An Anthropology of Images : Picture, Medium, Body /

Main Author: Belting, Hans,
Other Authors: Dunlap, Thomas, 1959-
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Princeton : Princeton University Press, c2011.
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Review by Choice Review

Belting is one of the most brilliant and most prolific art historians. His Likeness and Presence (CH, Nov'94, 32-1318) continues to energize debate about the turn from devotion to divine icons to self-conscious "art" crafted by European "artists," and two subsequent books--this one and La vrai image (2007, in French from the German, not yet available in English)--will influence thinking greatly. Having read Pour une anthropologie des images (2004, 2001 in German), this reviewer's disappointment in this translation could not be greater. Indeed, so problematic did the process become that Belting refused to allow an entire chapter to be included in this English version. Breakthrough thinking abounds even so, as in the conundrum that "an image finds its true meaning in the fact that what it represents is absent," which instigates a chapter on image, death, and embodiment in early cultures. Tension between death as catastrophe and death as "controlled" by ritual and image results, however faint such hope can be. Passages on visual media and bodies, memory, dreams, and places real and virtual are equally provocative. Better to get out a French or German dictionary and savor the original, though. Summing Up: Recommended. Undergraduate collections. A. F. Roberts University of California, Los Angeles

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

Both a translation and an update of a 2001 German-language original, this is an academic book for advanced collections. Although classed as social and cultural anthropology, it could easily find a place in art history or philosophy collections. Belting (Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image Before the Era of Art), a distinguished and prolific German art historian, makes a complex and nuanced argument to differentiate between pictures, as manifested in their physical form, and images, which reside in the human mind. His case studies on portraiture and on the relationship between images and death are closely argued and contain convincing specific examples. However, the general theoretical parts are hard going; the author assumes familiarity with a broad range of European intellectual thought that a general audience and undergraduates are likely to lack. In "A New Introduction for the English Reader," Belting remarks of the translation, "the results are far from what I would like them to be"; a chapter of the original was omitted from this English edition because "it seemed to resist any meaningful translation." VERDICT Complex, provocative ideas for a specialized audience.-Jack Perry Brown, Art Inst. of Chicago Libs. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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