la femme objet d’érotisation inhérent à la culture occidentale de la vision. Ainsi nous concevons ici l’œuvre comme une production culturelle, dont la représentation fait partie intégrante du processus de différentiation et d’exclusion au sein d’une culture.26 La méthode psychanalytique –profondément masculine, comme le précise Mieke Bal– vient appuyer cette narration en faisant de la femme le sujet actif/ passif de son interprétation27. Au lieu de la considérer comme un objet peint, et d’analyser les potentielles projections psychanalytique de l’artiste 22. Brian O. Oard, "Reason Asleep" dans Beauty and Terror: Essays on The Power of Painting (copyright by Brian A. Oard, 2009) accédé le mardi 8 avril 2014 : https://sites. 23. Mieke Bal, "Dispersing the Image," 72. 24. P.A Tomory, The life and art of Henri Fuseli, 33. 25. Mieke Bal, "Dispersing the Image," 72. 26. Craig Owens, Beyond Recognition : Representation, Power, and Culture, ed. Craig Owens, Scott Bryson, Barbara Kruger, Lynne Tillman, and Jane Weinstock, (University of California Press, 1992), 96. 27. Mieke Bal, "Dispersing the Image."


lui-même, la femme est rendue coupable de son propre cauchemar. Cette misogynie quant aux interrogations sur la sexualité féminine était déjà présente dans les pré textes folkloriques du Nightmare, où il était établi que les partenaires des êtres démoniaques étaient avant tout les femmes : qu’elle y prenne plaisir ou non, la femme –parce qu’elle est femme- est toujours coupable.28 Owens rappelle par ailleurs que dans ce contexte l’interprétation devient appropriation  : Ainsi l’analyse Freudienne, en imposant son interprétation des rêves à la femme s’approprie son corps et sa sexualité. Que ce fantasme soit projeté sur une femme et contrôlé par une science masculine là encore dévoile la domination et la subjugation inscrite dans les systèmes de représentation occidentaux. La représentation n’est jamais neutre. Elle constitue au contraire un acte fondateur des rapports de pouvoir dans une culture. Ainsi The Nightmare participe à l’érotisation de la femme et son objectification dans la culture occidentale. En témoigne la position du spectateur impliquée par l’œuvre, et dont il convient, sur le modèle de la dissémination de Derrida, d’effectuer une lecture. En effet selon ce dernier cette méthode est indispensable pour déstabiliser la mobilité des signes en intéraction avec le spectateur. Fuseli nous invite directement à partager son expérience voyeuristique dans The Nightmare: en effet, si la femme ignore notre présence, le regard fanatique du cheval et celui accusateur de l’incube nous signalent notre intrusion dans la scène, matérialisant une autre sorte de crime : celui du voyeurisme. Le fantasme se déplace alors dans le regard du peintre, premier spectateur de l’œuvre, et dans nous mêmes. Dès lors que ce rêve est considéré comme le rêve de l’artiste (ceci étant appuyé par le récit de son rêve dans sa lettre à Lavater) et avec lui, nous même devenus ses complices, le sadisme infligé à la femme apparaît évident  : Brian Oard dans son analyse de l’œuvre remarque la distinction entre l’ensemble du buste de la femme qui semble s’apparenter à la mort, tête et bras relachés en arrière, et la partie plus basse de son corps étonnamment tendue : Son dos est arqué, comme le montre l’espace 28. Sophie Bridier, Etude d’une figure mythique, 21.


noir entre le lit et son dos. Son pied d’une blancheur extrême contrastant avec l’obscurité de l’arrière plan paraît également en tension. Alors qu’au dessus des épaules la femme est complètement passive, rendant, en l’absence de sa raison, son contrôle sur la situation inexistant, le reste de son corps apparaît dans une tension sexuelle intense  : pour Brian Oard, Fuseli a créé cette femme pour être l’objet d’un viol durant son sommeil. La tête qui refuserait l’acte est rendue inconsciente, les bras qui repousserait l’intrus sont rejetés en arrière : « she is built for rape. »29 Ainsi cette lecture du Nightmare apparaît bien plus grave et problématique que celle d’un rapport incestueux mais désiré par cette femme, interprétation psychanalytique masculine qui, sous couvert de légitimité scientifique s’acharne sur la figure féminine en voilant parfaitement la violence qui lui est infligée. Pour Fuseli, le rêve est ‘la personification du sentiment’.30 Ici, on soutiendra que la ‘personification du sentiment’ masochiste de l’héroïne n’est qu’un prétexte pour la ‘personification du sentiment’ sadique du peintre. Ainsi, grâce à une déconstruction des éléments de la composition de l’œuvre, informée par des éléments biographiques et contextuels de Fuseli et son époque, l’interprétation psychanalytique du Nightmare si pervasive aujourd’hui permet d’être renversée  : le fantasme censuré serait celui du peintre lui même projeté sur la toile. Dans l’incapacité de ‘posséder’ la femme qu’il aime il se venge en la contrôlant dans l’oeuvre et lui infligeant la souffrance. Mais, fidèle à la méthode de Derrida, nous ne saurions fixer et légitimer une interprétation comme supérieures aux autres. La signification de l’œuvre, les significations de l’œuvre, lui appartiennent. Le travail d’analyste ici est le plus pertinent quand il considère l’œuvre en elle-même  : Michel Foucault et Martin, Owens le rappelle, sont moins intéressés par ce que l’œuvre « dit » que par ce qu’elle « fait ». En considérant l’image pour ce qu’elle est, une représentation, construite de toute pièce et pas un miroir d’une légende ou d’un supposé phénomène psychique, la méthode poststructuraliste permet d’inscrire l’œuvre dans le champ de la 29. Brian O. Oard, "Reason Asleep." 30. Jean Starobinski, "La vision de la dormeuse," 10.


représentation occidentale et les forces de pouvoirs et d’exclusions qui y sont à l’œuvre.

About the author: Lola is a U3 art history major minoring in communication studies and French literature. Influenced by feminist theory, she grew to be critical of the way women are portrayed in art and media and takes on her assignments at McGill to explore these politics of representation.


Bal, Mieke. “Dispersing the image : Vermeer story” Looking In : The Art of Viewing, 65-160. Routlege, 2001 Bann, Stephen. “Meaning/Interpretation” Critical Terms For Art History, edited by Nelson, Robert S, Schiff, Robert. Chicago : The University of Chicago Press, 2003 Bridier, Sophie. Etude d’une figure mythique, Presses Paris Sorbonne, 2002. Lecouteux, Claude. “Mara – Ephialtes – Incubus. Le cauchemar chez les peuples germaniques” Études germaniques, Paris : Didier Erudition, Janvier-Mars 1987. Oard, Brian O. “Reason Asleep” Beauty and Terror: Essays on The Power of Painting (copyright by Brian A. Oard, 2009) accédé le mardi 8 avril 2014 : Owens, Craig. Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, and Culture, edited by Craig Owens, Scott Bryson, Barbara Kruger, Lynne Tillma and Jane Weinstock. University of California Press, 1992. Packer, Sharon. Dreams in Myth, Medicine, and Movies. Praeger Greenwood, 2002. Schiff, Gert. Henry Fuseli, 1741-1825. London : Tate Gallery Publications, 1975. Sillars, Stuart. Painting Shakespeare. New York : Cambridge University Press, 2006. Starobinski, Jean. “La vision de la dormeuse”, Nouvelle Revue de Psychanalyse, numéro 5 Gallimard, printemps 1972. Tomory, P.A. The life and art of Henri Fuseli, London : Thames and Hudson, 1972.


Reassessing the Characterization of a Misunderstood Elite: Vanity vs. Power in the Visual Record of the Byzantine Empress Zoe Porphyrogenita (1028-1050)

Krystin Chung

Reassessing the Characterization of a Misunderstood Elite: Vanity vs. Power in the Visual Record of the Byzantine Empress Zoe Porphyrogenita (1028-1050) In the year 1028, Zoe Porphyrogenita of the Macedonian dynasty became the first in line to succeed her late father, Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, as ruler of the Byzantine Empire. In one of the most scandalous imperial reigns that Byzantium ever saw, Zoe legitimized as emperor a total of four men, by marriage to three and the adoption of one, and also constituted one half of a joint reign between two female empresses.1 Among the most frequently documented traits of Zoe is her interest in cultivating a desirable physical appearance, both in reality and in visual representations. Her active pursuit of beauty caused those who observed her—most notably Michael Psellos, a political advisor to Zoe’s third husband, Constantine IX Monomachos—to position the empress as beautiful, but also steeped in vanity.2 In attempts to further expose this negative quality in Zoe, scholars have used a combination of visual and rhetorical Byzantine portrayals to support their arguments. The success of these efforts is indicated by the pervasiveness of Zoe’s characterization as vain, as well as by a lack of interest in questioning this attribution. As a result, Zoe’s so-called vanity is at constant risk of being presupposed and overemphasized, while important investigations into the unique ways in which she wielded her imperial power are fewer and further between. By positioning vanity, defined here as the “excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements” and extending to the idea of being power-obsessed, in relation to the social pressure that Byzantine society placed on women to meet set standards of physical beauty, this paper moves forward with the notion that if Zoe displayed a desire to attain these standards, she was not, in this specific aspiration, unlike countless other Byzantine women who were also striving to be seen by men 1. Barbara Hill, Imperial Women in Byzantium 1025-1204: Power, Patronage and Ideology (New York: Longman, 1999), 31. 2. Lynda Garland, Byzantine Empresses: Women and Power in Byzantium, AD 527-1204 (New York: Routledge, 1999), 153.


as beautiful.3 I will continue in the tradition of those who have used visual and rhetorical representations of Zoe to glean more about her, though instead of contributing to the propagation of her vanity I will explore what Byzantine images and texts can tell us about how Zoe exercised power and maintained the support of the populous despite her preoccupation with cosmetic experimentation, which was perceived as a negative pursuit. Although representations of the empress do not invite us to dismiss the idea that she purposely commissioned flattering portrayals of herself, they fall short of providing the amount of evidence necessary to substantiate a claim that Zoe, steeped in vanity, was only looking to secure her legacy in terms of her physical appearance. Rather, in an androcentric society that valued the male emperor above the female empress and women’s physical beauty above their inner beauty, Zoe’s experiments constitute a logical hobby that her imperial status and resources enabled her to take up more vigorously than the average woman.4 Her very ability to carry out this hobby attests more to Zoe’s power than any kind of excessive vanity. This paper will proceed by outlining the importance of women’s physical beauty in Byzantium to show that a concern for physical appearance amongst women was virtually universal, and not unique to the empress. Next, Zoe’s infamous cosmetic experimentation will be positioned in relation to this. Visual representations of Zoe and others at Hagia Sophia, in a manuscript of the Homilies of St John of Chrysostom, and on imperial coinage will be examined vis-à-vis secondary source scholarship as well as my own views on how these representations actually serve to combat the notion that Zoe was overly vain. By examining the relationship between one’s visual legacy and the degree of vanity we can attribute to them, I aim to prove that representations of Zoe can be read as predominantly concerned with relaying her power relative to the specific imperial figures she is shown alongside, and that if her likeness is flattering this is not an indicator of excessive vanity, but is instead something to be expected, born of a pre-existing artistic tradition that wanted emperors and empresses to embody the ideals of Byzantine beauty. 3. “Vanity,” Oxford Dictionaries, accessed December 2, 2015, http://www. 4. Hill, Imperial Women, 90.


Given the vast temporal distance between the Byzantine Empire and the present day, it can be difficult to fathom that there are striking similarities between the two. Nonetheless, primary sources, modern scholarship, and physical remnants from Byzantium suggest that women and men exhibited more than just a mild concern for their appearances and adhered to contemporary standards of beauty, as is also the case today. Although these standards were set by elites, they trickled down to the average citizen, so that attaining them can be understood as a common objective that cut across class divisions.5 For women, the ideal is described as having had blond hair, white skin, a round face, arched eyebrows, and a generally youthful, girlish appearance.6 Although art historical research about Byzantium has focused mainly on religious and imperial imagery and objects, there is a crucial way in which everyday, secular objects such as those encompassed in the 2003 exhibition entitled Byzantine Women and Their World directly indicate what the former do not: “a love of beauty.”7 8 It is noteworthy that Byzantines—men in particular—were sensitive to the concepts of natural versus contrived beauty. The former was desirable, but the latter was detestable; the active pursuit of physical beauty was deemed vain, and vanity was the least attractive quality that a woman could possess.9 Interestingly, Byzantium saw the expansion of the field of cosmetic medicine, which suggests that enough people believed attaining the ideal appearance, rather than remaining ‘unattractive,’ was the lesser of two evils. Among the developments in cosmetics was skin whitening makeup, which involved lead. 10 Apparently, “the recognition 5. Angeliki E. Laiou, “Women in the History of Byzantium,” in Byzantine Women and Their World (Cambridge: Harvard University Art Museums, 2003), 30. 6. Hill, Imperial Women, 89 and Marios Panas Affiliation et al., “The Byzantine Empress Zoe Porphyrogenita and The Quest For Eternal Youth,” Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 11 (2012): 247. 7. Ioli Kalavrezou, “Women in the Visual Record of Byzantium,” in Byzantine Women and Their World (Cambridge: Harvard University Art Museums, 2003), 20. Kalavrezou references some of the secular objects included in the exhibition entitled Byzantine Women and Their World, which took place in 2003 at the Harvard Art Museums. Among these are needles, combs, and necklaces, which Kalavrezou says help to illuminate for us the daily activities of Byzantine women. 8. Laiou, “Women in the History of Byzantium,” 23. 9. Hill, Imperial Women, 90-91. 10. In addition to skin whitening techniques, cosmetic medicine in Byzantium was active


that lead was poisonous did not discourage [Byzantines’] point of view on the importance of the white skin.”11 In light of this information, Zoe’s practice of cosmetic experimentation can be properly examined. Sources speak of the laboratory the empress housed in her personal quarters of the palace. It is described as having had large fires “burning all year round for the preparation of the salves and lotions that [Zoe’s] women made for her.”12 It has also been noted that Zoe’s preoccupation in the cosmetics arena motivated her so much as to import perfumes and makeup from far off places, such as India and Egypt.13 These practices of Zoe’s admittedly make it straightforward to surmise an argument for her vanity. Indeed, Zoe’s ignorance of the health hazards that these experiments posed to herself and to the women who were obligated to assist in them further adds to critiques of her vanity: Psellos tells us that Zoe kept fires burning during the winter and summer months alike, and was not accustomed to opening windows for fresh air.14 However, the parallels to be drawn between Zoe and Byzantines at large are clear and challenge the vanity notion. A great deal of Byzantine women, including Zoe, endeavoured to attain ideal beauty. Thus, Zoe’s unique ability to facilitate her own laboratory and summon the best in cosmetology from around the world is indicative not of a higher degree of vanity than other women, but rather the more exclusive power that the empress, and not others, had the capacity to harness. Liz James has explicated a view of power proposed by Pauline Stafford that departs from a traditional understanding and instead defines power as, among other things, the ability “to be in a position to influence others and to use their labours for one’s own prestige.”15 Ostensibly, this is exactly what Zoe in developing treatments for wrinkle erasure, the elimination of facial hair, moisturizing of the skin, covering up blemishes, and more. See: Lascaratos Affiliation et al., “The Roots of Cosmetic Medicine: Hair Cosmetics in Byzantine Times (AD 324-1453),” International Journal of Dermatology 43 (2004): 397. 11. Marios Panas Affiliation et al., “The Byzantine Empress,” 247. 12. Charles Diehl and Harold Wilmerding Bell, Byzantine Portraits (New York: A.A. Knopf, 1927), 236-237. 13. Diehl and Bell, Byzantine Portraits, 246. 14. Hill, Imperial Women, 53-54. 15. Liz James, “Goddess, Whore, Wife or Slave? Will the Real Byzantine Empress Please Stand Up?” in Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe: Proceedings of a Conference


did. Who else would have had the funds or the connections needed to move these small, personal-use objects such large distances? What other household would have been able to offer up the space that Zoe needed for her experiments? How many other women would have had the resources to pull together a team of helpers to whom they could delegate specific tasks? Disappointingly, instead of acknowledging the nuance between Zoe’s very common interest in the attainment of ideal beauty within a patriarchal society and the extraordinary pursuits that her regal status enabled her to carry out—and choosing to see this as an exercise of power— Zoe has been subject to the utmost criticism with respect to the way that her vanity supposedly had a harmful effect on her judgment and overall regality.16 As such, it is argued here that Zoe chose to sustain her domestic experimentation because it was a way in which she could pursue a hobby whilst exercising her power, without facing the official and misogynistic challenges to that power that she would have encountered had she been more active in external, governmental affairs.17 The mosaic panel of the Emperor Constantine IX Monomachos and Empress Zoe Porphyrogenita in the south gallery of Hagia Sophia (fig. 1) can be used to demonstrate that Zoe’s concern for a flattering physical representation was neither excessive nor unusual, but is actually more focused on expressing her power, albeit modestly, in relation to her husband and Christ. There is no shortage of scholarship on this artwork, mainly because its renovation, which took place after the coronation of Constantine IX Monomachos, saw the replacement of the heads of all Held at King’s College London, April 1995, ed. Anne Duggan (New York: Boydell Press, 1997), 126. 16. Lynda Garland, Byzantine Empresses, 153. 17. Lynda Garland paraphrases Michael Psellos’ comments on Zoe’s “absolute ignorance of public affairs”. See: Garland, Byzantine Empresses, 153. However, the challenge of being a female ruler in Byzantium with respect to participating in governmental affairs is palpable in the fundamentally contradictory and paternalistic account of Psellos. On the one hand, he criticizes Zoe for not participating enough in public affairs, while Dion C. Smythe cites him as also complaining that both Zoe and her sister, Theodora, were “faulted because they left the women’s private realm to invade the public sphere of government.” See: Dion C. Smythe, “Empresses and Empire in Middle Byzantium,” in Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe: Proceedings of a Conference Held at King’s College London, April 1995, ed. Anne Duggan (New York: Boydell Press, 1997), 151152.


Fig. 1. Constantine IX Monomachos and Zoe with Christ, eleventh century, south gallery mosaics, Hagia Sophia, Constantinople.

three figures originally depicted: Romanos III Argyros, Zoe, and Christ. Scholars have been interested in investigating why and how these heads were all renewed, in particular that of Zoe. Since Constantine IX made an unparalleled monetary donation to the church, it has been put forth by Nicolas Oikonomides that the patriarch of Hagia Sophia commissioned the renovation of the mosaic to depict him instead of Romanos III, Zoe’s first husband.18 What is more perplexing, though, is why Zoe’s head was changed at all. While this is certainly an important debate and many salient arguments have been put forth, a further investigation of it is not 18. Nicolas Oikonomides, “The Mosaic Panel of Constantine IX and Zoe in Saint Sophia,” Revue des Études Byzantines 36 (1978): 226, accessed November 25, 2015. Notably, Robin Cormack has rejected this in favour of the theory of imperial patronage, saying that Constantine IX “was hardly likely to miss his chance of a mosaic commemoration in S. Sophia, especially if his donation was to overshadow that of Zoe’s first husband”. See: Robin Cormack, “Interpreting the Mosaics of S. Sophia at Istanbul,” Art History v4 n2 (1981): 143.


within the scope of this paper. What is pressing here is not why Zoe’s head was changed, but what the new representation of her reveals on its own and in relation to the figures of Constantine IX and Christ. In her article on the importance of physical beauty as it relates to the imperial body, Myrto Hatzaki offers a compelling sub-argument saying that although Zoe’s portrait in the mosaic adheres to the prescribed physical beauty ideals of Byzantium, her image does not read as individualized, especially in comparison to that of Constantine IX.19 Not only is it true that Zoe exhibits the features that we can expect a “beautiful” Byzantine woman to have had, it also strengthens Hatzaki’s case that, even though Zoe was royal by birth and thus maintained the loyalty of Byzantine citizens, they were nonetheless skeptical and even opposed to a sole female ruler.20 Barbara Hill explains how “the historians of the time were happier with a man in charge: their support for the two imperial sisters was based on the growing concern with family inheritance but its ambiguity revealed their instinctive feelings about the proper holder of power.”21 After Constantine IX married Zoe in the year 1042 and became emperor, the most important governmental decisions fell on him. The way in which his image in this mosaic includes a distinctive beard bearing a clear resemblance to that of Christ symbolically elevates his authority above Zoe’s, as does his higher physical position.22 While the adherence of this portrayal of Zoe to the ideal beauty standards described earlier, including youthfulness despite the fact that the empress was in her late sixties at the time of the renovation, can help to bolster the narrative of her vanity, Hatzaki’s notion that she 19. Myrto Hatzaki, “Experiencing Physical Beauty in Byzantium: The Body and the Ideal,” in Publications of the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies, Volume 18: Experiencing Byzantium: Papers from the 44th Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies Newcastle and Durham April 2011, eds. Claire Nesbitt and Mark Jackson (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2013), 247-248. 20. There is one particular incident that truly exemplifies this. The Byzantines’ loyalty to Zoe is demonstrated by the way in which citizens rebelled at Michael V Kalaphate’s banishment of Zoe from Constantinople, crying, “We don’t want the cross-trampling Kalaphates as our emperor, but our ancestress and heir and mother Zoe!” See: Garland, Byzantine Empresses, 142. 21. Hill, Imperial Women, 49. 22. Robin Cormack, “Interpreting the Mosaics of S. Sophia at Istanbul,” Art History v4 n2 (1981): 144-45, accessed November 20, 2015.


is not styled in an individualized manner is crucial to the mitigation of this accusation.23 Presumably, if Zoe were so vain, her image in this highly visible mosaic panel would be both individualized and would emphasize her birthright to the throne. Instead, her features are merely pleasant, not remarkable, and her degree of power is displayed modestly in comparison to that of Constantine IX. Furthermore, Byzantine artistic standards at this time involved an expectation that imperial images were rendered in the way the emperor, not the empress, wanted to be seen by the public, which Hatzaki infers could mean that Zoe might not have had much agency in the matter of how she was portrayed in the mosaic.24 She also notes that “Byzantine writing indirectly suggests that, far from being indifferent to beauty, the public would have expected to see this prized quality manifested on the body of the emperor and empress not only in real life but also when depicted in an image.”25 In the interim period between her premature adoption of Michael V and her marriage to Constantine IX Monomachos, Zoe co-ruled the Byzantine Empire with her younger sister, Theodora, in a seven-week long stint where two female rulers were tasked with making decisions, the potential ramifications of which would be felt across the empire.26 Unfortunately, it did not help that the two sisters despised each other.27 Although this paper is interested in debunking the trope of Zoe’s vanity, it is acknowledged that such was not an outright myth. The measures that Zoe took to secure her own position above that of her sister during their co-reign are somewhat indicative of her desire to be viewed as the foremost empress in what was supposed to be an equal partnership. Although Theodora is documented as having been the more responsible and administratively active of the two sisters, it was still important to Zoe that she be seen as the more powerful branch.28 Theresa Earenfight has 23. Cormack, “Interpreting the Mosaics,” 143. 24. Hatzaki, “Experiencing Physical Beauty,” 248. 25. Ibid., 240. 26. Lynda Garland, “Zoe Porphyrogenita (wife of Romanus III, Constantine IX, and Michael IV),” last modified July 29, 2006, 27. Ibid. 28. Theresa Earenfight, Queenship in Medieval Europe (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 89.


Fig. 2. Zoe, Constantine IX and Theodora (Codex Sinait, gr. 364, f. 3r). (Taken from Lynda Garland (1999) Byzantine Empresses: Women and Power in Byzantium, AD 5271204. Published by Routledge, New York, United States of America.


revealed that Theodora’s inferiority was “symbolically represented by the way her throne was positioned slightly behind Zoe’s for public occasions.”29 This desire to outrank Theodora is echoed in a miniature of Zoe, Theodora, and Constantine from a manuscript of the Homilies of St John of Chrysostom (fig. 2). In reference to this artwork, Lynda Garland has pointed out that while both Zoe and Theodora are “described as Augustae and porphyrogennetae” in the inscriptions, “Zoe is additionally given the epithet ‘most pious.’”30 In a society that placed great value on imperial piety, Zoe’s epithet serves to differentiate her from her sister in a way that must have been most appealing due to the significance it registered in the minds of Byzantine citizens.31 However, none of this warrants an accusation of Zoe as vain, or even entitled. Firstly, we know that Zoe was extremely devout in her religious practice, and it has even been suggested that the fruits of her experiments were actually intended as offerings.32 Secondly, Zoe’s marriage to Constantine IX, regardless of its motivations with respect to effectively limiting Theodora’s authority, made her the wife of the emperor, and this association automatically came with privileges that Theodora, who still remained co-empress, did not and could not have. Marrying Constantine IX, however, also restricted Zoe’s power, which in itself prevents us from saying with certainty that the marriage was an entirely self-advancing decision on Zoe’s part. In another rare representation of Zoe and Theodora together, a Nomisma histamenon of the two sisters (fig. 3) issued during their co-rule, there are no discernable physical distinctions between them.33 Each wears imperial regalia and crowns in the style of an augusta, and both women grip the staff in an act of togetherness.34 Based on our knowledge of how power was more of a struggle for women to exercise publicly than men, and how within dynastic eras power was transferred down the imperial familial line so that “in 1028 Zoe was merely the link 29. Ibid., 89. 30. Garland, Byzantine Empresses, 163. 31. John F. Haldon, Byzantium: A History (Stroud: Tempus, 2000), 67. 32. Garland, Byzantine Empresses, 156. 33. Philip Grierson, Byzantine Coinage (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1999), 31. 34. John Beckwith, The Art of Constantinople: An Introduction to Byzantine Art, 3301453 (New York: Phaidon Publishers, 1961), 107-108.


(L) Fig. 3. Nomisma histamenon of Zoe and Theodora, 1042, gold, 25mm, Constantinople. (R) Fig. 4. The Crown of Constantine IX Monomachos, 1042, gold and enamel, 4.5cm (height), Budapest.

of legitimation between the end of one reign and the start of the next,”it is ultimately unfair to criticize Zoe for her aforementioned attempts to assert superiority over Theodora in public ceremonies, especially because she was in fact the senior sibling and the one married to the new emperor.35 36 Moreover, going back to the epithet about Zoe being pious, it is not for us to say whether this piety was, in comparison to Theodora, worthy or not of being distinguished. Indeed, primary sources such as Psellos’ writings make a special point of acknowledging Zoe’s religious practice.37 Since both sisters are otherwise shown as equals in the miniature, and are certainly given equal representation in their coinage, there seems enough evidence to assert that Zoe, despite her personal feelings of hostility towards her sister and their joint rule, acknowledged their essential equality of power in images. It is only fair to mention that even though Zoe understood that she and Theodora were officially counted as equals and acknowledged this in visuals, we cannot completely discredit the idea that Zoe felt she had a right to wield more power than her sister. However, the narrative attached to Skleraina, the mistress of Constantine IX who he actually brought into the palace, attests to the idea that Zoe was not overly vain or power-obsessed, 35. Ibid., 43. 36. Hill, Imperial Women, 49. 37. Lynda Garland cites Psellos writings on Zoe describing her as “not interested in the things that appeal to women—spinning and weaving—but on one thing alone: ‘the offering of sacrifices to God.” See: Garland, Byzantine Empresses, 156.


but rather that perhaps when it came to Theodora, there was a kind of deep-rooted sibling rivalry that could evoke an otherwise tame feeling of jealousy within her. While a Byzantine emperor with a mistress should not be outside our imaginative capacities, Skleraina’s formal invitation—which she received in writing from Zoe herself—to take up residence in the imperial palace with Zoe and Constantine IX does constitute a surprising, even scandalous acceptance of Constantine IX’s affair by Zoe.38 Because of Zoe’s stereotypical characterization as vain and self-interested, this news of Skleraina’s welcoming into the palace and the subsequent prestigious bestowing of the title sebaste, the Greek term for augusta, seems shockingly out of character.39 It has been stated that in her old age, Zoe was more mildtempered and cared less than she had previously about the optics of her reign.40 At this point, it seems the empress was almost entirely bound up in her laboratory and reportedly preferred more practical, modest garments to the ornate imperial outfitting of her formers days.41 The relevance of the Skleraina story here is to demonstrate that Zoe, in this instance that had the propensity to see a rather hostile reaction by her, exhibited no jealousy at this younger female mistress of her husband’s. Importantly, Skleraina is never represented in official visual artworks that show Constantine IX, Zoe, and Theodora, including the two mentioned above as well as the Crown of Constantine Monomachos (1042, fig. 4), a diadem bestowed upon the King of Hungary as a gift. Whether Zoe’s mild manner goes beyond a good temperament and into the realm of idleness and disconnectedness from her reign altogether is a matter for speculation, but either way it combats the notion that Zoe was excessively vain. Accounts that take Zoe Porphyrogenita as their subject should be wary of assuming her vanity prior to undertaking a critical survey of how and why other sources have labeled her as such. If a flattering visual legacy is seen as something that can signify vanity, then it has been the objective of this paper to argue that visual representations of Zoe are not so obviously 38. Garland, Byzantine Empresses, 149-150. 39. Ibid., 150. 40. Ibid., 153. 41. Ibid.


focused on securing a particularly favourable image of her. Instead, they are equally if not more concerned with expressing the accurate assertion of power as well as power dynamics. Although evidence secures as fact the lavish laboratory and cosmetic experimentation practices of Zoe, it is outside of our powers to judge that such was not merely an innocent hobby. It is also crucial to contextualize Zoe’s interest in cosmetics and beauty within a patriarchal society that called for women to adhere to ideal standards of beauty. By reflecting on visual representations of Zoe and positioning them in relation to stories that form part of her biography and social legacy, I hope to have made progress in the mission to dissociate Zoe from the embodiment of excessive vanity and to show how the maintenance, expression, and bolstering of power and power dynamics were at the heart of what she strived to emphasize in her own imperial imagery.

About the author: Krystin Chung is in her final year of study at McGill University, where she majors in Honours Art History and minors in Communication Studies. A class she took with Professor Cecily Hilsdale focusing on the art of Constantinople afforded Krystin the unique opportunity to apply her interest in researching temporally-specific conceptions of ideal beauty to the life and art of Byzantium, and to intimately engage with the biography of a figure whose story is remarkable in more ways than one.


Beckwith, John. The Art of Constantinople: An Introduction to Byzantine Art, 330-1453. New York: Phaidon Publishers, 1961. Cormack, Robin. “Interpreting the Mosaics of S. Sophia at Istanbul.” Art History v4 n2 (1981): 131-149. Accessed November 20, 2015. Diehl, Charles and Harold Wilmerding Bell. Byzantine Portraits. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1927. Earenfight, Theresa. Queenship in Medieval Europe. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Garland, Lynda. “Zoe Porphyrogenita (wife of Romanus III, Constantine


IX, and Michael IV).” Last modified July 29, 2006. http://www. Garland, Lynda. Byzantine Empresses: Women and Power in Byzantium, AD 527-1204. New York: Routledge, 1999. Grierson, Philip. Byzantine Coinage. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1999. Haldon, John F. Byzantium: A History. Stroud: Tempus, 2000. Hatzaki, Myrto. “Experiencing Physical Beauty in Byzantium: The Body and the Ideal.” Publications of the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies, Volume 18: Experiencing Byzantium: Papers from the 44th Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies Newcastle and Durham April 2011, edited by Claire Nesbitt and Mark Jackson, 233-250. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2013. Hill, Barbara. Imperial Women in Byzantium 1025-1204: Power, Patronage and Ideology. New York: Longman, 1999. James, Liz. “Goddess, Whore, Wife or Slave? Will the Real Byzantine Empress Please Stand Up?” Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe: Proceedings of a Conference Held at King’s College London, April 1995, edited by Anne Duggan, 123-139. New York: Boydell Press, 1997. Kalavrezou, Ioli. “Women in the Visual Record of Byzantium.” Byzantine Women and Their World, 13-21. Cambridge: Harvard University Art Museums, 2003. Laiou, Angeliki E. “Women in the History of Byzantium.” Byzantine Women and Their World, 23-32. Cambridge: Harvard University Art Museums, 2003. Lascaratos Affiliation et al. “The Roots of Cosmetic Medicine: Hair Cosmetics in Byzantine Times (AD 324-1453).” International Journal of Dermatology 43 (2004): 397-401. Marios Panas Affiliation et al. “The Byzantine Empress Zoe Porphyrogenita and The Quest For Eternal Youth.” Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 11 (2012): 245-248. Oikonomides, Nicolas. “The Mosaic Panel of Constantine IX and Zoe in Saint Sophia.” Revue des Études Byzantines 36 (1978): 219-232. Oxford Dictionaries. “Vanity.” Accessed December 2, 2015. http://www. Smythe, Dion C. “Empresses and Empire in Middle Byzantium.” Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe: Proceedings of a Conference Held at King’s College London, April 1995, edited by Anne Duggan, 141-152. New York: Boydell Press, 1997.


This Isn’t LA or New York: The (Temporal and Spatial) Life of Difference

Angela Yu

This Isn’t LA or New York: The (Temporal and Spatial) Life of Difference Introduction At the end of July 2014, The Calgary Herald reported that a local named Catherine was informed by the only fertility clinic in her area that she was exclusively permitted to use sperm, eggs, and embryos from donors of the same ethnicity.1 Although this policy had been officially removed by the Regional Fertility Program, the clinic’s administrative director, Dr. Calvin Greene, expressed personal hesitation towards the deliberate creation of “rainbow families,” and favoured the intergenerational racial coherence maintained by the same-ethnicity stipulation. The story circulated briefly but broadly on social media as critics denounced the clinic’s policy as “archaic,” naming anachronism in a medical institution more commonly associated with modern science and technological advancement.2 Although this spectacle of contemporary racial anxiety garnered public disapproval, the story received little follow up. A few months later, in early October, another story on the racial politics of artificial insemination emerged, this time with even greater media coverage and public response. Articles detailed the sequence of events leading up to a lawsuit filed by Jennifer Cramblett of Uniontown against Midwest Sperm Bank in Illinois for wrongful birth and breach of warranty: in 2012, a clerical error resulted in Cramblett’s impregnation with the sperm of a black donor rather than the “blond hair, blue eye[d]” donor whom she and her partner, Amanda Zinkon, had requested on the basis of shared resemblance.3 In interviews broadcast on CNN and The Today Show, Cramblett explained the difficulties of raising their mixed race child, Payton, in the rural Midwest, which she portrayed as homogeneously 1. Jessica Barrett, “No ‘Rainbow Families’: Ethnic Donor Stipulation at Fertility Centre ‘Floors” Local Woman,” Calgary Herald (Calgary, AB), July 25, 2014. 2. Maria Guido, “Archaic Fertility Clinic Proudly Refuses to Mix Races in Treatments,” Mommyish, July 29, 2014. 3. Kim Bellware, “White Woman Who Sued Sperm Bank Over Black Baby Says It’s Not About Race,” Huffington Post, Oct. 2, 2014.


white and intolerant in contrast to the tolerance and diversity attributed to coastal urban metropoles, a logic that motivated her desire to relocate to a “racially diverse community with good schools.”4 5 Seeking 50,000 dollars in compensation, Cramblett hoped to use the money to facilitate the rural-tourban trajectory advised to her by professional counselors and therapists. Public response was predominantly unsympathetic to Cramblett, as many believed she should adjust her expectations to accommodate her daughter’s needs.6 Furthermore, countless readers were keen to point out that, regardless of her race, Payton would have faced social exclusion for being raised by two women. Through their different locations and privileged subjects, these two events work with and against each other to unintentionally reveal the narrative labour invested in popular understandings of time, place and difference, as well as the time and place of difference. Greene and Cramblett share similar anxieties about the threat of difference, a term that euphemistically stands in for Blackness in the latter case. Difference is figured as disruption; it impedes an otherwise unchallenged sense of belonging maintained by racial boundaries that privilege whiteness. While Greene attempts to suppress this threat of difference by reinforcing sameness, I argue that Cramblett resolves her anxiety in a far more spatially curious manner that will be this paper’s primary point of analytical departure. In her narrative of progressive urbanism, the life of difference— the possibility to live difference or to live as different—is located to an imaginary elsewhere that suspends any opportunity for meaningful discussion of precisely why it is so difficult to be different here and now. Throughout, this paper alternates between the two stories to understand the temporal and spatial conditions of (racial) difference, both discursive and lived, within and beyond the context of assisted reproduction. The localization of harmonious difference to a metropolitan utopia, a process both complemented and complicated by the temporalization 4. Mayra Cuevas, “Ohio Woman Sues Sperm Bank After Racial Mix-Up,” CNN, Oct. 2, 2014. 5. “Cramblett v. Midwest Sperm Bank”, Circuit Court of Cooke County, Illinois, 2014. 6. Hillary Crosley, “White Mom Accidentally Gets Black Baby, Stresses Out, Sues Sperm Bank,” Jezebel, Oct. 1, 2014.


of social discrimination and racial violence to the past, prevents further inquiry into the structural conditions and affective force of race and racism in a culture that remains firmly attached to sameness. In other words, if the temporal attachment of reproductive futurism is a distant ‘someday,’ a tomorrow that never quite arrives, the spatial destination of this particular fantasy of multicultural diversity is indeed ‘somewhere else.’7 The novelty of choice, the banality of sameness Dominant discourses on assisted reproductive technology (ART) and same-sex families converge on notions of novelty and choice. Practices of assisted reproduction queer understandings of family ties, “blurring the boundaries between the biological and social basis of families.”8 While acknowledging the potential legitimization of genetic bonds in sperm donation, in vitro fertilization, and surrogacy, theoretical and empirical work in this area often emphasizes the subversive effects of these novel technologies on the traditional nuclear family. Advancement in reproductive technology challenges the presumed heterosexuality of reproduction, thus enabling the participation of unlikely actors and the inscription of new meanings onto family, kinship and parenthood.9 It shifts interpretations of parenthood towards “intentional” practices of social world-making, away from an essentialist framework invested in biological procreation.10 Participants of these practices are forced to reevaluate established claims to “real” or “legitimate” parenthood.11 Furthermore, despite its implications in class and accessibility, ART pivots around the notion of choice in its use by infertile couples, single women, individuals beyond the traditional birthing age, and gay and lesbian couples.12 7. Lee Edelman, “The Future is Kid Stuff,” No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (Durham: Duke University, 2004), 30. 8. Deborah Chambers, A Sociology of Family Life: Change and Diversity in Human Relations (Malden: Polity Press, 2012), 154. 9. Caroline Jones, “Looking Like a Family: Negotiating Bio-Genetic Continuity in British Lesbian Families Using Licensed Donor Insemination,” Sexualities 8, no. 2 (2005): 222. 10. Katrina Hargreaves, “Constructing Families and Kinship through Donor Insemination,” Sociology of Health and Illness 100, no. 3 (2006): 276. 11. Chambers, A Sociology of Family Life, 156. 12. Ibid., 157.


Families created outside of rigid heteronormative frameworks both with and without the use of ART are often referred to as “families of choice.” Historian Jeffrey Weeks suggests that these “attempts to broaden” established definitions of family are also “a more or less conscious effort to subvert them.”13 Conservative arguments against same-sex parenting indict its detachment from nature and inability to provide children with a suitable environment of care.14 However, as law and everyday practice challenge the basis of these homophobic sentiments, alternative configurations of family and parenting promise to “radically transform the meaning of being non-heterosexual in contemporary society.”15 The narrative of novelty that dominates choices made in the context of ART obscures their constrained condition and their particular conditions of constraint. While ethical debates surrounding ART readily engage issues of health, biomedical regulation, modernity and (class) privilege, these well-mapped theoretical concerns of safety, accessibility, affordability and acceptability take on new meanings when placed in their particular socio-spatial contexts.16 17 18 19 The two stories described earlier demonstrate the complicity of medical policy and patients alike in the affective maintenance of scientific and social investments in sameness, synonymous here with whiteness. In other words, although the growing use of ART by lesbian couples and single women is often framed as a novel disruption of the nuclear family’s authority and traditional heterosexual reproduction, normative attachments persist in these alternative practices of reproduction and family construction.20 13. Jeffrey Weeks, Brian Heaphy and Catherine Donovan. Same Sex Intimacies: Families of Choice and other Life Experiments (New York: Routledge, 2001): 11. 14. Ibid., 158. 15. Ibid., 160. 16. Jacqueline A. Laing and David S. Oderberg, “Artificial Reproduction, the ‘Welfare Principle’, and the Common Good,” Medical Law Review 13, no. 3 (2005): 337. 17. Josephine Johnston and Michael K. Gusmano, “Why We Should All Pay for Fertility Treatment: An Argument from Ethics and Policy,” Hastings Center Report 43 no. 2 (2013): 19. 18. M.S. Ghant, A. K. Lawson, K. J. Childress, E. Confino, and E. E. Marsh, “Racial Differences in Anxiety, Appraisal and Knowledge of Infertility Treatment During the First Infertility Visit,” Fertility and Sterility 100, no. 3 (2013) Supplement) (9): S81. 19. Naomi Cahn. “Barriers to Conception,” Test Tube Families: Why the Fertility Market Needs Legal Regulation (New York: NYU Press, 2009): 134. 20. Cramblett v. Midwest Sperm Bank, Circuit Court of Cooke County (Illinois, 2014):


The legal documentation filed by Cramblett illustrates how matters of choice, constraint, and complicity converge and diverge in unexpected ways that forcibly complicate a formulaic narrative of subversive novelty. Cramblett and Zinkon agreed that the former would be inseminated first given her older age and access to better health insurance.21 A local fertility doctor referred the couple to Midwest Sperm Bank in Illinois. Due to their respective childhood histories of sexual abuse both women believed artificial insemination was the best if not the only option to prevent bringing sexual contact with a man into their lives. Here, the transformative potential of ART is evident: artificial insemination facilitates same-sex couples that have experienced trauma to expand their families without a central male presence. However, the possibility of such services invariably depends on individual access to healthcare, the trusted authority of medical professionals and the privilege of mobility. Seeking a sperm donor with “genetic traits similar to both of them” that could be used for both of their pregnancies to produce “blood-related” children, Cramblett and Zinkon reviewed a number of donor profiles before selecting one with blond hair and blue eyes.22 Although donor selection is a deliberate, personal choice, the logic behind this one queers neoliberal understandings of choice itself. Far from being made freely as an exercise of unmediated individual agency, choices are deeply motivated by collective social investments in racial and biological continuity that legitimize the preservation of whiteness. Donor choice is a “ negotiate family identity” by same-sex couples wherein the desired continuity of physical similarity references the historical significance of “skin tone, eye colour, hair colour and ethnicity.”23 Race performs as a sign that secures the legibility of chosen families within criteria of sameness upheld by social norms. This normative attachment to genetic continuity as the basis for social bonds secures the position of 2. 21. “Cramblett v. Midwest Sperm Bank,” 3. 22. Ibid., 3. 23. Elizabeth A. Suter, Karen L. Daas and Karla Mason Bergen. “Negotiating Lesbian Family Identity via Symbols and Rituals,” Journal of Family Issues 29, no. 26 (2008): 35.


biological relatedness as “first choice.”24 The careful maintenance of physical resemblance across generations, a strategy that “invokes relatedness even where there is no genetic tie,” further reiterates normative constructions of family and kinship based on (racial) similarity.25 Indeed, Cramblett’s deliberate choice to maintain racial congruity recalls a long-held social attachment to sameness managed through an explicit repudiation of difference. Through the privileging of family resemblance, the repeated use of the same donor to construct ‘full’ siblings, and the value placed on racial consistency, the choices made in these novel, non-normative reproductive practices are themselves constrained by and complicit to the reproduction of the established social order.26 27 Thus, attachments to sameness labour under the guise of choice such that the subscription to logics of racial desirability and sameness go largely unquestioned in ART in their apparent banality. Narrow focus on the novelty and individualism of the life-worlds mediated by ART relegates these practices to a domain of banal intimacy, a move that blunts politicized discussion of the constraining conditions in which all choices are made. The time and place of difference In his position of medical authority, Greene, much like Cramblett, reveals a firm investment in the preservation of sameness. Despite public backlash, the clinic director remained firm in his refusal to facilitate patients who desire donors of a different ethnicity because such practices would “result in a future child appearing racially different than the recipient or the recipient’s partner.”28 Acknowledging Catherine, the woman who wished to consider options outside the limited number of white donors available, many of whom had already been used by several other locals, he insisted, “I’m not sure that we should be creating rainbow families just because some single woman decides that that’s what she wants. That’s her prerogative, but 24. Hargreaves, “Constructing Families,” 270. 25. Ibid., 269. 26. Jones, “Looking Like a Family,” 222. 27. Nordqvist, “I Don’t Want Us to Stand Out,” 646. 28. Barrett, “No ‘Rainbow Families.’”


that’s not her prerogative in our clinic.”29 He continued that, rather than looking outside the clinic’s group of Caucasian donors, she should “look harder, because...reasonable people can easily find a suitable donor.”30 In his rhetoric, Greene portrays Catherine as a demanding, impulsive single woman whose desire for a more racially diverse group of candidate donors is beyond the limits of what is “reasonable.” This irrational woman stands in opposition to the clinic, a place of medical science, rationality and common sense, wherein the term ‘suitable donor’ codifies and legitimizes the criterion of racial sameness. While Greene grants Catherine the right to pursue her desires elsewhere, he forecloses an active embrace of difference in the sealed space of the clinic. Greene’s anxiety around difference takes shape as an allegiance to multiple modes of uniformity. Unable to imagine a life beyond sameness, he questioned, “Why would you not choose somebody of your own cultural background?”31 In this logic of racial desirability, the preservation of whiteness is affected by a broader desire for racial congruity in social bonds. A poor imagination leaves no place for difference to live in the world. The suppression of the development of interracial and cross-cultural kinship through a promotion of sameness works to manage anxieties towards difference. Greene also lends legitimacy to the clinic’s policy by aligning it with in-province adoption and foster care regulations that prioritize the placement of children in families with similar cultural backgrounds. Indeed, the discourses and dilemmas of the two stories mark a continuation of tensions on racial difference that circulated around interracial adoption in the mid-20th century, an older practice of alternative family formation.32 In nationally broadcast interviews, Cramblett explained the difficulties that persist following the unexpected birth of her “beautiful, obviously mixed race” daughter, Payton, in Uniontown, Ohio, a rural 29. Ibid. 30. Ibid. 31. Ibid. 32. Laura Briggs, “African American Children and Adoption, 1950-1975,” Somebody’s Children: The Politics of Transracial and Transnational Adoption (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012): 47


midwestern town that is 98% white.33 Cramblett cited racial intolerance and homophobia both within her family and the wider all-white community wherein mixed race individuals and marriages were said to be completely absent. Furthermore, Cramblett admitted her own limitations in raising a mixed race daughter, offering her lack of contact with black people and unfamiliarity with African American culture as evidence of her inexperience.34 She hoped to use the funds from the lawsuit to relocate her family to an urban area with good schools for Payton to attend, explaining, “We just want her to have the ability to see different cultures, and possibly feel welcomed.”35 This imagined urban harmony contrasts Cramblett’s experiences in her rural community where, to have Payton’s hair cut properly, they must travel to a “black neighborhood...where [Cramblett] is obviously different in appearance, and not overtly welcome.”36 This parent’s coherent desire for diversity and intercultural contact for her child fragments upon her own confrontation with lived difference in the distant black community. In her understanding of diversity as demographic, Cramblett invests in the illusion that there is a place where her daughter, or any person of colour for that matter, will be “welcomed” with unmediated acceptance, a place where difference itself is merely a permutation of sameness. This urban fantasy domesticates difference, evacuating it of any threat. Cramblett’s attachments to the city are clearest in her characterization of Uniontown through what it is not, clarifying in an interview that the rural community “isn’t LA or New York. We’re not on the coasts. We’re in farm country.”37 For Cramblett and many of us, coastal metropoles align with social progress, tolerance and diversity while rural spaces are implicitly equated with backwardness, bigotry and homogeneity. This investment in a fantasy of uncomplicated urban social progress is best characterized by Scott Herring’s analysis of metronormativity, a term 33. “Cramblett v. Midwest Sperm Bank,” 6. 34. Ibid. 35. Today Show, “A Black and White Case?” Television. NBC, 2014. 36. “Cramblett v. Midwest Sperm Bank,” 6. 37. Bellware, “White Woman Who Sued.”


used to describe the assumed superiority of (queer) city life to rurality.38 This spatialized narrative of rural to urban migration is embedded with narratological, racial, temporal, and epistemological assumptions that ensure that the metropole will always stay ahead. Cramblett’s unquestioned metronormative assumptions materialize discursively in her need to move from rural intolerance to urban community and diversity. Her narrative subscribes to the belief that urban areas are always more “racially diverse and...inclusive,” progressive and socially advanced in comparison to the outdated traditions and conservative values upheld by the rural.39 City spaces are further privileged through a “hierarchized assumption” that reads “the closer proximity you have to a skyscraper” as a measurement of modernity and knowledge.40 Cramblett’s faith in the existence of an urban utopia for both herself and her daughter “facilitates the ongoing...depoliticization” of difference in the belief that the difficulties of living as different are merely a matter of geographic location.41 Thus, a condition of cruel optimism, “a relation of attachment to compromised conditions of possibility,” structures this urban fantasy.42 Lauren Berlant explains that optimism works cruelly through the subject when the object of desire is precisely what “impedes the aim which brought you to it initially.”43 Cramblett’s subscription to narratives of urban social progress prevents her from naming the structural conditions that figure Payton’s mixed race as an “unwelcome” disruption, and instead she pursues diversity and tolerance in the city, reluctant to recognize the unanchored mobility of antiblackness. Her metronormative imaginary functions as a spatial parallel to Lee Edelman’s temporal critique of “every acknowledged politics” in its orientation towards a future of liberation and equality that is always on 38. Herring, Scott. “Introduction: I Hate New York,” Another Country: Queer AntiUrbanism (New York: NYU Press, 2010), 14. 39. Ibid., 15 40. Ibid., 16. 41. Ibid. 42. Lauren Berlant, “Cruel Optimism,” Differences 17 no. 3 (2006), 21. 43. Lauren Berlant, “Introduction: Affect in the Present,” Cruel Optimism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011), 1.


the horizon.44 In this fantasy of the good life, ‘someday’ and ‘somewhere else’ are the privileged time and place, respectively. The relocation of thriving difference to an imaginary urban elsewhere erases the multiple lives and experiences of difference in the rural present. Indeed, the spatial figuration of difference to a distant urban imaginary obscures how difficult it is to live as different anywhere, ultimately leaving no place for difference at all. This mode of suspended discussion based on the spatial relegation of difference to an ‘elsewhere’ can be understood more broadly when placed in conjunction with the first story. While Dr. Greene claimed his authority over the regulation of sameness by aligning the fertility clinic with scientific rationality and contemporary adoption policy, his narrative appeared to be vehemently challenged by public criticism of the same-ethnicity policy as “archaic.”45 This identification of the policy as anachronistic implies that racism is a thing of the past, out of time and place in the North American present, which is conversely implied as liberal and liberated. This temporal maneuver willfully fails to recognize that such contradictions are actually constitutive to the narrative coherence of modern multiculturalism. Thus, an unquestioned allegiance to linear social progress implicitly refuses to address the myriad of contradictions that undermine fantasies of contemporary diversity, obscuring felt experiences of social exclusion and ongoing racial violence, and their enabling conditions.Spectacles of racist anxiety such as this one allow for both the spatial and temporal displacement of racism outside of the public proper and thus beyond ourselves. I myself was made aware of the Calgary clinic incident by a close friend from home who messaged an article excerpt to me along with a facetious comment that was perhaps more sincere than either of us would willingly admit: Thank goodness we have Alberta to make New Brunswick look good. Indeed, the naming of racial intolerance, and social injustice more broadly, elsewhere allows us to disarticulate ourselves from unjust conditions that exist in close 44.Edelman, “The Future is Kid Stuff,” 3. 45. Barrett, “No ‘Rainbow Families.’”


proximity. These media moments that appear only to be forgotten provide an opportunity for public outrage within a limited and limiting window of time. They allow for a visible, performative demonstration of our collective social enlightenment that does little to move beyond the progressive critique we’ve become all too familiar and comfortable with in national discourse. Consumption of these transient spectacles that affirm beliefs in collective social progress, in our ultimate and underlying goodness, are a poor substitute for sustained discussion about the libidinal investments that perpetuate racism in the present tense. One critic of the clinic policy condemned “assumptions” that skin colour determines “culture” or “well-being” as “unfortunate.”46 While the essentialist conflation of race and culture deserves to be dismantled, this liberal critique of racism that pivots on universal equality fails to validate the lived differences of racial difference, an inattentiveness that is also an erasure of the material force that racist discourses and attachments take on. Just as the discursive opposition of outdated clinic policy to modern social values forcefully evacuates the threat of race from the enlightened present, the myth of urban social progress suggests that racial difference is not an issue in the metropole. In other words, diversity is merely a matter of spatiotemporal mobility. Both logics constitute a failure to recognize that racism and its conditions of power move forward and outward. Liberal values of universal equality and love, though wellintentioned and potentially useful, further prevent meaningful discussion of the challenges of racial difference, anti-Black racism and its structuring conditions. In her numerous interviews, Cramblett repeatedly affirmed the unconditional love that she and Zinkon have for their daughter, that she would “never trade it for the world.”47 She insisted that she did “not find any problems with having a mixed race child,” a statement that covers over the objections and anxieties outlined in her lawsuit.48 One reporter remarked in the interview that kids are bullied for many reasons, questioning why it 46. Ibid. 47. Today Show, “A Black and White Case?” 48. Ibid.


matters what others say, and whether Cramblett worries about how Payton will react in the future upon learning of the lawsuit. Cramblett responded, She’s gonna know what she is and where she came from, and how all this happened. That conversation was going to happen no matter what. She’s going to know that we love her unconditionally. Everybody around her loves her so I think she’s gonna know why we did what we did. The basis of the lawsuit, and why we’re doing what we’re doing, is so that somebody’s held accountable and this isn’t going to happen to anybody else.49 In this logic, unconditional love is the remedy for the violence of racial desirability. However, this remedy should not be mistaken as a cure. The limits of love have been explored in critical work on interracial adoption insofar as “all the mother love in the world [will] not inoculate black children from future conflicts.”50 While Payton is loved, her mixed race was never considered desirable, and thus never considered prior to her birth. Furthermore, Cramblett is explicit that a similar situation is in no way desired in the future, a disavowal of difference that partially forms the basis of the lawsuit. Nonetheless, Cramblett maintains that, “it wasn’t about ‘we didn’t want you, we wanted a white baby.’”51 This insistence on love refuses to reckon with the fact of Blackness.52 However, as a public document, Cramblett’s lawsuit makes clear what she herself cannot say. Affect and Afro-Pessimism Cramblett’s lawsuit describes her experience in highly affective terms. Upon learning of the sperm bank’s “mistake,” “confused and upset,” Cramblett responded by crying “uncontrollably” as the “excitement and anticipation” of her carefully planned pregnancy was displaced by “anger, disappointment and fear.”53 Though “not easily overwhelmed by emotion,” “she began to shake...and could not breathe. She could not speak or think straight. Her hands and feet became numb.” Cramblett’s mother drove 49. CNN Tonight, “Sperm Bank Mixes Up Sperm”, Television, CNN, 2014. 50. Karen Dubinsky, “The Hybrid Baby: Domestic Interracial Adoption since the 1950s,” Babies without Borders: Adoption and Migration across the Americas, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010), 64. 51. Today Show, “A Black and White Case?” 52. Franz Fanon, “The Fact of Blackness,” Black Skin, White Masks, trans. Charles Lam Markmann (London: Pluto Press, 2008), 84. 53. “Cramblett v. Midwest Sperm Bank,” 4-5.


over an hour to comfort her. Like the long commute required to cut Payton’s hair, this traversal of distance signals the challenges of lived racial difference. In the present, Cramblett experiences “fears, anxieties and uncertainty about her future and Payton’s future,” particularly in regard to her daughter’s imagined enrollment in an all-white school.54 Cramblett’s intensely affective response to Payton’s mixed race cannot be localized to individual bodies (her own), a particular time (the past) or a specific place (the rural), but rather must be taken as a structure of feeling indicative of broader social issues.55 It requires a direct recognition of the structural condition of Blackness and its lived difference in the world. In her attachment to unconditional love and the myth of urban diversity, Cramblett fixes herself firmly to a politics of life that fails to acknowledge the ontological position of Blackness in the social world that Afro-Pessimist thought powerfully explores. Frank Wilderson explains that the legacy of slavery makes Blackness “an experience without analog” in the Western world, such that, “for Black people, civil society itself— rather than its abuses or shortcomings—is a state of emergency.”56,57 Jared Sexton’s theorization of the inseparability of black social life from black social death, “or rather that black life is lived in social death,” does not figure blackness as the pathogen but rather the world itself, “the whole possibility of and desire for a world,” a world structured by anti-blackness.58 “The disorder and incoherence of Blackness,” glimpsed in Cramblett’s contradictory sentiments and affective distress towards her daughter’s mixed race, exceed liberal rhetorics of universal equality and unconditional love to instead demand “the disconfiguration of civil society.”60 The threat of unrestrained difference, difference that takes on a life, cannot be fully 59

54. Ibid., 6. 55. Raymond Williams, “Structures of Feeling,” Marxism and Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 132. 56. Frank B. Wilderson, “The Prison Slave as Hegemony’s (Silent) Scandal” In Warfare in the American Homeland: Policing and Prison in a Penal Democracy, ed. Joy James. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007), 31. 57. Ibid., 24. 58. Jared Sexton, “The Social Life of Social Death: On Afro-Pessimism and Black Optimism,” InTensions 5 (2011): 29. 59. Ibid., 31. 60. Wilderson, “The Prison Slave,” 34.


contained by attachments to sameness that maintain the established social order through logics of racial desirability and multicultural diversity. The life of racial difference, specifically blackness—its challenges, negotiation and disruptive force—persists within the normative confines of the here and now, and holds a promise of flight. The complicity, contradictions and constraints of these two cases of racial difference complicate narratives of unilateral medical gatekeeping, novelty and subversion, and social progress typically employed in analyses of assisted reproduction. The spatialization of difference to an imaginary urban elsewhere and the temporalization of racism to the past collaborate discursively to obscure the structural conditions of blackness and lived difference in the present. Depoliticized attachments to multicultural equality, diversity and unconditional love further displace racism outside the realm of public identification in a refusal to reckon with the incoherence of blackness that threatens to disarticulate the violent logics of society itself. What affective and political possibilities make themselves known when we willingly engage ongoing legacies of racial violence? In its contradictions and incoherence, the constrained yet expansive life of difference escapes calculation by fantasies of ‘someday’ and ‘somewhere.’

About the author: Angela Yu recently completed her Bachelor of Science in Biology and Women’s Studies, and is now a graduate student in the Biology Department. She is interested in the critical analysis of the social values that inform scientific research and medicine. In writing this paper, Angela had to contemplate her own complicated connections to science and rurality.



Barrett, Jessica. “No ‘Rainbow Families’: Ethnic Donor Stipulation at Fertility Centre ‘Floors” Local Woman.” Calgary Herald (Calgary, AB), July 25, 2014. Bellware, Kim. “White Woman Who Sued Sperm Bank Over Black Baby Says It’s Not About Race,” Huffington Post, Oct. 2, 2014. Berlant, Lauren. “Cruel Optimism,” Differences 17 no. 3 (2006), 20-36. Berlant, Lauren. “Introduction: Affect in the Present” In Cruel Optimism, 1-21. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011. Cahn, Naomi. “Barriers to Conception” In Test Tube Families: Why the Fertility Market Needs Legal Regulation, 133-144. New York: NYU Press, 2009. Chambers, Deborah. A Sociology of Family Life: Change and Diversity in Intimate Relations. Cambridge, Mass.: Polity Press, 2012. CNN Tonight. “Sperm Bank Mixes Up Sperm,” Television, CNN, 2014. Cramblett v. Midwest Sperm Bank, Circuit Court of Cooke County, Illinois, 2014. Crosley, Hillary. “White Mom Accidentally Gets Black Baby, Stresses Out, Sues Sperm Bank,” Jezebel, Oct. 1, 2014. Cuevas, Mayra. “Ohio Woman Sues Sperm Bank After Racial MixUp,” CNN, Oct. 2, 2014. Karen Dubinsky, “The Hybrid Baby: Domestic Interracial Adoption since the 1950s” In Babies without Borders: Adoption and Migration across the Americas, 57-92. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010. Edelman, Lee. “The Future is Kid Stuff ” In No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive, 1-31.Durham: Duke University, 2004. Fanon, Franz. “The Fact of Blackness” In Black Skin, White Masks. Trans. Charles Lam Markmann, 82-108. London: Pluto Press, 2008. Ghant, M.S., A. K. Lawson, K. J. Childress, E. Confino, and E. E. Marsh. “Racial Differences in Anxiety, Appraisal and Knowledge of Infertility Treatment During the First Infertility Visit,” Fertility and Sterility 100, no. 3 (2013): S81-2. Hargreaves, Katrina. “Constructing Families and Kinship through Donor Insemination.” Sociology of Health and Illness 28, no. 3 (2006): 261-83. Herring, Scott. “Introduction: I Hate New York” In Another Country: Queer Anti-Urbanism, 1-29. New York: NYU Press, 2010. Johnston, Josephine and Michael K. Gusmano. “Why We Should All Pay


for Fertility Treatment: An Argument from Ethics and Policy,” Hastings Center Report 43 no. 2 (2013): 19-21. Jones, Caroline. “Looking Like a Family: Negotiating Bio-Genetic Continuity in British Lesbian Families Using Licensed Donor Insemination,” Sexualities 8, no. 2 (2005): 221-37. Laing, Jaqueline A. and David S. Oderberg. “Artificial Reproduction, the ‘Welfare Principle,’ and the Common Good,” Medical Law Review 13, no. 3 (2005): 337-56. Nordqvist, Petra. “’I Don’t Want Us to Stand Out More Than We Already Do’: Lesbian Couples Negotiating Family Connections in Donor Conception,” Sexualities 15, no. 5 (2012): 644-61. Suter, Elizabeth A., Karen L. Daas and Karla Mason Bergen. “Negotiating Lesbian Family Identity via Symbols and Rituals.” Journal of Family Issues 29, no. 26 (2008): 26-47. Weeks, Jeffrey, Brian Heaphy and Catherine Donovan. Same Sex Intimacies: Families of Choice and other Life Experiments. New York: Routledge, 2001. Sexton, Jared. “The Social Life of Social Death: On Afro-Pessimism and Black Optimism.” InTensions 5 (2011): 1-47. Today Show. “A Black and White Case?” Television. NBC, 2014. Wilderson, Frank B. “The Prison Slave as Hegemony’s (Silent) Scandal” In Warfare in the American Homeland: Policing and Prison in a Penal Democracy, edited by Joy James, 23-34. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007. Williams, Raymond. “Structures of Feeling” In Marxism and Literature, 128-135. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.


Sarah Bentivegna, By the Sea, Collage, 2016

Canvas Editorial Board Editor-in-Chief Ben Demers is a third year Joint Honors Cultural Studies and Urban Studies major with a minor in Communication Studies, and has edited for Canvas for the past three years. He enjoys the sheer range of papers that students submit to the journal. His own interests lie primarily in queer media and narratives, particularly those surrounding the space of the city. Editors Madeleine Cruickshank is working towards a double major in Art History and Sociology with a minor in Cultural Studies. She has always found editing to be a fun and fulfilling process, one that strengthens both her own writing and the work of others. She has mostly studied Modern European art, but is personally most interested in Contemporary artwork. She is also fascinated by advertisements and plans on studying marketing in the future. This is her first year as an editor for Canvas, and she looks forward to contributing to the journal more in the future! Krystin Chung is an enthusiastic member of the Art History and Communication Studies Department who is thrilled to be on the Canvas editorial board for the second year in a row. She feels fortunate to have the chance to read the riveting and insightful essays of her peers and enjoys being able to play a part in bringing some of their amazing content to a wider community! Jemma Elliott-Israelson has been an editor for Hirundo, the Classics Departmental journal since 2013, and for Canvas since 2014. Her work on late 19th century British Portraiture and Aestheticism will take her to the UK for further study next year at the University of Edinburgh and the University of London, before pursuing her MA in Victorian and Edwardian portraiture in London. Catherine LaMendola is currently in her third year of study, working towards an Honours Art History degree and a minor in Anthropology. After graduating from McGill, she hopes to attend graduate school to further pursue her research in American Outsider Art. She enjoys editing for Canvas because she believes the journal provides an invaluable opportunity for undergraduates to publish their research.

Mari Obi is in her third year of an undergraduate degree in English Literature with minors in Communication Studies and World Cinemas. She could not pass by the opportunity to join the Canvas editorial team and now happily reads essays that navigate the fields of both art and technology. She is hopeful that life after graduation will find her pursuing her interests in literature, film, and media. Muhan Zhang is a second-year honours Art History major, East Asian Studies minor and a first-time editor for both departments’ undergraduate journals. In addition to reading stuff as an editor, she also occasionally writes stuff as an art contributor for The Fine Print magazine. While she’ll probably tell you her dream is to curate or write about contemporary East Asian art, her actual dream is to nap like a kindergartener everyday after lunch.

Canvas Journal - Volume XV Spring 2016