Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method (1986, Italian: Miti, emblemi, spie: Morfologia e storia) is a book by Carlo Ginzburg. In its titular essay, "Clues", Ginzburg tries to show that the methods of Italian art critic Giovanni Morelli, British fictional charcter Sherlock Holmes and Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud consist of assigning the same great significance to circumstantial evidence gathered from observation, deduction and induction.

Contents

TOC

Witchcraft and popular piety

From Aby Warburg to E.H. Gombrich

The high and the low

Titian, Ovid, and sixteenth-century codes for erotic illustration

The essay Titian, Ovid, and sixteenth-century codes for erotic illustration is about erotic depictions, its 16th century detractors such as Molanus's De picturis et imaginibus sacris (1570), Disputatio de cultu et adoratione imaginum (1542) by Ambrogio Catarino Politi and Degli errori dei pittori (1564) by Andrea Gilio da Fabriano and the literary sources of Titian's Poesies painted for Philip II of Spain. Ginzburg differs with Panofsky as to the interpretation of Titian's Poesies.

It identifies one of the first mentions of erotic painting, a painting of Danae found in in Terence's Eunuch, later frequently cited by Saint Augustine to "demonstrate the evil effects of lascivious pictures."

The passage in question is:

"While preparations were being made, the damsel sat in a room looking up at a certain painting, in which was represented how Jove is said once to have sent a golden shower into the bosom of Danaë."[1]

Note:

"Pictures of Venus and Adonis, and of Jupiter and Ganymede, are mentioned in the Menaechmi of Plautus; l. 144, and paintings on the walls are also mentioned in the Mostellaria of Plautus, l. 821, where Tranio tries to impose upon Theuropides by pretending to point out a picture of a crow between two vultures."[2]

Clues

Excerpts:

Morelli's books look different from those of any other writer on art. They are sprinkled with illustrations of fingers and ears, careful records of the characteristic trifles by which an artist gives himself away, as a criminal might be spotted by a fingerprint . . . any art gallery studied by Morelli begins to resemble a rogues' gallery . . . . (Wind 1963:40-41)
This comparison was brilliantly developed by an Italian art historian, Enrico Castelnuovo (1968:782), who drew a parallel between Morelli's methods of classification and those attributed by Arthur Conan Doyle, a few years later, to his fictional creation, Sherlock Holmes. The art connoisseur and the detective may well be compared, each discovering, from clues unnoticed by others, the author in one case of a crime, in the other of a painting. Examples of Sherlock Holmes's skill at interpreting footprints, cigarette ash, and so on are countless and well known. But let us look at "The Cardboard Box" (1892) for an illustration of Castelnuovo's point: here Holmes is as it were "morellizing." [3]
Long before I [Freud] had any opportunity of hearing about psychoanalysis, I learned that a Russian art-connoisseur, Ivan Lermolieff, had caused a revolution in the art galleries of Europe by questioning the authorship of many pictures, showing how to distinguish copies from originals with certainty, and constructing hypothetical artists for those works of art whose former authorship had been discredited. He achieved this by insisting that attention should be diverted from the general impression and formal features of a picture, and by laying stress on the significance of minor details, of things like the drawing of fingernails, of the lobe of an ear, of halos and such unconsidered trifles which the copyist neglects to imitate and yet which every artist executes in his own characteristic way. I was then greatly interested to learn that the Russian pseudonym concealed the identity of an Italian physician called Morelli, who had died in 1891 It seems to me that his method of inquiry is closely related to the technique of psychoanalysis. It, too, is accustomed to divine secret and concealed things from despised or unnoticed features, from the rubbish-heaps as it were, of our observations. [4]

Germanic mythology and Nazism

Freud, the wolf-man, and the werewolves

The inquisitor as anthropologist

See also




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