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Florence et Bagdad

Hans Belting

The sub-title is explicit: “a history of the influence between East and West”. The point of departure of this deeply wise essay that manipulates concepts that at times are difficult to understand, is the presumed divorce between the Western–style perspective, with a rational order of the visible world, and the Easter approach that neglects the human figure and uses different, “irrational” principles to classify the visual field. Reality is not as clearly cut as that. The fact is a real ping-pong game kept the two cultures busy for centuries, and thus we like to present them as incapable of seeing eye to eye. One of the surprises we have as we read this book is the fact the mathematical perspective of the Florentines is a direct legacy from Arab science. The works of Alhazen, a researcher from the XIth century who lived in Bagdad, the author of 92 books and the real inventor of the camera oscura, who paved the way for the famous experience by Brunelleschi, thanks to unknown go-betweens such as Blaise of Parma. Points de fuite, theater settings, « urbinate » perspectives and Andaluzan muqqarnas are some of the phases that accompany this deciphering operation.

Florence et Bagdad by Hans Belting, Gallimard, 2012, 382 p., €35.

Florence et Bagdad - Hans Belting

Review published in the newsletter #271 - from 20 September 2012 to 26 September 2012

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