Florence and Baghdad: Renaissance Art and Arab Science

by Hans Belting
Translated by Deborah Lucas Schneider

Harvard | August 31, 2011 | Hardcover | German

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The use of perspective in Renaissance painting caused a revolution in the history of seeing, allowing artists to depict the world from a spectator's point of view. But the theory of perspective that changed the course of Western art originated elsewhere-it was formulated in Baghdad by the eleventh-century mathematician Ibn al Haithan, known in the West as Alhazen. Using the metaphor of the mutual gaze, or exchanged glances, Hans Belting-preeminent historian and theorist of medieval, Renaissance, and contemporary art-narrates the historical encounter between science and art, between Arab Baghdad and Renaissance Florence, that has had a lasting effect on the culture of the West.

In this lavishly illustrated study, Belting deals with the double history of perspective, as a visual theory based on geometrical abstraction (in the Middle East) and as pictorial theory (in Europe). How could geometrical abstraction be reconceived as a theory for making pictures? During the Middle Ages, Arab mathematics, free from religious discourse, gave rise to a theory of perspective that, later in the West, was transformed into art when European painters adopted the human gaze as their focal point. In the Islamic world, where theology and the visual arts remained closely intertwined, the science of perspective did not become the cornerstone of Islamic art. Florence and Baghdad addresses a provocative question that reaches beyond the realm of aesthetics and mathematics: What happens when Muslims and Christians look upon each other and find their way of viewing the world transformed as a result?

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 312 Pages, 5.91 × 9.06 × 0.79 in

Published: August 31, 2011

Publisher: Harvard

Language: German

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0674050045

ISBN - 13: 9780674050044

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Florence and Baghdad: Renaissance Art and Arab Science

Florence and Baghdad: Renaissance Art and Arab Science

by Hans Belting
Translated by Deborah Lucas Schneider

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 312 Pages, 5.91 × 9.06 × 0.79 in

Published: August 31, 2011

Publisher: Harvard

Language: German

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0674050045

ISBN - 13: 9780674050044

About the Book

The theory of perspective, which allowed Florentine artists to depict the world from a spectator's point of view, originated in Baghdad with an eleventh-century mathematician. Using the metaphor of the mutual gaze, Belting narrates the encounter between science and art, Arab Baghdad and Renaissance Florence, that revolutionized Western culture.

From the Publisher

The use of perspective in Renaissance painting caused a revolution in the history of seeing, allowing artists to depict the world from a spectator's point of view. But the theory of perspective that changed the course of Western art originated elsewhere-it was formulated in Baghdad by the eleventh-century mathematician Ibn al Haithan, known in the West as Alhazen. Using the metaphor of the mutual gaze, or exchanged glances, Hans Belting-preeminent historian and theorist of medieval, Renaissance, and contemporary art-narrates the historical encounter between science and art, between Arab Baghdad and Renaissance Florence, that has had a lasting effect on the culture of the West.

In this lavishly illustrated study, Belting deals with the double history of perspective, as a visual theory based on geometrical abstraction (in the Middle East) and as pictorial theory (in Europe). How could geometrical abstraction be reconceived as a theory for making pictures? During the Middle Ages, Arab mathematics, free from religious discourse, gave rise to a theory of perspective that, later in the West, was transformed into art when European painters adopted the human gaze as their focal point. In the Islamic world, where theology and the visual arts remained closely intertwined, the science of perspective did not become the cornerstone of Islamic art. Florence and Baghdad addresses a provocative question that reaches beyond the realm of aesthetics and mathematics: What happens when Muslims and Christians look upon each other and find their way of viewing the world transformed as a result?

About the Author

Hans Belting is Professor for Art History and Media Theory at the Academy for Design in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Editorial Reviews

[A] lively and erudite book.
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