Too Beautiful to Picture: Zeuxis, Myth, and Mimesis by Elizabeth C. Mansfield

By Elizabeth C. Mansfield

Few stories of creative triumph can rival the tale of Zeuxis. As first stated through Cicero and Pliny, the painter Zeuxis got down to painting Helen of Troy, but if he discovered unmarried version couldn't fit Helen’s good looks, he mixed the simplest beneficial properties of 5 varied versions. A primer on mimesis in artwork making, the Zeuxis fable additionally illustrates ambivalence in regards to the skill to depend on nature as a version for perfect shape. In Too attractive to photo, Elizabeth C. Mansfield engages the visible arts, literature, and function to envision the need to make the fitting obvious. She unearths within the Zeuxis delusion facts of a cultural primal scene that manifests itself in gendered phrases. Mansfield considers the various depictions of the legend throughout the Renaissance and questions its absence throughout the eighteenth century. delivering interpretations of Angelica Kauffman’s work, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Mansfield additionally considers Orlan’s carnal artwork as a profound retelling of the parable. all through, Mansfield asserts that the Zeuxis legend encodes an subconscious checklist of the West’s reliance on mimetic illustration as a motor vehicle for metaphysical solace. Elizabeth C. Mansfield is affiliate professor of artwork historical past on the college of the South.

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Extra resources for Too Beautiful to Picture: Zeuxis, Myth, and Mimesis

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While observing the enchanting automaton through his glass, Nathanael witnesses what he believes to be a horrible attack on the woman as her eyes are torn out by his oculist. ”²⁵ Freud associates the preoccupation with sight in “The Sandman” with the castration complex. ”²⁶ But what Freud fails to address directly is the necessary link between vision and all his instances of the uncanny. ²⁷ His personal accounts of uncanny experiences, for instance, describe his disorientation at mistaking his reflection in a mirror for another man or his disorientation at seeing prostitutes during his uncanny walk through an unfamiliar Italian town.

But in antiquity, the term referred to a more complex mode of representation. Not simply the imitation of something or someone, mimetic representation involved generalizing, modifying, or idealizing observed reality. Göran Sörbom argues that the term is probably a cognate of mimos, meaning actors who perform as mimes. ²⁰ Mimes did not seek to reproduce exactly the gestures or deportment of a particular individual. Instead, they worked to portray a type: greedy old man, brave warrior, and so on.

This amusing tale of an artist’s deflated hubris revolves around mistaking representation for reality, first on the part of the birds and then on the part of Zeuxis himself. Interestingly, the uncanny phenomenon of birds pecking at imaginary grapes is given little emphasis. Pliny’s account instead stresses Zeuxis’s misapprehension, but even then the confounding of reality THE ZEUXIS MYTH 27 ≤ and representation receives only passing notice. Instead, it is Zeuxis’s embarrassment and concession of defeat that propels the narrative.

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