PRINT October 2003


Hans Belting

IN HIS 1990 LIKENESS AND PRESENCE, Hans Belting offered a magisterial narrative of the social, political, and religious contexts of imagemaking in late antiquity and the Middle Ages while adamantly refusing to view the creations of that time through the conceptual lenses of artistic autonomy, individual expression, and historical progress that developed only later. Not so much an early history as a prehistory of art (as implied in the subtitle, “A History of the Image Before the Era of Art”), the book served as a touchstone in Germany’s emerging debates over the place of images in contemporary culture once they were divorced from the limited contexts of modern art-historical and aesthetic norms.

His current book, first published in German in 1995, addresses what might be termed art after the era of art. Here the question is, Once the imperatives of modernism (which had supplied, Belting

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