We are here referring to art in general as a survival of a prescientific cognitive system. Contrary to analytical science which isolates categories through judgements, art synthesizes and harmonizes them. This type of thought is absolutely incompatible with science. Proceeding on analytic judgements results in the segmentation of art, its basic structure being synthetic! (See the third volume of this series, where this issue is dealt with from a philosophic perspective: 'The Origins of Science and the Destruction of the Harmony of Art').
Western art theory is Eurocentric; it is, for instance, utterly incapable to describe ethnological circumstances as Cornelia Rothfuchs-Schulz (1980) demonstrates in her very good book on this issue. Evidently Japanese studies likewise perceive Japanese art from a Eurocentric perspective. There never was such a thing as the postmedieval Renaissance cult of the genius in Japanese art, until recently, when it was created by internationalism. Art (particularly architecture!) remained closely related to tradition, to local handicraft and its age–old experience. The formal principles of Japanese "style" were developed in Japanese village cultures (see vols. 4 and 5 of this series). But as this is dealt with in Japanese folklore, the origins of the specific 'Japanese style', will remain a mystery to the art historian.
We are not denying here that Renaissance architecture was influenced by Plato’s writings. This way has been paved by the medieval church and its unconditional idealization of theology. But what is important is the discussion of the fatal impacts of Wittkower's reductionist method. For instance, when a description related to architectonic classification is used to support the conclusion that Palladio had professed the "mathematical definition of beauty" (:24). A conclusion that anyone taking an interest in architecture knows to be absurd.
Within the framework of architectural anthropology, it is evident that materials, techniques, and forms of primitive building play an important part, e. g. if plant or basketry motives are cited in the composition. Their tectonic character reveals deep diachronic roots, offering the primary context of "micro-cosmological symbolism" (see Bollnow) to later Christian contents. The position of functional and "decorative" elements too, such as birds or other winged objects in the tympanum, shows the continuity of structural orders, which we have described in the field of >semantic architecture< (Egenter 1980, 1982a, 1994b). Evidently this kind of structuring spatial conditions based on tectonic models was still understood at the time. In short, what the art historian coins >decorative< or >ornamental< motives, are here interpreted as traditional survivals of fibroconstructive signs and symbols, (>semantic architecture<) or >soft industries<, as we termed them in the preceding article.
See Aaron J. Gurjewitsch, "Das Weltbild des mittelalterlichen Menschen" (The World View of Medieval Man), Dresden 1978. In contrast to most studies interpreting the Middle Ages from a Christian metaphysical perspective, Gurjewitsch's study sets guidelines in that his reconstructions of medieval concepts of space are based on pre-medieval settlement conditions as far as they are still historically accessible through Germanic mythology and early medieval chronicals. Gurjewitsch clearly describes the conflict between the spatial concepts of a primarily microcosmic origin (Germanic village cultures) and the macrocosmic spatial concepts imported by Christianity, which had developed in the wider Mediterranean regions. This conflict led to those seemingly strange and grotesque descriptions of the world (in alchemy or medieval cartography, for instance), which we have difficulties in understanding today.
This certainly is also valid for Roman architecture. The arch and the vault (later also the dome), two eminently important elements in Roman architecture, particularly employed in the construction of imposing state buildings (such as the triumphal arch), are nowadays generally interpreted as engineering tasks, which only secondarily become a part of sacred architecture. A later study in this series will be devoted to this issue.
Nota bene: Wittkower essentially refers to Plato’s concept of the heavenly spheres. In contrast, our arguments are based on Bollnow's anthropological concept of space. Models are produced by the architectural tradition of the microcosm, not the faraway macrocosm.
Reinle cites Kähler's German translation of Prokop's description ("Hagia Sophia" 1967) but makes numerous, though minor, changes to Kähler's text (e.g. insertion of an indefinite article, punctuation etc., in some cases altering the meaning). Nonetheless we are following Reinle’s text.
This identification of various things, common in fairy tales and legends, is in fact a characteristic expression of the harmonious system. In the 'ontological proportion' what primarily matters is a formally immanent harmony between the two opposed categorial fields which constitute the form. This primary condition allows the identification of things, or parts of things, which are conceived - by our analytical and functional views today - as absolutely and completely different.
This designates two contrary traditions in the interpretation of art. On the one hand there are authors like Panofsky, Gombrich, Sedlmayer, who depend on written sources in their interpretation of iconic sources, believing them to be more reliable than art itself, and on the other, authors like Wölfflin, Pächt, and Jakobson who prefer to rely on the autonomy of art itself.
Panofsky's topic is an outstanding example of how the art historian's sophistry manoeuvres him away from the factual out into the cold. Panofsky too, failed to notice the evolutionary shock of spatial perception expressed in all these innumerable so–called "hovering effects" or "suspension motives"! The spatial structure of medieval images is - as we have tried to show - purely categorial, that is to say, bipolarly contradictive and thus non–perspective. With the introduction of both perspective representation and scientific interpretation of space, new problems arise. That, which in the former iconic concept was structurally attributed to the celestial spheres (no gravity!), now has to think up new means of how the overcoming of gravity, or "hovering", can be expressed in a natural and perspective concept of space.Thus we come across clouds naively represented as providing a stable foundation for persons to stand on or other nebulous manoeuvres, such as destabilized and dynamistic bodies, wings, all suggesting flying, and dazzling light symbolizing heaven. All this testifies to a tremendous cultural drama, not just an isolated "hovering effect", expressed throughout the Renaissance and Baroque era. The picture which Panofsky explicitly uses to document his "primary sensory layer", the gospel book of Otto III, clearly speaks not in his, but in our favour. It is rigidly divided into two parts. But this bipartition is fully established. The persons are standing statically–terrestrially on a strip of clouds. Naturally uppermost, there are celestial buildings, probably a heavenly Jerusalem. The lower part relating to the birth of Christ is again partitioned bipolarly. At the bottom there is a string of humans, all without halos, accompanied by animals and earthly buildings. Since, however, the intermediate position of Christ in his crib, accompanied by Mary and Joseph (who, less holy, is positioned on a mountain top) is not established in the conventional code, the sacred or celestial value has to be expressed by the means of dynamically curved lines, or, as Panofsky puts it, the "suspension of a body in the void"! One should note the arch forming the background to the crib: here the medieval bipolar concept of heaven has crept in. In short, Panofsky and Vogt's "hovering motive" has nothing at all to do with the "primary sensory layer". Instead, it expresses a conflict between two different spatial concepts. The one, tectonically based and gradually evolved, that interprets space in bipolar oppositions and implies harmony, and the other, the homogenous modern one, representing space perspectively.
With the help of this meticulously narrowed–down term of the "hovering effect", which - via Panofsky - is psychologically diluted and further technocratically deprived of any meaning, Vogt easily bridges the gap to modernism and quickly deals with the "hovering effect" of Le Corbusier's "Villa Savoie" and Frank Lloyd Wright's "Falling Water"! 'Anything goes', as Paul Feyerabend would say.
Even in the most competent of translations of this same text (:21), there is no mention of a "golden chain" to which the sphere is said to be attached (Veh 1977).
This was demonstrated most clearly by Nikolaus von Cues (1401-1464). See Vorländer (1964).
In English, this term might be acceptable as, in its wider sense, it designates the act of suspending. In German, however, it is a foreign word entering the discourse with technical connotations denoting the suspension of a car. Thus, using this term in German in connection with the Hagia Sophia is quite in bad taste.
How is it possible that some people interpret this solely in terms of war! This is, after all, only one - the negative - potential, there is also the other - positive - one: balance, harmony, art! "High and low sounds form a melody".
We are using the archaism >fetish<, common in earlier works of theology, because what we are dealing with here has to do with the evolution of religion.
This symmetry of flanking figures related to a primitive or developed sacred marker, is another very ancient continuum that can already be found in representations of Sumerian sanctuaries and Assyrian trees of life. Evidently, it originally alluded to the "access-place–schema". The sacred site is designated by a "place marker". This necessarily implies the designation of its access by two symmetrical "gate markers". This pattern is enormously widespread in its primary fibroconstructive stage (e.g. primitive temples of ancient Egypt). In a wider sense, this place-gate–schema is the primary and constitutive arrangement, the basic unit, or, so to speak, the organic cell of all architecture. It is constitutive for the most primitive hut as well as for the most modern industrial palace. As imposing facades it was cultivated in Renaissance architecture but in the wake of functionalism it has nowadays lost its symbolic significance. (See vol. 7 of this series)
Medieval speculations on the world reveal an abundance of sources regarding this aspect. Likewise with the history of emblems.
Reinle (1976) made the interesting attempt to produce an objective semiotic typology of architecture but largely omits what he is heading for in his title: the narrative. For this occurs on a lower level than his functionally and retrospectively defined "signs" (such as "castle" or "factory"!), on a level - as we have tried to demonstrate - of anthropologically founded continua ("access/gate - place - schema", "above-below-schema", etc.). Thus Reinle's book does not go beyond providing a flood of historical names and facts, conjectures about stylistic diffusion, and so forth. Essential connections are broken up (dome, arch, vault [and their relations to substructures], canopy, which is dealt with near the end of the book as a "sign of honour" of eastern provenance!). Additionally, buildings and their elements are often classified in irrelevant functional groups. And for the architect too, Reinle presents historically fixed, actually banal findings (in the sense of: the church represents a sign in the village), which are hardly of any use at all to the present–day designer.
This helps us to perceive much of the Middle Ages in new ways: its concept of >logos< was basically harmonious. The formation of an ecclesiastic constitution in scholasticism diluted this pre–scholastic harmonious system by favouring Neoplatonism in the construction of an absolute spiritual against a human world. The humanities, called the "intellectual sciences" in German, have evidently not fully realized to what extent their idealistically absolutist views are conditioned by at least four discursive lines in medieval scholasticism (the theory of the two swords, the Arianism/ Athanasianism controversy, the universality and investiture struggle). These vehemently disputed and powerfully defended lines of the absolutely spiritual clearly served to support the institution and state of the Roman Catholic Church against the Franks and their successors in the European formation of secular empires. The humanities have shied away from revealing these conditions because they are closely connected to Jewish and Christian ethics. But the discovery of this "functional" construction of absolute metaphysics makes one become receptive to a 'pre–scholastic world view' that perceives spirituality only in close relation to the physical-material. The hypothesis presented here that architectural tradition provided materially bound spatial structures which written history then describes, interprets, and transforms, becomes quite plausible in this context. To put it another way: the architectural tradition, and not the infinite celestial cosmos, supports what we called the 'ontological proportion'. (See the third volume in this series "The Eternally Burning Thornbush")
Something obviously lacking in modern design, unless we consider modern rationalism as our 'ontological proportion'!
The research of rock art which only recently organized itself on a global level is extremely promising. (see 'Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts', Congress 1993; see Egenter 1994a). This field of prehistorical research probably holds many surprises for us in the near future.