The Sinister Side: How Left-Right Symbolism Shaped Western Art

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The Sinister Side: How Left-Right Symbolism Shaped Western Art

Format:  Hardcover,

489 pages

Publisher: Oxford Univ Pr

Publish Date: Dec 2008

ISBN-13: 9780199230860

ISBN-10: 0199230862

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The Sinister Side is the first book to detail the richness and subtlety of left-right symbolism since the Renaissance, and to show how it was a catalyst for some of the greatest works of visual art from Leonardo and Michelangelo to Rembrandt and Picasso. Traditionally, the left side was regarded as evil, weak, and worldly, but with the Renaissance, artists began to represent the left side as the side that represented authentic human feelings and especially love. Writers including Lorenzo de' Medici, Michelangelo, and Winckelmann hailed the supreme moral and aesthetic beauty of the left side. Images of lovers foreground the left side of the body, emphasizing its refinement and sensitivity. In the late nineteenth century, with the rise of interest in the occult and in spiritualism, the left side becomes associated with the taboo and with the unconscious. James Hall's insightful discussion of left and right symbolism helps us to see how the self and the mind were perceived during these periods, and gives us a new key to understanding art in its social and intellectual context.

Specifications

Author:
Publisher: Oxford Univ Pr
Publish Date: Dec 2008
ISBN-13: 9780199230860
ISBN-10: 0199230862
Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 489
Shipping Weight (in pounds): 2.2
Product in Inches (L x W x H): 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.3

Chapter outline

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgements
Introduction
Antiquity and After
Turning Right
Avoiding the Beer-Cellar: Left-Right Conventions
Heraldic Images
Fair Game
Sun and Moon
Renaissance to Enlightenment
Contesting Left and Right
Darkened Eyes
Balancing Left and Right
The Choice of Hercules
Double Vision
Rembrandt's Eyes
Turning Left
The Death of Christ 1: Crossing Over
The Death of Christ 2: 'Not Idle'
Courtly Love
Fragile Beauty
Leonardo and the Look of Love
Prisoners of Love
Lovelocks
Honorary Left-Handers
Modernity
Rethinking Left and Right
'To Err Forever'
Picasso and Chiromancy
Picasso and Satanism
Modern Primitives
Coda
God Save the Queen
Notes
Index

Reviews

Review by Library Journal (2009-03-15)

Hall (The World as Sculpture; Michelangelo and the Reinvention of the Human Body) analyzes the cultural, anthropological, theological, literary, and other symbolism of left and right in Western art from antiquity to the 20th century, which he feels has been an unexplored dimension of art criticism. He considers some of the standard conventions that originated with the ancient Greeks (left equals bad, female, darkness; right equals good, male, light) and then looks at how Renaissance artists dramatized left-right distinctions.

Hall goes on to discuss the decline of the artistic importance of left-right symbolism in the 19th and 20th centuries but sees a revival as great artists view left-right distinctions as a "radical tool that can imbue their work with awesome primitive power". Although dozens of key works of art are reproduced here, the reader will want to have a computer or a heavily illustrated art history volume to follow Hall's comments on works that are omitted. A provocative piece of social and intellectual criticism; recommended for academic and special art library collections.

-Marcia Welsh, Dartmouth Coll. Libs., Hanover, NH

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book description

The Sinister Side is the first book to detail the richness and subtlety of left-right symbolism since the Renaissance, and to show how it was a catalyst for some of the greatest works of visual art from Leonardo and Michelangelo to Rembrandt and Picasso. Traditionally, the left side was regarded as evil, weak, and worldly, but with the Renaissance, artists began to represent the left side as the side that represented authentic human feelings and especially love.

Writers including Lorenzo de' Medici, Michelangelo, and Winckelmann hailed the supreme moral and aesthetic beauty of the left side. Images of lovers foreground the left side of the body, emphasizing its refinement and sensitivity. In the late nineteenth century, with the rise of interest in the occult and in spiritualism, the left side becomes associated with the taboo and with the unconscious. James Hall's insightful discussion of left and right symbolism helps us to see how the self and the mind were perceived during these periods, and gives us a new key to understanding art in its social and intellectual context.

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