The Sinister Side: How left-right symbolism shaped Western art

Hardcover | November 23, 2008

byJames Hall

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Why does the Mona Lisa have an uneven smile? Was Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon an exploration of Satanism? Why did Michelangelo depict so many left-handed archers? Why did the British Queen look so different when Annie Liebowitz lit her from her left side in a recent official portrait?The answer to all these questions lies in a hidden symbolic language in the visual arts: that of the perceived differences between the left and right sides of the body. It is a symbolism that has been interpreted by artists through the centuries, and that can be uncovered in many of our greatestmasterpieces, but that has been long forgotten about or misunderstood by those concerned with the history of art and the human body. The Sinister Side reveals the key, and sheds new light on some of the greatest art from before the Renaissance to the present day. Traditionally, in almost every culture and religion, the left side has been regarded as inferior - evil, weak, worldly, feminine - while the right is good, strong, spiritual and male. But starting in the Renaissance, this hierarchy was questioned and visualised as never before. The left side, inpart because of the presence of the heart, became the side that represented authentic human feelings, especially love. By the late nineteenth century, with the rise of interest in the occult and in spiritualism, the left side had become associated with the taboo and with the unconscious. Exploringhow works of art reflect our changing cultural ideas about the natural world, human nature, and the mind, The Sinister Side is the first book to detail the richness and subtlety of left-right symbolism in art, and to show how it was a catalyst for some of the greatest works of visual art fromBotticelli and Van Eyck to Vermeer and Dali.

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Why does the Mona Lisa have an uneven smile? Was Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon an exploration of Satanism? Why did Michelangelo depict so many left-handed archers? Why did the British Queen look so different when Annie Liebowitz lit her from her left side in a recent official portrait?The answer to all these questions lies in a hid...

James Hall is a freelance art critic and historian. A former art critic of iThe Guardian/i (for which he was awarded the first Bernard Benvir prize for art criticism), he is the author of many essays and of two critically acclaimed books: iThe World as Sculpture: the changing status of sculpture from the Renaissance to the present day...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:304 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 1.18 inPublished:November 23, 2008Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199230862

ISBN - 13:9780199230860

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Table of Contents

IntroductionANTIQUITY TO RENAISSANCETurning Right1. Left-Right Conventions in Antiquity and After2. Heraldic ImagesRENAISSANCE TO ENLIGHTENMENTContesting Left and Right3. Darkened Eyes4. Moral Chameleons5. The Choice of HerculesBalancing Left and Right6. Sun and Moon7. Double VisionTurning Left8. The Death of Christ9. Leonardo and the Look of Love10. Fragile Beauty11. Prisoners of Love12. Lovelocks13. Honourary Left-HandersMODERNITYRethinking Left and Right14. Modern Primitives15. Picasso: the Liberated Left-Hander16. Neutralising left and rightCoda17. God Save the QueenReferencesIndex