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Extra info for An Introduction to Oil Painting (DK Art School)
To attempt an answer in terms of formalism, however, is very much demanded by the present condition of the discipline of art history. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that a formalist semantics of the image has not yet emerged - despite its enormous prestige and diffusion, in the 1950s and 1960s, in linguistics, in anthropology, and in the study of literary texts. A sort of formalism in art history certainly exists, and has done so at least since Morelli, but its main tendency is to examine the image in dissociation.
Whereas the viewer can consult an iconological dictionary to determine the precise meaning of the attribute carried by a particular saint, with the crucial codes of connotation - the codes of the face and body in movement (pathognomics), the codes of the face at rest (physiognomics), and the codes of fashion or dress - no equivalent lexicon exists: there is no dictionary of these things that we can consult. Knowledge of these codes is distributed through the social formation in a diffuse, amorphous manner ..
The formalist barrier or cordoll sanitaire separating world from image may establish an internal ratio in the first place, a ratio evident within the four sides of the image and nowhere else; but once connotation is introduced into the image, the image is penetrated or ventilated from a domain outside the formalist enclosure. If the image in which connotation plays an important role - the image as much in Palaeologue Byzantium as in trecento Italy - seeks a discontinuity with the strictly iconographic codes, it thereby enters into contilluih} with material practice; its technical advances permit more and more of the tacit or doxological codes to circulate within its boundaries.