Tangled web

A book review (via elck) connects Bruegel, the via negativa, Diogenes and Elck:

The book [Jürgen Müller, Das Paradox als Bildform. Studien zur Ikonologie Pieter Bruegels d. í„. Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1999] proposes that Bruegel was deeply influenced by the German theologian Sebastian Franck (1499-1542), who was quite popular in the Netherlands during the sixteenthth century (pp. 21-27 et passim)….Franck was an unorthodox protestant thinker, who advocated a negative theology that was against all institutionalization of the Christian faith. An important publication was his book Paradoxa, in which he treats the impossibility to describe God. Each of the 280 chapters of Franck’s book starts with a baffling statement like “Deum nemo novit, nisi Deum” (God knows nobody, only himself), which is then explained as an illustration of the impossibility to define God’s essence with the help of scripture or any other source of knowledge except one’s innermost personal experience. Anything said about God must be wrong, since it is not possible to say anything about something that transcends human language. The only way to speak about Him is to speak in a paradoxical way, i.e in a self-referential way, which makes it impossible to decide about truth or falseness of a statement. A main proposal of Müller’s book is that Bruegel shared Franck’s unorthodox religious views and his opposition to depicting God. Thus Bruegel was faced with the problem of realizing pictures of God in his artistic medium, which he was only able to do by showing what God is not. Consequently, Bruegel would have been forced to think about how to make paradoxical pictures, i.e. pictures which are demonstrations of their own impossibility…..

The book is well written, the author is original, risk-taking and witty, and his criticism of other interpretations is clear and fair. Unfortunately his interpretations are often not fully convincing. One reason for this is the tendency to find more and more allusions and layers of meaning instead of an interpretation which covers all parts of a representation in an uncontradictory way. Elck is linked not only to the iconography of Nobody but also to Diogenes, the Wandering Jew and to the false pharisees.

“More and more allusions and layers of meaning”: sounds like a man after my own heart! False pharisees of the world, unite!

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