Period eye

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The period eye is an analytical method used by art historians. The concept was devised by Michael Baxandall and described in his innovative Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy: A Primer in the Social History of Pictorial Style where he used it to describe the cultural conditions under which art in the Renaissance was created, viewed, and understood.

The concept[edit]

Baxandall argued that everyone processes visual information in the brain in a different way, using a combination of innate skills and skills based on experience, which are often culturally determined. He suggested that cultural factors influence the visual characteristics that are attractive at any particular time.[1] The period eye examines how artists and their works functioned in their original social, commercial and religious context and has been called an "...anthropological analysis of a society’s visual culture." [2] that "...emphasizes the cultural constructedness of vision...".[3] The concept attempts to reconstruct the mental and visual equipment brought to bear on works of art in a particular place and time and "...the social acts and cultural practices that shape attention to visual form within a given culture." [4]

Baxandall developed the concept in greater detail in the case-studies in The Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Germany (1980) and Patterns of Intention (1985).[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "In the Eyes of the Beholder" by Tamara Steinert Dartmouth Faculty Scholarship Today - Features, 2003. Retrieved 23 November 2011.Archived here.
  2. ^ Langdale, A. (1999) "Aspects of the Critical Reception and Intellectual History of Baxandall's Concept of the Period Eye." in Rifkin, A. (ed.) About Michael Baxandall. Wiley-Blackwell, p. 18.
  3. ^ Randolph, A.W. (2004), "Gendering the Period Eye: Deschi da Parto and Renaissance Visual Culture" in Art History, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp. 538-562.
  4. ^ In Memoriam: Michael David Kighley Baxandall by Margaretta M. Lovell & Elizabeth Honig. University of California, 2009. Retrieved 23 November 2011. Archived here.
  5. ^ "Michael Baxandall" in The Telegraph 17 August 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2011.

Further reading[edit]

  • Baxandall, M. (1980) The Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Germany. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-02423-1
  • Baxandall, M. (1985) Patterns of Intention: On the Historical Explanation of Pictures. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-03465-2
  • Baxandall, M. (1988) Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy. 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-282144-7
  • Rifkin, A. (ed.) (1999) About Michael Baxandall. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-21191-8

External links[edit]