Call for Papers

The Thirteenth International Baroque Summer Course of the Werner Oechslin Library Foundation will take place from Sunday, 24 June, to Thursday, 28 June 2012, this year with the topic “Affect and Effect.” – Deadline: 5 December 2011

The course is open to doctoral candidates as well as junior and senior scholars who wish to address the topic with short papers (20 minutes) and through mutual conversation. As usual, the course has an interdisciplinary orientation.  It is important to us that the question of emotional affect not be limited to figural arts, but that subjects such as music, literature, psychology, and – in particular – architecture are also considered.  Papers may be presented in German, French, Italian or English; at least a passive knowledge of German is a requirement for participation.

Conditions: The Foundation assumes the hotel costs for course participants, as well as several group dinners and the excursion. Travel costs cannot be reimbursed. Please send applications with brief abstracts and CVs by e-mail to: 

anja.buschow@bibliothek-oechslin.ch

The due date is 5 December 2011.

Introduction to the topic by Werner Oechslin:

When considering teachings on emotional affect, who doesn’t immediately think of the schematic faces that were first engraved by Leclerc after Lebrun, to be reproduced and distributed by the dozen? “How the artist should express the passions of people, including a curious discourse on physiognomy held by the author in the Royal Academy” – so the subtitle of the Augsburg edition of 1704.  A complete set of teachings is thus provided, a reliable basis for the artist who is supposed to correctly illustrate the emotions.  He should, for instance, be able to represent a historic topic in such a way that the associated psychological motivation can be read from the postures and, in particular, the faces.   “The opinions, which some knowledgeable about nature have recorded about physiognomy, are that the various constituent parts of the soul derive from the composition or the temperament of the body, and that the external characteristics are a certain demonstration of the composition of the soul, which can be recognized in the external form, behavior, and complexion of each individual animal.”  One hoped to reliably understand the inner state on the basis of the exterior, and conversely, to represent the hidden, inner qualities in the outer appearance.  This plainly corresponds to a common concept of artistic aims as such.  Therefore one seeks even more to identify a solid basis and method.  “Whoever has good knowledge and understanding of humans,” – so the Augsburg Lebrun edition of 1704 – “one must also necessarily assume that he similarly well knows and understands the passions or emotions: because these are the great motors, which cause the motions of the heart and of all our actions.”  Thus emerges something like a typology in lines and figures of the major emotional conditions.  Works of painting abound in such “typical” physiognomies, and of course these reach far back beyond Lebrun’s codification.  Raphael was always a good source of appropriate and correct representation of gesture and physiognomy.

The limitations of the standards are quickly overcome, the particular added to the typical.  One seeks – beyond the exemplary – the very concrete and also the unique.  “Complete desperation can be expressed by a person who grinds his teeth, foams at the mouth, and bites his lips…”  How should this be represented?  How can one satisfy the facts, that one is dealing with a “Representation or conception of the stirrings of the passions,” which is sometimes a condition which should be appropriately illustrated as “a composed movement” or a “mixed movement” and not “statically”?   Is the – Cartesian – conception of a “machina nostri corporis” reliable enough to do justice to the dynamic of the lives of our souls?  And what should we think when contemplating Poussin’s rigid, mask-like faces?  Cureau de la Chambre (1662), in light of such “fixations,” invoked an observation that he – relating to the character of the “désespoir” – describes thus: “Mais de quelque façon qu'un Homme desesperé meure, il conserve sur son visage quelque temps apres qu'il est mort les marques de sa Fureur.”  Paralysis in death has to stand in for the fixation of emotional arousal!  And thereby hardly anything has been said about the reliability of the passions which have been forced into such a schematism.  Ephraim Benson, on the occasion of a new edition around 1790 of the “characteristic parallel heads” according to Giovanni Battista della Porta expressed doubt about the entire enterprise, remembering the anecdote of a physiognomer who described Socrates as “a debauchee, rascal, drinker, fornicator, adulterer, and who knows what else,” to which Socrates then replied, “Friends, do not laugh, nature made all these things of me, but reflection and philosophy made me what I am now.”   In short, Lebrun offers us nothing but some assistance, but the project of the representation of the passions doubtless exists, even if the stirrings of the passions at first glance are not compatible with their fixation in an image.  In the Aristotelian tradition it deals with nothing more than “accidentia” and “signa quaeam in corpore apparentia.”  That offered points of reference, but no more.

The same question seems even more difficult to answer in a satisfying manner when applied to architecture.  Of course there are also “signs” there that can be read as physiognomic expressions.  And the circumstance that the profile of a Doric entablature is illustrated in Jacques François Blondel’s Cours d’Architecture with different facial characteristics according to Palladio, Scamozzi or Vignola is ultimately based on Vitruvius.  Who would want to deny architecture a very specific capacity for expression?  The character teachings of the late eighteenth century distinguished between a “caractère mâle, ferme ou virile” or an “architecture légère, élégante ou délicate”, but also an “architecture mystérieuse” and an “architecture hardie.”  And of course corresponding buildings always preceded such lists.  Boullée’s criticism of Vitruvius (“Vitruve prend l'effet pour la cause.”) comes too late; and naturally architects already followed long before – and after – what he recommends: “c'est cette production de l'esprit, c'est cette création qui constitute l'architecture.”  Architecture should express something – and have an effect on the soul.

The concept of the Baroque has been linked in a particular manner with such emphatically expressed effect.  But sufficient research and proof is still lacking regarding how this is implemented in works - here and there - in very specific, particular ways.  “In its highest expression the style generally tends to the unfathomable,” wrote Wölfflin in Renaissance and Baroque in 1888.  And that some things escape our – rational – grasp long formed a topos of Baroque research: “incomprehensible”!  Astonishing enough that one was so quickly contented with Lebrun, when the soul, and more precisely the mind-body problem, always received such great attention.  There is no shortage of open questions. 

Werner Oechslin

 

Concept / Organization: Anja Buschow Oechslin, Axel C. Gampp, Werner Oechslin, Tristan Weddigen