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Denigrating the 'feminising' North A843 Ex. 1.3.2

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Tuesday, 14 Nov 2017, 08:08

Vasari’s norms

1.      Rule, then, in architecture, was the process of taking measurements from antiquities and studying the ground-plans of ancient edifices for the construction of modern buildings.

2.      Order was the separating of one style from another, so that each body should receive its proper members, with no more interchanging between Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Tuscan.

3.      Proportion was the universal law applying both to architecture and to sculpture, that all bodies should be made correct and true, with the members in proper harmony; and so, also, in painting.

4.      Draughtsmanship was the imitation of the most beautiful parts of nature in all figures, whether in sculpture or in painting; and for this it is necessary to have a hand and a brain able to reproduce with absolute accuracy and precision, on a level surface— whether by drawing on paper, or on panel, or on some other level surface— everything that the eye sees; and the same is true of relief in sculpture.

5.      Manner then attained to the greatest beauty from the practice which arose of constantly copying the most beautiful objects, and joining together these most beautiful things, hands, heads, bodies, and legs, so as to make a figure of the greatest possible beauty. This practice was carried out in every work for all figures, and for that reason it is called the beautiful manner.

Preziosi, Donald. Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology, Oxford University Press, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, .

Created from open on 2017-11-13 23:40:14.

Flemish painting … will appeal to women, especially the very old and the very young, and also to monks and nuns, and to certain nobles who have no sense of true harmony. In Flanders they paint with a view to external exactness such things as may cheer you and of which you cannot speak ill, as for example saints and prophets. They paint stuff and masonry, the green grass of the fields, the shadow of the trees, and rivers and bridges which they call landscapes … All this, though it pleases some persons, is done without reason or art, without symmetry or proportion, without skilful choice of boldness and finally without substance or vigour.

(quoted in Nash, 2008, p. 35)

How does the author characterise Netherlandish painting? In what ways does he imply that it is deficient by Italianate standards?


The intention here is to suggest that the art is of a secondary nature. That judgement is cast in a gender binary – that characterises the best as necessarily masculine in its appeal and design. What then do women lack in this respect? There is an appeal to the Italianate standards outlined by Vasari but we need to see why those standards are thought to be masculine. The clue is in the constant appeal to rigour, long practice and submission to laws of perfected creation – the latter encapsulated in rule, proportion and ‘harmony’. Not surprisingly it is women outside even the capacity to themselves to be perceived by men as ‘beautiful’ that the excess and disharmony of ‘feminine’ practice rules in this judgement.

This is not because the practice in the North is inherently untrue but because its appeal is to mere ‘external’ exactness not to well-trained and God-given harmony that paints the world as it can be seen filtered through the reasoning intellect rather than superficial feelings. In the latter you find, the passage suggests, immature or senile women who like accurate precise decoration – with elements recognisable to life (in landscapes or vignettes of things seen afar (Northern virtuosity in object painting) that are not ruled by reasonable intellect – proportion means accurate perspective and respect for the ‘vanishing point’ – that place where reason asserts that visibility of things in minutiae ends. It lacks the control of variegated ‘stuff and masonry’ that make men into the perfect builder of the world. And the proof for that - our reason is based on evidence from the phallocracy of the buried Ancients

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