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Festschrift Parret

Festschrift Parret

Anne — background to

Anne — background to — Mary — background to — Jesus Anne’s head — above — Mary’s head — above — Jesus’ head Anne — looks older than — Mary — looks older than — Jesus Anne — supports — Mary — supports — Jesus Anne and Mary form one group (by proximity), Jesus and the lamb an other. 2 The painting contains a rich geometric and dynamic structure (weights, bar centers, force-lines, gaze-directions, etc.) which is used in many of Leonardo’s works. A purely static representation would be insufficient for both the pictorial and the narrative aims of the painting. Furthermore, this piece is typical for Leonardo’s art which consistently exemplifies the concept of dynamic valence. 3 In the case of this painting, we have on the surface a quaternary constellation: Anne — Mary — Jesus — lamb. If one considers the force fields and actions, one notices that a basic interaction links: Mary — Jesus —the lamb. Mary pulls on Jesus Jesus pulls on the lamb The lamb resists Jesus resists being pulled away from the lamb There is a conflict between Mary who tries to prevent Jesus from seizing the lamb and Jesus who notices this (he looks back to her) but resists against her action. This triad constitutes a force field, which dominates the message of the painting. A first schematic representation introduces two vector-fields with attractors: Mary Jesus lamb Jesus is in the metastable position between two attractors; the narrative (biblical) content of these attractors is: Mary: His mother; she cares for her baby. Jesus: He feels the duty to sacrifice and to leave Mary behind. 2 The knowledge space is richer as the colors help to complete the visual map. In Leonardo’s painting both mother and daughter have a green mantle and Mary can be seen to wear a red robe; both are subsumed under the color-opposition: red-green. The lamb is a symbol of the sacrifice of Jesus and an attribute of John (Baptist). 3 Peirce was the first to propose a general scheme on this level of abstraction. His monads, dyads and triads are considered as dynamical wholes (in Leibniz’ sense) not reducible by simple composition. However, they may be and often are degenerated. i.e., not complete, non saturated, with defects. 6

The cognitive dynamics lying at the heart of the two paintings by Leonardo may be described in the context of dynamical semiotics (cf. Wildgen, 1994: 68-72). The constellation of forces between Mary – Christ – the lamb correspond to the basic archetype of transfer in Figure 3 main attractor 1 main attractor 2 transient attractor Figure 3: The dynamical archetype of transfer (giving) and a fiber on it (with attributed contents). As the archetype does not describe all the interactions in the pictorial composition one has to add two complications: Anne supports/anchors the whole event (physically and genealogically), she is a fourth attractor which sustains the event happening on her knees. The manner of “transfer” is further elaborated in the painting and could be described in a sentence like: Mary tries to prevent Jesus from seizing the lamb. This complex sentence goes beyond the elementary schema shown in Figure 3. In the painting one sees Mary’s hands seizing Jesus and the hands (and feet) of Jesus seizing the lamb and we see that Jesus has a stronger grip on the lamb than Mary has on him. The turning of his head creates an opposition to the force-direction of Mary’s hands. One could further distinguish two levels of content interpretation: An interpretation based on everyday experience with human interaction. An Interpretation linked to the Bible. The distinction of two levels of analysis is natural because in real-life situations, i.e., when one observes a mother interacting with her child, the first interpretation/blend occurs. In cultural traditions that have elaborated a collective visual or linguistic memory (e.g., of major biblical contents) the second interpretation is superimposed on the routines of the first one. It is typical of art to presuppose cultural knowledge and special “reading“ skills. 2. The semiotics of landscape painting (William Turner) Mary Jesus lamb Natural scenes and even actors may fade from sight, e.g., a landscape in fog or in the transition to darkness, a person under similar conditions, or if the viewer is only allowed a short glimpse, 7

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