It is improbable that more nonsense has been written about aesthetics than about anything else: the literature of the subject is not large enough for that (Clive Bell)


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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Georg Simmel : Rembrandt : The Expression of Inner Life

(this is Chapter One of Georg Simmel's "Rembrandt: An Essay In The Philosophy of Art".
Quoted text is in YELLOW.
Text quoted from other authors is in GREEN)

And now, for something completely different, I've selected an author who is not an academic art historian and a book written nearly a hundred years ago.

The translator assures us that it was quite difficult to put this text into English (from German) and I believe him -- since the author was steeped in German idealism and depends upon special understandings of words.

But nonetheless -- I shall proceed -- beginning with the author's assertion that there is something very different between "the way the bodies move" in Rembrandt's "Rape of Europa" (shown above) and his subsequent "John the Baptist Preaching" (shown below)

Here, apparently, we find "only the fixed appearance of a moment of movement"

While here, "the movement animated from within itself, prepared in the deepest psychic stratum, begins to appear as that which, with variations... finally bestows unique character to his paintings"

His artistic vision contains not simply the visibility of the gesture in the moment of its representation. His vision’s meaning and intensity originate, so to speak, not first on the level of viewing, but already direct and fill the first stroke that, therefore, completely reveals the totality of the inner-outer process (in its characteristic artistic inseparability). Just as it appeared as the deeper formula of life that its totality does not exist outside of its individual moments, but, on the contrary, exists fully in each of them because it consists exclusively in the movement through all these opposites, so the moving form in Rembrandt reveals that there is no part in the self-realization and self-presentation, as it were, of an inner fate; that, moreover from a certain perspective of representation, each isolated part is the totality of this inner and expressive fate. That he is able to represent each small part of the moving figure as its totality is both the immediate and symbolic expression of the fact that each of the continuously connected moments is the whole life as it becomes personalized in the form of this particular figure.

Is it too contentious to consider this "small part of the moving figure" taken from the Baptist Preaching -- and ask just how much of the painting's totality is apparent here?

Though, if we expand it a bit - yes, I do think the "whole life" of this painting is apparent -- lacking only the grandiosity offered by the complete scene.

But I would say the same about this detail area from the 'Rape of Europa' - and about about selected details in many other paintings.

In order to protect the delicate sensibility of my readers, I'm not going to show the entire painting from which this saccharine detail was taken. You'll just have to take my word that it presents its "whole life", such as it is.

By way of comparison, here's Titian's version of Europa.

And here's a sufficient area of detail.

Simmel does not mention this piece at all -- but I think it brings out, by contrast, the character of Rembrandt's dramatization.

Titian is much more sympathetic to the Classical, pre-Christian world, and isn't quite so shocked by the idea of a young woman being carried off by an animal/God for purposes of sexual sport. His bull is like a world-weary old lecher -- and his Europa is like a hot, inexperienced new whore in his favorite brothel. An event worthy of celebration by putti -- just as Rembrandt's rape was decried by the decent folk left on the shore.

Perhaps Simmel is reacting to Rembrandt's greater compatibility with the distinctly Christian theme of John the Baptist preparing the way for the Savior.

But Simmel also identifies "The Incredulity of Thomas" and "Belshazzar's Feast" as exemplifying the same earlier quality as "Rape of Europa"

So I remain puzzled as what Simmel is seeing in the 'John the Baptist Preaching' that he is not seeing in the other three paintings. Its stage does seem to have been lit by a powerful row of spotlights -- perhaps that's what he was reacting to.

Or... it may well be that the effect he has noted can only be experienced by looking at the actual painting on a gallery wall, instead of a much smaller reproduction on a computer monitor.

If only he had elaborated on his examples, or written more metaphorically about this quality of movement that interests him.

Instead, his approach is to proliferate a theoretical verbiage that, like the development of a theme in a classical symphony, is rather pleasant to follow, but leaves me as puzzled at the end as I was at the beginning:

If one is searching for a theoretical expression of Rembrandt’s solution to his problems of movement (whether great or small), it is to be found within the frame of this conception of life. Whereas in classical and, in the narrower sense, stylizing art, the depiction of a movement is achieved via a sort of abstraction in that the viewing of a certain moment is torn out of its prior and concurrent stream of life and crystallizes into a self-sufficient form, with Rembrandt the depicted moment appears to contain the whole living impulse directed toward it; it tells the story of this life course. It is not a part of a psycho-physical movement fixed in time where the totality of this movement — of this internally unfolding event — would exist beyond the artistically shaped being-in-itself. Rather, it makes evident how a represented moment of movement really is the whole movement or, better, is movement itself, and not some petrified something or other. It is the inversion of the “fruitful moment.” While the latter leads the movement for the imagination from its current state into the future, Rembrandt collects its past into this here and now, not so much a fruitful moment but a moment of harvesting. Just as it is the nature of life to be at every moment there as a totality, since its totality is not a mechanical summation of singular moments but a continuous and continuously form- changing flowing, so it is the nature of Rembrandt’s movement of expression to let us feel the whole sequence of its moments in a single movement — overcoming its partition into separated sequential moments. From the way in which most painters represent these movements, it would seem as if the artist had seen, either in imagination or from a model, how a certain movement looks, and had arranged, realistically or not, the picture according to this outcome — perfected in terms of the phenomenon that had reached the surface.

Titian: Portrait of Gerolamo (?) Barbarigo

Moving over to portraits, Simmel does not offer any specific examples of contrasting work done before Rembrandt. (and BTW, no illustrations at all accompany his text)

But he does speak in general as follows:

The portraits from Florence or Venice certainly do not lack life and soul. There is a general design however, that tears the elements away from the immediacy of their experience and thereby from the order of their succession. The form is closed off in itself putting only the results of the movement of the inner life at our disposal as data. That typifying style does not need to create a similarity of individuals (although admittedly people all look somehow similar in the art of Sienna and, partially, of Umbria), but it effects a special kind of “generality’ namely the representation of the ideal individual, accomplished by the abstraction from all of its singular moments of life. In the case of Rembrandt, the generality of the individual human being means the accumulation of these moments that somehow retain their historical order.

So, I have gone to the Google Art Project, and picked examples of portraits by a Venetian, Florentine, and Umbrian from the previous centuries.

Raphael: Portrait of Pietro Bembo

Botticelli: Portraitof Giuliano De' Medici

Of the three portraits shown above, this is the only one that feels to me like it's been "torn from the immediacy of experience" -- but then, since it was executed as a posthumous tribute to a life cut short by assassination, that would be quite appropriate.

The other two feel, to me, like personalities who, though holding a formal pose for the sake of decorum, are stepping out from the canvas to engage the viewer.


Rembrandt's portraits contain the movement of the inner life by way of, or as, this accumulation [of singular moments ] while the classical is not only timeless in the artistic sense - that is, independent of the location between a before and after in earthly time - but also possesses in itself an immanent timelessness in the ordering of its moments. Therefore, the richest and most moving portraits of Rembrandt are of old people, since in them we can see a maximum of lived life. In portraits of young people he achieved this only in a few depictions of Titus via a rotation of the dimension: by garnering to a degree the future life with its developments and fates, and by making visible the future succession of events in the present, just as, in the former case, the succession of past events is made visible.

Simmel doesn't tell us which portraits of Titus have this special quality, so all we can do is guess.

If I had to find an accumulation of future events, I guess I'd find in this one.

While this Titus seems more about the present.

While here's an old man in red who seems to be carrying his past.

(though I'm not sure that I would feel this way unless Simmel had suggested it)

While here's an earlier portrait (by Jan Van Eyck) of an old man.

Is his long life somehow less present?

What feels more present to me in the Rembrandt portraits is not the life of the subject, but the passionate life that was holding the paint brush.

And now the continuity of the flowing totality of life, as focused in a single portrait, extends beyond it and is expressed, as real and symbolic, in Rembrandt’s evident inclination to capture in painting the same individual at various stages of life. Here on a larger scale we feel once more that life cannot be captured in a single moment of its formation. In the series of pictures of a single person — that is, in the fact, that it is one series — what the single picture displays in the form of intensity is laid out in succession. Here we must think first and foremost of his self-portraits and how these, precisely as a series, contrast with the classical conception of the human subject. Titian, Andrea del Sarto, as well as Puvis de Chavannes and Bocklin, each left a few self-portraits in which they intended to capture their unchanging nature once and for all. But, as in Rembrandt, just as the whole life flows into each moment that is represented as a picture, so it also flows further into the next painting — dissolving, as it were, into an uninterrupted life in which the paintings rarely denote a pause. It never is; it is always becoming.

I recently saw the above self portrait in Milwaukee -- while it travels around the country before it returns to its refurbished home in Kenwood House, London.

And I selected it for this discussion because it seems to be the only painting where Rembrandt presented himself as an artist,though, of course, he had already been one for 30 years.

Here, he presents himself as an aging, somewhat dumpy householder. (I've seen this painting many times - it's in the Frick)

And here he presents himself as the Apostle Paul.

My point is -- he seems more interested in playing different roles than in chronicling his life, even if time does change the choice of roles available to him. He can't pretend to be a dashing young dude when he's past 50.

In this passage, as in many others, Simmel seems far more interested in the philsophy of Hegel than he is in the paintings of Rembrandt.

Though when contrasting Rembrandt to these two self portraits by Titian, it does seem that Rembrandt is more open to introspection, while Titian wants to present himself in a more positive way.

Here, he's the forceful man of action - like a sea captain.

And here he's an astute and fearless man of judgment, done five years later.

Here's a few self portraits by Andrea Del Sarto.

Even if he was trying to capture his "unchanging nature", it has certainly changed from his youth to his middle age.

He presents himself as more congenial than either Rembrandt or Titian -- but he also lacks their power.

Then there's all the self portraits by Arnold Bocklin.

But if they were done in different periods of his life, I can't tell much difference.

They all seem to be the same, rather distant person who's not especially given to introspection - even when Death is leaning over his shoulder.

He's the one painter in this group who does seem to have had an 'unchanging nature'

Puvis de Chavannes also seems to have presented an unchanging nature -- so much so that he apparently felt no need to finish more than one painting of himself.

But mostly, what seems to distinguish the self portraits of Rembrandt from the other four is an apparent curiosity/bemusement about his soul and that lump of aging flesh that carries it around.

One more problem I have with Simmel's discussion presented above, is his assertion that the self-portraits of Rembrandt were one series -- rather than multiple series or perhaps no series at all. And he presents this as a fact , rather than as his own interpretation.

This is quite odd - given that Rembrandt gave no indication that his self portraits were conceived as a series.

But perhaps Simmel's original German text was not so explicit.

Finally, this knowledge of life, which speaks through artistic creations and not in theoretical concepts, is once more symbolized in a quite different turn in his series of drawings. However much the expressive movements of his paintings and etchings display the continuity of life, they are as a whole still closed, self-sufficient constructions that place creative life out of itself and within firm boundaries, into the objectivity and detachment of the completed work of art. The drawings, however, are more like stages through which this life passes without a pause. They are like individual consummations of life’s course, instead of somehow being dammed up as in the paintings. Many exceptions not withstanding, their totality has a different character from drawings by other masters. Either these are more like paintings — their intention, whether realized or not, is the construction of art that stands for itself, delimited by an ideal frame — or they are sketches or studies, fragments or experiments, whereby their meaning resides in contexts of a technical or preparatory nature.

Rembrandt’s drawings draw back from this alternative. They have something characteristically unfinished about them, as if one follows immediately on from the other, like one breath to the next. And yet, none has the quality of a sketch — of pointing beyond itself. It is at the same time totality and being in a state of flux: a quality that is inherent in our every living act, and only in this. One may well say that only Rembrandt’s drawings in their totality reveal the fundamentally living essence of his art, which has concentrated itself in his paintings and their expressive movements into an individual objectification.

Unfortunately, Simmel has not identified any specific drawings -- and much scholarship has been done over the past hundred years to separate out those pieces done by students or copyists or forgers.

So I've just gone ahead and selected the drawings that stand out as far as I'm concerned.

It's too bad that Europeans have not cultivated spontaneous graphic expression as religiously as eastern Asians.

Most of those drawings now identified as being by Rembrandt would not, I believe, qualify as stand-alone artworks. Many of them are compositional studies, and many others are sketches for figures that he might have liked to put into a composition some day. And that's also true of most European old-master drawings.

But especially with landscapes, it does seem that sometimes Rembrandt sat down to make a drawing for its own sake.

His control of space is just so delicious -- I almost wish he had been born Chinese.


This is a great drawing - and it's wonderful that he has placed this dumpy body so sensitively into space - making her more beautiful than the dozens of beautiful young women I draw every month.

But one thing about quick figure sketches: if a reasonably talented and experienced person makes enough of them, a few are probably going to be very good. And that's all we've got today from Rembrandt - just a few hits, and many more misses.

This one seems like a much more deliberate piece of work.

He certainly has developed a mountainous sense of volume.

I like how Simmel has written that these drawings "are like individual consummations of life’s course, instead of somehow being dammed up as in the paintings."

Except that..... I don't think that the energy in a good painting ever feels dammed. It always feels flowing, fresh and spontaneous, no matter how meticulous the artist may have been.

Which is why I think that a very good painting is much more rare and difficult to achieve than a good drawing.

Though I really can't think of any drawings done before Rembrandt that had anything like a feeling for how life is actually lived. All of the drawings that I remember relate to heroic or sacred narratives, and feel like they are presenting a special, supernatural, sacred, or occasionally freakish, world - no matter how naturalistically they have been rendered.

The above portrait of Durer's mother is closest thing that I could find for a figure drawing of the real world.

And I can't recall any landscape drawings that don't feel fantastical or ideal.



Perhaps another characteristic contrast to the Renaissance portrait can now be clarified. I said that the latter displays its character timelessly, as it were, in an abstraction that eliminates the vital movements of its development and only records its pure contents...... The effect of Rembrandt’s paintings is just the opposite. His figures appear to us as though shaken out of the depths of life, interwoven with long-running strands of fate. None has the typical enigma of the Mona Lisa, or Botticelli’s Guiliano de’ Medici, or Giorgione’s Portrait of a Young Man in Berlin and in Budapest, or Titian’s Young Englishman in the Pitti Museum. Compared to these, Rembrandt’s manner of viewing and presentation is incomparably vibrant, dispersing into the dusk and, so to speak, the infinite — and lacking in logical transparency.......All the art of the Italian Seicento, for all its expressive passion, is guided throughout by the tendency toward rationalistic clarity. Each figure should unambiguously display that which goes on inside itself. Each affect should be exactly displayed down to the last detail.





Above are the 5 examples that Simmel has chosen to represent the 'rationalistic clarity' of the 16th Century. "Compared to these, Rembrandt's manner of viewing and presentation is incomparably vibrant, dispersing into the dusk and, so to speak, the infinite - and lacking in logical transparency."

Simmel does not offer any specific examples of Rembrandt portraits that present "just the opposite" .. but I'm guessing that the above portrait of Jan Six would have been familiar and acceptable to him.

Has Simmel suggested that this difference follows Rembrandt's Hegelian approach to reality ? If so, would he then suggest that some kind of historical process is at work that leads from one to the other, as happened in philosophy?

He does suggest that the painters whom he mentioned above were characteristic of the "highly cultivated, and in various ways affected, Italian society - eager for good manners and prestigious representation" ---- in contrast to "the pure spirituality of the miller's son (ill educated in literature) who, curing his period of highest productivity, camped in a miserable inn with a peasant girl as his lover"

Would he have recognized the Fayum portraits as also being Hegelian?



Here, of course, a circle seems to be unavoidable. We have before us the depiction of a contemporary appearance in which .. the subject’s inner history is sedimented, as it were, and its coming into being as lived from within is still vivid, thereby extricating a particular way of being understood. But this temporal and multifarious history is only to be felt through the atemporal, unique view! Let us call this for a moment the “present” of the depiction. In this way this present should be indicated to us via the past; this past, however, is only to be interpreted via the present! ...................... The circle, though, does not seem to be irresolvable, since it rests on the by no means indisputable assumption that the inner life behind a human appearance becomes accessible to us in a quite distinct and separate way from that in which the body is accessible ....... This is perhaps an artificial separation. Just as the human subject is an indivisible unity - a life as such - that brings forth and forms the so called bodily and so-called inner life in a unitary process, so , too, the subject as observer has a corresponding capacity to perceive another human being with a unitary function in which sensory and mental perception are no more separated by an internal dividing line than are the corporeal and the inner facts of life.

How disappointing! The title of this section suggested to me that Simmel might discuss geometric circles in Rembrandt's designs -- but alas, h's talking about the circularity of his own argument -- which is a problem I do not believe he has eliminated simply by asserting the 'indivisble unity' of both the human subject and an observer's capacity to perceive it.

He will take several pages to elaborate this assertion, but I don't think it's worth following


The Animation of the Portrait

Happily, Simmel begins this section by offering two specific examples, as he addresses the question: "How one can immediately read the whole inner personality out of the painting"

If the inner image of Ephraim Bonus, or that of Jan Six, shines through with absolute (even when not conceptually expressible) clarity, then the conjecture that experience had taught us that persons with this particular appearance fixed in the painting always posses a particular inner constitution is completely senseless. I have neither ever seen persons whose appearance is so similar to that of Bonus or Six as to be confused with them, nor would it be tolerable to piece together the convincing correlation between appearance and inner lie from disparate experiences of the individual components of such personalities.

First... the "inner image of Ephraim Bonus" does not shine through with "absolute clarity" to me because I've never met the man (and I doubt that Simmel has either)- and actually, I don't think I can see the "whole inner personality" of even the people whom I've known the most.

Second...why are we querying whether we have ever seen people who look like him? Simmel seems to have characterized his audience as naive realists who are not aware of how images have been manipulated to produce various effects.

And indeed, as we read below, he is himself a naive realist regarding photography:

it is here that the deepest divergence of direction between photography and the work of art opens up. The viewer should not pause over a photograph. It fulfills its duty all the better the more it “reminds us” of the original, eliminating itself so that we subjectively believe that we are seeing the model.” Because it really only reproduces the corporeal, the photograph would be senseless or unbearable if it did not direct us via a psychological path back to the full reality of its original.
It appears that photographs were not yet widely accepted as works of art back in 1916.

Simmel then goes on to distinguish between those painted images that reflect reality and those that are 'solipsistic':

In contrast, the greatest Rembrandt portraits — which are, of course, only one extremity of a range of mixed manifestations of both principles — appear to us as merely the expression of his vision. The observing eye is captured by the appearance as it stands there and does not transpose it back into the category of reality. By this is not meant that solipsism of a particular artistry that renders the human form on the canvas only as an ordering of colored marks, a focus of optical stimuli, a particularly complex ornament. Everything spiritual and extrasensory that inhabits his figures remains rightly intact.

Simmel seems to be puzzled why the "inner life" of the characters in these paintings is so manifest -- but he never queries why it might be more manifest to him than to others. Nor does he compare these two paintings to other, less effective portraits from the Rembrandt school - or to the greater,or lesser, certainly he feels concerning the inner life that he perceives in the actual people whom he knows.

He concludes this section by noting that Rembrandt has done what every good actor does -- i.e. construct an apparent inner life of a person other than himself. But if a riddle is solved by a statement of the obvious -- was it really such a riddle in the first place ?

BTW - here's a portrait from 1633 that seems to be more like concealing than revealing a character's inner life -- even if it also seems to be a wonderful painting.

While here's a school-of-Rembrant portrait that does seem to be presenting as much inner life as the examples selected by Simmel --but it's not such a powerful painting - and therefore I find it a bit disappointing.

And here's a photograph I took last weekend of a man I've known for 20 years.

It's hardly a formal pose -- we were just sitting across a table from each other at a cheap restaurant.

I don't think it reveals any less of his inner life than his actual physical presence did -- and it seems to reveal an inner life as much as Rembrandt's portrait of Jan Six.

It's just that it doesn't even begin to offer the kind of joy and thrill that a good painting does.

Subjective Realism and the Self Portrait

Simmel continues to focus on reality in portraiture - this time distinguishing between paintings that point towards the person being painted (as a photograph does, according to him), and paintings that point back towards the artist -- as he proposes that a work of art is not exclusively one or the other.

And then he offers up examples of these two poles:

Goya as "one who sees through to the reality of human beings and processes -- and Velazquez as one who was "above all of an energetic nature"

Duke Olivarez

Juan De Mateos

I have the impression that Velázquez would have posed the question of their life force to each of his portrayed figures as though his instinct told him that this was their constant common denominator, whose exactly determined measure he makes us feel in each one, whatever their individual differences. The mighty, unyielding life force of Duke Olivarez and of Juan de Mateos, the decadent weaknesses of Philip IV and his brothers, the inner emptiness of the puffed-up strength of the fool Pablillos, the hard-bitten dynamic of the court dwarves, the dubious vitality of the King’s children — each one of them is placed on an exactly determined point of a scale of pure force that the viewer clearly discerns. If this interpretation is correct, we have with Velazquez an — if also rather peculiar — example of the subjective realism of the art of portraiture for which the subjectively real component of the artistic personality determines the portrayal.


It would be difficult to dispute that "the subjectively real component of the artistic personality determines the portrayal" regarding any painting done by anyone, adult or child, regardless of ability.

... and when comparing Velazquez' Philip IV with a portrait detail by Goya, I also don't feel one is especially closer to some kind of reality than the other.

Nor do I feel that Goya is displaying any less "energetic nature" than Velazquez -- indeed, no artist who lacks such a nature is of much interest to me.

Beyond these disagreements -- I would also question whether the degree of subjectivity/objectivity can ever be a fruitful topic for discussion unless, for example, you were querying a Velazquez portrait for information about Philip IV.

But this duality does set the table for Simmel's next assertion about Rembrandt:

Rembrandt’s portraits do at least demonstrate the farthest distance from these two forms of realism. In this respect only Titian and Tintoretto can be compared to him.

Unsupported by previous argument, the above assertion has arrived like a bolt from the blue - but it does present Rembrandt's self-portraits as an amazing convolution worthy of torrential philosophic celebration:

Since the external reality of the living model and the artist’s reality that dictates from within are given as a unity in consciousness, these two temptations in fact meet but can also easily mutually neutralize each other. The self-portrait is the school and to a degree the prototype (in which the contrasts are not yet divided off) for shaping the creative mind into the form of a different individual exterior as though it were its interior; a specific artistic process that automatically transcends both kinds of realism. In fact, through the self-portrait Rembrandt could again and again most easily orient himself toward that which was a fundamental, perhaps the fundamental, essence of his art of portraiture. ....... Here, where the unity of the internal and the external was immediately experienced, he consistently trained himself in the depiction of this unity, for which task he possessed a matchless talent. In objectifying this unity in artistic forms in ever-new ways, he more and more found, as it were, the general formula for such unity. His artistry as such lifted him — and here most evidently —— in equal measure above the reality of his subjectivity and above that of his models. Thus, that which his portraits represented was no longer a corporeality abstracted out of a whole life, but rather his vision was from the start this whole life in the unity, or as the unity, of all its elements.


Artistic Procreation

Simmel has chosen both the portrait of Jan Six (shown earlier) and the above "Jewish Bride" as examples of a painter who has "traced back the appearance of a person to a unified trans-phenomenal intuition of essence that he then entrusted to its concentrated driving forces of which the form's spatial extension unfolded in free organic growth"

This would be in contrast to "an inferior portrait - particularly one with a dilettantish character that nevertheless conveys a convincing similarity to the model.. so one gains the impression that the painter has transferred each individual aspect as they appeared to him move-for-move and in the same sequence onto the canvas"

Unfortunately, he does not offer an example of such inferior work. Could a "convincing similarity to the model" really be achieved with a piecemeal procedure?

The topic here is that "deep but in no way yet elucidated, aspect of artistic creation" of whether "unity" was prior to the work of the art. I've used the scare quotes because I think the word needs more elucidation than Simmel gave it, and I'm doubting that there cannot be reasonable differences concerning its existence in any given example - including the one shown above where there is a variety of opinion concerning the characters being represented. Is it a father and daughter ? Isaac and Rebecca? Other couples that Rembrandt knew ?

Simmel connects the unity of a portrait with the oneness of an individual:

The concept of individuality toward which the discussion so far has been moving, and which will be later presented in a purer — for Rembrandt decisive — meaning, must provide one of its functions for the problem at hand. The whole theoretical and moral quarrel between the corporeal and the inner life, or between the senses and the spirit, will lose its field of battle as soon as the human being regards the fact that he is an individual as the essence and the meaning of his life. If one grasps this concept in its pure meaning — as indivisible — so it must evidently be the common substance or base of those separated and diverging parties

But since people are always changing, back and forth, in a variety of directions, I would question to what extent any of us are indivisible. Should integrity even be considered a virtue in every instance, rather than a woeful inflexibility?


Life's Past in the Painting

Simmel returns to his initial topic of past-in-present, offering "Joseph's Blutiger Rock" (with the Earl of Derby)" as an example of a Rembrandt image that's "a crass restriction of the whole complex of representation to an absolutely unextended - and thus frozen - moment"

The editor's footnote speculates that this may be a drawing now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, but I think the above etching is a more likely culprit (though I wonder why he would mention the Earl of Derby)

It does feel unusually, though not uniquely, melodramatic for Rembrandt.

Simmel continues to be puzzled
"why the one, frozen, temporally non-extended moment presented by the painting can make visible a temporally extended movement" -- though I don't know why he's not just as puzzled by what he sees in the rest of the world around him.

The Representation Of Movement

What is it then that moves within the picture? The painted figure itself does not move, as it does in cinematography. So it can only be that the imagination of the viewer is aroused to complete the movement before and after the represented moment. But it is precisely with respect to this self-evident conclusion that I have my doubts. If I examine more closely that which becomes conscious to me about inner life when I see the flying Creator in the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, or the Maria as she sinks back in Grunewald’s Crucifixion,’ I find not a trace of the stages before and after the represented moment. This would be quite impossible because the viewer Simmel cannot reconstruct how a figure by Michelangelo might look in any posture other than that which it displays. In this case, it would be a Simmel figure, but no longer a Michelangelo one, and would therefore not be a moment of movement of the figure in question. Rather, in a way in which the perception here is distinct from the perception of real movements only through its intensity and compression , the pictorial gesture is immediately charged with movement. However paradoxical it may sound, the movement is immanent in the gesture, and not subsequently added by the time before or after. Movement is a quality of a particular viewing.

It's occurring to me that Simmel is frustrated by the metaphorical quality of the words used to write about paintings. It's not metaphorical to say that Michelangelo's painting, shown above, is located on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. And it's not metaphorical to say that it was intended to represent the God of the Roman Catholic faith flying through the heavens he is creating. But we can only speak in metaphorical language to describe what we see being depicted. So..... it's as if a big, heavy old man is flying through space, and it's as if his butt is hanging out from between his robes.

So it's only as if there were movement in the above paintings -- and none of the logical consequences of real movement need to be considered.

What about a sense of movement being found in earlier paintings?

I certainly feel it in the 13th C. French Psalter.

But I'm having difficultly recalling anyone flying in earlier paintings - unless they're hovering -- or gracefully floating as Christ does in the above detail depiction of the Supper at Emmaus.

And -- I don't think anything has ever flown quite like Michelangelo's God. He feels so heavy as well as so mobile.

When used in a logical declarative statement, something moves or it doesn't. But when used metaphorically, everything in a painting can seem to be moving a little as well as not at all -- and what's more important is the kind of movement which can even appear unique.

How did Michelangelo make it appear that God was flying ?

I don't think that question is worth pursuing -- but if it were pursued, I'd have to agree with Simmel that it's an effect that results from much more than just the details of anatomical body parts and clothing. So Simmel's next topic is appropriate:


The Unity of the Composition

In this section, Simmel presents what he sees as two contrasting kinds of compositions:

The Italian (exemplified by the Castelfranco Madonna by Giogione) :
The unity of the well-composed Renaissance painting is external to the content of the picture itself. It should be thought of as abstract form: pyramid, group symmetry, contraposition within and between the individual figures; as forms whose independent meaning actually could also be filled with a different content. Aside from this form, however, which is grounded in an external meaning, the painting often has a very limited unity. It consists, rather, of a series of parts arranged alongside each other which, because they are evenly executed, completely lack an organic relationship.

Rembrandt (exemplified by the 'The Night Watch'):
"the total form of a group painting grows out of the life of the individual figures; that is, the life of the individual is exclusively determined from their own center, to a degree flowing beyond it to meet that of the others in order to create a mutual influencing and reinforcing modification and union. There is no general form that one could take from the totality [of the painting] as conceivable and meaningful in its own right, or that one could classify as a schema as in geometrically composed paintings. This may be the grounds for the forceful impression given by The Night Watch — namely, that the unity of the painting is, as it were, nothing in itself, not to be abstracted from the painting, not based on a form beyond the fulfillment of its purpose, but rather that its essence and its power are nothing other than the immediate interweaving of the vital forces that break out of each individual"

Before we follow Simmel's expansion of this argument - let's take a look at these two examples, even if only in screen sized reproduction.

Here's a reconstruction of the 'Night Watch' before it was cut down by later generations.

Either way -- it still seems like a jumble to me. It could certainly be far more jumbled -- but it does not seem to be distinguished by 'unity of composition' - at least to me. So I would agree with the painter/writer Eugene Fromentin that "It is agreed that the composition does not constitute the principal merit of the picture" (1876)

Some of its selected areas of detail look far better than the piece as a whole. Isn't it one of the stories that it was painted piecemeal, as more members of the company paid the artist to include their portraits?

Here's another detail -- a very nice portrait -- but I do wonder whether Simmel found any 'interior life' here

Another nice detail -- I'm afraid that if I owned it, I would have cut this large painting up to make a dozen smaller pieces that could more easily studied up close.

Regarding the enduring puzzle of just what these guys are doing -- my guess is that they've just been thrown out of a bar at closing time.

Another issue I have with the entire piece is that the heads in the background are just as large as those standing way in front of them -- turning them into giants if natural perspective is considered - which is actually the same problem I find with the Giorgione painting shown below:

...and the emphasis on pictorial space as created by the receding tiles on the floor makes that discrepancy more acute.

Actually, in both of these paintings, it's the areas of detail that I find far more attractive than the whole.

Though I wouldn't just characterize the composition as geometric --- it's devotional, just like a Tibetan mandala. Geometric symmetry is the means towards the end of focusing prayerful attention.

'Dream of Innocent III', c. 1297

But immediately, Simmel suggests that Giotto is one Italian who does not apply that geometric kind of unity mentioned above:

In Giotto no inner estrangement between the compositional form and the figures’ own life can be felt. This is because the latter are not strongly individualized and claim no existence beyond the function of their given pictorial form, and also because the form here is not yet a geometrical, but an architectonic one. The geometric schema of the later compositions has an abstraction whose emptiness and solid autonomous meaning is not to be completely overcome by any realization, however inventive and lively in detail. We can, however, call a form architectonic that does not emerge out of an individual vitality but immediately out of, and identical with, the material extensity and dynamic intensity of its realization. The architectonic principle stands beyond the opposition between schematism and life. In Giotto, the groups do not grow as groups out of the individual vitality of the figures, as in Rembrandt. However, they grow just as little as the completion of an already existing schema with its own geometric meaning. Rather, it is like a building in which no part has a life of its own, but each deploys a unique mass, form, and power and thus allows an architectonic unity to emerge immediately to which nothing is comparable. If one has rightly emphasized that it is initially with Giotto that the ground really displays the load-bearing power for the weight of the figure resting on it, so this is merely one aspect of the architectonic character of his visions.

Unfortunately, Simmel does not offer any specific examples - so I have no idea which 'later compositions' exhibit 'geometric schema'. Possibly the above altarpiece from 1310 ?

Once again, this is piece made to accept devotion rather than to tell a story.

And I'm puzzled by the opposition of "individual vitality" (exemplified by Rembrandt) with "material extensity and dynamic intensity of its realization" (which Simmel calls 'architectonic') Does Simmel want us to apply or ignore the apparent connection of 'architectonic' with 'architecture' ?

'Architectonic' seems like the right word to apply to paintings, sculpture, or furniture that have been composed along with the interior spaces of the building that contains them - and that might apply to Giotto's frescoes.

The above fresco in Sta. Croce seems to exhibit both the individual vitality of Francis, as well as relate to the interior space of the church.

As Simmel has defined it, 'architectonic' might also be said to be a quality of all things that have been successfully made to look good - whether they were made for a specific architectural site or not.

In Raphael's depictions of the Madonna, the geometric motif may essentially determine the composition. They are of such an artistic power, however, that so to speak a lest retrospectively - the life of the figure fits smoothly into this form without inner contradiction and without random form --- in contrast to the Castelfranco Madonna (Giorgione) where the triangular composition is undoubtedly something mechanical and without proper relation to the lyricism of the overall mood of the painting - though it is interesting how much this mood and the deep increased beauty of the figures get the upper hand over the clumsiness of the geometric form in such a way that for many the total impression excels that of Raphael's corresponding works, even though in the latter the geometric schema and its vial content form a much more natural harmonic unity

I empathize with Simmel's difficulty in agreeing with himself. On the one hand, Raphael's and especially Giorgione's composition seems artificial and awkward -- but on the other hand, perhaps that arrangement has enhanced the gem-like beauty of the figures - so perhaps it wasn't such a bad composition after all.

Life (in Rembrandt paintings) instead remains immersed within each individual figure and, insofar as it radiates from each to each, it does not give up its center to a unity lying beyond itself. It is only the whole general space that can be flooded with a living wave in this constellation.

Similarly, he's not sure whether the 'life' of a Rembrandt painting is within each individual character -- or in the space between them.

This contrasts sharply with the feeling for space of the Italian Renaissance, in painting as well as in architecture. Here space is the solidly built stage that offers moving people an unmoving fixed point. The Latin demands, and by the way not first in the Renaissance, the clear perspicuity of space, its static form, which, as has been already said, is compatible with the movement of persons within it, but not with its own.

Though he has no doubt that space is different in Italian paintings -- where first there's the stage and then there's the players.

But if we look at what must be a quintessential example of such Italian painting, the figures are indeed set upon a stage, but still they establish the sense of space in the lower half of the painting. What's different, as Noris Kelly Smith put it, is the importance of the public space they inhabit.

Inherent within the Germanic disposition, in contrast to the classical, is from the outset a different capacity to feel unity. Durer’s Melancholy, Holbein’s The Merchant Georg Gisze, many Dutch still life paintings — all of these display a series of individual objects alongside each other, which, from the point of view of classical art, appear accidental and disjointed. Although it did not appear as such to their creators, however, the yearning of the Germanic spirit for the classical is intelligible in these terms. This is because the inorganic attains visible unity only in abstract geometrical forms; it cannot attain a meaningful, that is, unified, form through interior growth; it lacks that moving sphere through which one living being can unite with another. That earlier lack of coherence in German art was therefore certainly a contradiction. The characteristic nonclassical unity toward which it strove was not to be reached through inorganic material.

This is why, unless my impression deceives me, we experience paintings in this category as much less piecemeal and accidental the moment they consist largely or exclusively of human figures. This is demonstrated with very remarkable nuance in the paintings of Brueghel the Elder, particularly those that are relatively large scale.

I would apply the word 'piecemeal' to those acres of Baroque paintings in American museums where apparently one specialist painted the faces, another the drapery, and a third did the fruit and tableware. But I would not apply it to the three paintings shown above.

Why do Simmel and I feel so differently? Since he sees more unity when the many objects in a painting are interacting human figures instead of lifeless objects on a shelf, it may be that his attachment to narrative has overwhelmed his sensitivity to design.

In Durer's 'Melancholia', the brooding central figure seems overwhelmed by a pile of useless junk -- but that doesn't mean that all the details don't fit together beautifully.

While here's a crowd scene from a painting by Jan Bruegel. Not that it's a terrible mishmash -- but its interconnectedness does not achieve the power of his father, Pieter.

Here's more of what Simmel has to say about the paintings of Pieter the Elder, and how they contrast with Rembrandt:

According to their abstract schema, one would assume that they were as colorful and diverse as possible. In their concrete totality, however, they do not affect us in this way. A most powerful elementary life appears to stream through them, which is clearly quite undifferentiated, and which in a particular painting neither acquires individual coloring nor reaches beyond this particularity so that it is, so to speak, all the same which piece of this life (in itself to be consistently characterized in its entirety) this or that painting cuts out. The unity here cannot be read as a closed formal correlation of parts, but rather stems from, or coincides with, the unity of that general life which in its great or small parts is one and the same. Obviously, this vital unity has nothing whatsoever to do with classical composition. It can exist instead as such without any concerns at all about classical composition. In each individual figure, however peculiar its action and posture may be, this strong characteristic rhythmic life is always in the same manner — yes, in equal measure perceptible, and gathers any number and arrangement of individual figures into a unity. As has been suggested, this is attained only under the condition that the individual figures are undifferentiated. The higher stage in which purely individualized objects of life converge into a unity without needing classical geometrical formal structure was first reached by Rembrandt, most evidently in The Night Watch. Only here has the striving toward that specific unity become self-evident.

I doubt that the "closed formal correlation of parts" would ever make for an enjoyable painting unless its "general life in its great and small parts is one and the same". I also don't see a lack of differentiation in Bruegel's individual figures.

The Night Watch is one of the most puzzling of paintings. How these configurations, running confused and without plan and, according to conventional concepts, formless, all over the place, could create a unity of the whole — without which the powerful impression of the whole would be completely impossible — cannot be explained in terms of such concepts. But in that The Night Watch takes a certain number of vital beings and only those as the content of the painting, and gives voice to the secret of their pure vital interactions, has it satisfled purely, for the first time in the history of art, the old Germanic drive toward a unity that is not that of the closed form but can only be realized through the individual bearers. The unity here —— at once profound and unstable — is reached via a much riskier path than in the classical work of art, in which the unity, through the autonomous preexisting meaning of the form, carries a certain guarantee that it cannot disintegrate and must be understood. Herein lies the profound relation to the principle of individuality: individuality is that structure whose form is absolutely bound to its reality and cannot be abstracted from this reality under the condition of or in order to gain an autonomous meaning.

Since Simmel's sense of pictorial unity is quite different from mine, I disagree with each and every assertion made above - other than to say that the Night Watch is indeed "running confused and without plan". For me, it's redeemed by rich areas of detail, for him it's the "secret of their pure vital interactions" of the characters portrayed - a 'secret' which has apparently not been shared with me.

And so, I also do not accept that his 'principle of individuality' applies to representational painting, other than to the entire painting itself. That kind of individuality is indeed absolutely bound the exact arrangement of pigments, binder, and oils as the artist left them on the canvas. There was also the individuality of the actual men who once posed for the artist -- but whatever resemblance their portraits may have to them results from a process of abstraction. Whatever meaning the viewer may sense is autonomous with respect to the Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenhurch.


Clarity and Detailing

Whereas form to a degree represents the abstract idea of an appearance, color stands both prior to and beyond this. It is more sensuous and more metaphysical. Its effect is on the one hand more immediate, and, on the other, deeper and more mysterious. If form is to be characterized as the logic of appearance, color signifies instead the psychological and metaphysical character of appearance, thereby once again proving that these two quite distinct intentions share an opposition vis-à-vis the logical principle. This is why thinkers largely interested in logic often reject the inclination toward both the psychological and the metaphysical in equal measure. And this appears to me to be the most significant context that leads Kant, in his aesthetic table of judgments, to reject color in favor of form.

To quote the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Kant proposed that :

"Aesthetic judgments are disinterested. There are two types of interest: by way of sensations in the agreeable, and by way of concepts in the good. Only aesthetic judgment is free or pure of any such interests....... The judgment results in pleasure, rather than pleasure resulting in judgment. Kant accordingly and famously claims that the aesthetic judgment must concern itself only with form (shape, arrangement, rhythm, etc.) in the object presented, not sensible content (color, tone, etc.), since the latter has a deep connection to the agreeable, and thus to interest.

Simmel does not present a philosophy of color in this section. He only suggests, in agreement with Kant, that its qualities are outside the logic of form.

Nor does he expand upon how this wordless 'logic' might operate. Does it have a subject and a predicate ?

And, unfortunately, he does not offer any examples.

So I'll offer one myself -- the portrait of Jan Six, with and without color.

There are certainly a number of statements one might make about the black-and-white version that would be no different from what one might say about the version in color.

The painting shows us a healthy, well dressed, middle aged Dutch gentleman of the 17th Century. And he seems to be in a relaxed, congenial mood.

And if I had a pronounce an aesthetic judgement, I would say that it was done by one of the better artists of the day. But only because it is so 'agreeable', even without color.

How much is lost when the color is gone ? How much is lost in the small color reproduction compared to the full-size original? I have no idea how such losses can be quantified.

I'd have to say something like "The thrill is gone" - and unlike Kant, that's what my aesthetic judgments are based upon.

The brief discussion introduces the more general topic of clarity - or as Simmel would refine it, "evenness" :

The geometric tendency and the clarity of all which is presented are merely two expressions of the same rationalistic cast of mind. However, what is in the deeper sense decisive is not yet this clarity, but much more the evenness of the the execution. Here it is all the same whether the style of painting is vibrant, colorful, boundary-transcending, or a strictly linear and punctilious filling in with the brush. This evenness is not only the opposite of real visual experiences, it is, far more so, of an absolutely inorganic and mechanical nature.

Regarding possible examples, it occurred to me that evenness is more appropriate to younger human faces than old ones, so I compared Botticelli with Rembrandt for both kinds.

I can certainly see a difference between three-dimensional shapes that seem to be more or less sharply defined. The volumes in Botticelli's face have been drawn more sharply, but they are also flatter and the entire space is less convincing.

I couldn't say that one was any closer to "real visual experience", since that experience is indeed able to determine the precise evenness of a surface, if we wish it to. So it's more a question of what we choose to see rather than how we see.

I also wouldn't say that the one was any closer to a 'rationalistic cast of mind' - which wouldn't be the kind of mind much interested in paintings anyway, would it?

And rather than a duality of even/uneven, it appears that each artist uses areas of both to establish his own quality of form and space.

Simmel concludes this section with a discussion of the representation of individualization:

The individuality of the configuration as a whole — its uniqueness due to the fact that each part exists and has sense only in relation to precisely this center — will in any case be favored by the absence of exact details. This is because such detailing bestows on the parts a particular existence that in principle facilitates their employment in another context and relieves them of the uniqueness of their present significance. This appears to me to be the deeper connection through which the commonly border-blurring, vibrant, and unclear in Rembrandt’s way of painting can become the conveyor of his tendency toward individualization.

While I am much more struck by a sense of the individual who made the painting rather than any of the individual subjects being represented - and that sense cannot be ignored when determining the author of a painting when his identity under dispute, regardless of what other specific evidence has been presented.


Life and Form

However, this individualization — as I sought to interpret it here as a life that is developed and grasped from within — bestows a different sense or another type of “necessity” on the “form” than does classical art. Rembrandt’s predilection for ragged appearances, for the proletarians whose clothes, due to the haphazardness of their poor lot, appear in formally quite senseless tatters, seems almost to be a conscious opposition to the latter’s principle. Compare this to the few equivalent figures in Italian painting whose threadbare rags are accommodated within a principally formal concept. In classical art, form means that the elements of appearance determine each other via a mutually effective logic; that the shaping [Geformtheit] of one immediately demands the shaping of the other. With Rembrandt, form means that a life flowing from a source has brought forth precisely this form as its result

I had difficulty finding 16th C. Italian depictions of threadbare clothing. Perhaps the Italian princes of that era were offended by poorly maintained clothing. Even John the Baptist had nice robes or furs --just not very much of them. But going back to the 15th Century, Masaccio's beggar isn't that different from Rembrandt's. And both seem to fit the life of a character as well as a composition of forms.

Rergarding Rembrandt's composition, Simmel tells us that :

Everything is determined from the inside. And the wonder is that this produces a pictorially valuable appearance, just as it is a specific miracle of art that the greatest among the works of art that strive in the reverse direction — from the pure appearance toward its purely artistic forming — thereby simultaneously attain the expression of all inner, rather than immediate visual, values...... the Classical art seeks life via form, Rembrandt seeks form via life.

Simmel loves to pursue dualities. I wonder whether any artist, good or bad, has ever worked without trying to simultaneously balance some inner expression with outer appearance - from the first mark to the last.

But Simmel has focused not on the inner expression of the artist, but on the inner life of the subjects being represented, as if the artist had put the viewer in direct contact with it

He's also interested in other categories of things "effective in art", and introduces the topic of 'weight' - the "being of the material which is the basis of all movement and gravity, forming and living"

If one compares the Olympian sculptures with those of the Parthenon, one feels in the former how they, so to speak, have just lifted themselves out of that original source [Urgrundj — that materiality of all being — that cannot be described further. This materiality is still perceivable in them, and only on the surface has it given way to that form whose differentiation and movement is divided from the core — as the real and unified essence of the structure — only by an ideal line. In contrast, in the Parthenon sculptures, this is fully grasped and permeated in the design. The mysterious unity of the substance in general is not perceptible here because it has fully melted into the respective particular form. One is inclined to compare the art of Olympia with pre-Socratic philosophers, and that of the Parthenon with Plato. However much more perfect, thoroughly designed, and so much more spiritual and subjective the cultural constructs of the Athenian heyday are in comparison to those other artistic and intellectual [cultural constructs], the latter appear to have arisen more immediately out of the origin of things and [appear to be] bound to it without a clear line of demarcation. The Athenian works, however, float, as though released, in the bright realm of the spirit. They have become life — have become form, right into their innermost core.

There certainly is quite a difference between the pedimental sculptures of the Temple of Zeus, Olympia (472-456 BC) and those done by artists from the next generation for the Parthenon, Athens (447-438 BC)

There's a temptation to see the statues at Olympia as an intermediary stage - between the devotional kouros of the previous century and the more picturesque, naturalistic figures from the Parthenon. The piece shown above appears to be a god - while the Parthenon pieces are more like sexy young men and women. Both appear to me to "float in the bright realm of the spirit" - while the work at Olympia seems more pedestrian - suitable only for temporary display in a parade. Perhaps they couldn't afford to hire the best sculptors.

And though Simmel suggests the reverse, it seems to me that it's the statues from the Parthenon that establish a feeling of weight and gravity, while the energy in the earlier pieces shoots upward like a flame.

Simmel has pulled Plato into a discussion that begs for a wider contemplation of the "Greek miracle" in those later decades of the 5th C. BCE. It was certainly an amazing era.

The role of substance is again modified particularly in the weighty massiveness of Giotto’s figures. In the almost unstructured compactness with which, for example, the monks sit there in the Florentine apparition painting

or the praying suitors in Padua kneel the whole corporeal existence is represented by the, so to speak, poreless, unflowing clothes. Here the decisive impression is not only of weight, but precisely of a substance that cannot be further described; of an emphasis on the corporeal being. But substance is not — as in the case of the Olympian or some ancient Egyptian sculptures — something perceivable behind the surface, not something released by the form by which it is covered up. Much more in accord with Italian nature, which always drives toward the surface, even this undifferentiated entity, this mere presence of the bodily mass, still is at work as form. One sought to interpret this effect so that under the heavy, simple spread clothing the living and thoroughly structured body could be felt. I cannot feel that way. The naturally existing duality in a realistic and logical sense between clothing and body is here specifically overcome by the artistic vision, in that Giotto goes back to what these have in common: the pure substance of the tactile being, so that precisely thereby these existences acquired the essence of their visibility. I actually can neither feel something behind these clothes, nor are they, as with some artists, hollow wardrobe pieces that lack the required respective body. Giotto raised himself above these alternatives by lifting that substance of the bodily completely out of its darkness beyond form and life, and by obtaining the visibility and perceptibility of his figures immediately by it, that is, made it in a way to form.

Regarding the weight of Giotto's figures -- yes, it does seem to distinguish him from the styles in fresco or illumination that preceded him -- and I'd attribute that to the earth-bound Franciscans for whom he worked. The heaviness of Francis' robes makes his ascension even more miraculous.

I wish Simmel had digressed even further to explore many of the other artists and styles who worked with gravity - though I think it's more about energy than "the pure substance of the tactile being", and certainly I'd include Rembrandt in that group.

Regarding the "naturally existing duality in a realistic and logical sense between clothing and body" - I do feel human bodies, shoulders and hips, beneath Giotto's drapery, though I wouldn't distinguish that from "a way to form"

The chapter concludes with a meditation on life, form, soul,substance, and individuality, eventually contrasting Rembrandt with "the pure Gothic":

It is quite remarkable, and indeed signifies one of the ultimate possible conceptualizations of being, that its great sense-giving categories — life and form — are born by a substance that is prior to all designation; a substance that continuously becomes absorbed and vanishes, so to speak, in life and form, but which nonetheless can somehow be felt through them. The extent to which this is the case belongs to the decisive differential factors of the impression of the living beings and works of art. ....................... Rembrandt’s religious paintings are the exact opposite of the innermost principle of the pure Gothic insofar that the former piety proves itself to be the way in which the soul lives in all the abundance, colorfulness — yes, coincidence — with that which is characteristic of its form of life. Here a fourth element occurs. Beyond the form and life, substance still stood. And now the soul stands equally there in contrast with substance not its life, but rather its transcendental destiny that now is, so to speak, its substance........ The Gothic soul, because the transcendental is essential to it, has no individuality. Only life is individual. Only in the form of life is the soul individual as the substance (at a lower level) is [individual]only in the form of form.

If this piece from Reims isn't "pure Gothic", what is ?

And, if it lacks 'individuality', what doesn't ?

Though I do share Simmel's enthusiastic wonder concerning the miracles of life and art.

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