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Cultural TechniquesGrids, Filters, Doors, and Other Articulations of the Real$
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Bernhard Siegert

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823263752

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823263752.001.0001

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Figures of Self-Reference

Figures of Self-Reference

A Media Genealogy of the Trompe-l’oeil in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Still Life

(p.164) 9 Figures of Self-Reference
Cultural Techniques

Bernhard Siegert

, Geoffrey Winthrop-Young
Fordham University Press

This chapter ventures to read the trompe-l’oeil of Dutch still life paintings as a trace of the self-referentiality of the illuminated manuscript page of the late fifteenth century, which is characterized by trompe-l’oeils and other features that thematize its own materiality and mediality (like for instance its two-dimensionality or its verticality). Departing from the observation of strange phenomena in Jan van Kessel’s small copper plates depicting insects and other natural objects, and the excessive trompe-l’oeils in the book illuminations of Joris Hoefnagel, which involve the fact that a book page has a recto and a verso side, the text argues that the Dutch still life emerged from the margins, edges, and borders of Flemish illuminated book manuscripts, that were constantly reinterpreted as represented objects. It is the re-entry of the material carrier into the imaginary pictorial space, that keeps generating the trompe-l’oeil. The Dutch still life is thus the pictorialized, ongoing, unarrestable collapse of the distinction between material carrier and painted object. The trompe-l’oeil appears as a symptom of the suppressed late medieval order of co-presence and the figural in the sense of Jean-François Lyotard, and thus also as a symptom of the media genealogy of representation itself.

Keywords:   Trompe-l’oeil, Dutch still life painting, Book Illumination, Self-Referentiality, Borders, Jan van Kessel, JorisHoefnagel, Mediality, Representation

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