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EL GRECO AT THE OPHTHALMOLOGIST'S

Andrea Pinotti

 

ABSTRACT

The paper aims at reconstructing the centennial history of the so-called “El Greco fallacy”, namely the hypothesis that the extremely elongated figures painted by the Cretan artist were due to his astigmatism and not to a stylistic option intentionally assumed by the painter. This hypothesis interestingly and problematically intertwines the status of the perceptual image with the status of the represented picture. While offering a survey of the main positions defended by ophthalmologists, psychologists, art critics and art historians on this optical issue, the essay tries to reject the false alternative between a physiologistic and a spiritualistic approach to art, both based on an unsustainable causalistic assumption. Drawing on David Katz and Merleau-Ponty, the author rather outlines an expressive model in which the optical element in visual arts is not denied, but on the contrary metabolized in the embodied representation.