The Forbidden Image: An Intellectual History of Iconoclasm

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University of Chicago Press, 2000 - Art - 423 pages
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Philosophers and theologians have long engaged in intense debate and introspection over the representation of the deity, its possibilities and its proscriptions. The Forbidden Image traces the dual strains of “iconophilia” and iconoclasm, the privileging and prohibition of religious images, over a span of two and a half millennia in the West.

Alain Besanšon’s work begins with a comprehensive examination of the status of the image in Greek, Judaic, Islamic, and Christian thought. The author then addresses arguments regarding the moral authority of the image in European Christianity from the medieval through the early modern periods. Besanšon completes The Forbidden Image with an examination of how iconophilia and iconoclasm have been debated in the modern period.

“Even the reader who has heard something of the Byzantine quarrels about images and their theological background will be surprised by a learned and convincing interpretation of the works of Mondrian, Kandinsky, and Malevich in terms of religiously inspired iconoclasm. . . . This is an immensely rich and powerful masterpiece.”—Leszek Kolakowski, Times Literary Supplement


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The forbidden image: an intellectual history of iconoclasm

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As French scholar Besan on makes clear in this wide-ranging study, the commandment that forbids images of the divine was addressed to a culture filled with them. The tension between iconoclasm and ... Read full review


chapter one The Philosophical Critique of the Image
chapter two The Biblical Prohibition 63
chapter three The Image in Dispute 109
Part Two Pax Romana of the Image 147
chapter five The Renaissance and the Baroque Period 165
chapter six The New Theology of the Image 185
chapter seven The NewTheology at Work 227
chapter eight The Russian Revolution 319

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About the author (2000)

Alain Besanšon is the director of studies at L'╔cole des Hautes ╔tudes en Sciences Sociales. A specialist in Russian politics and intellectual history, he has written a number of books, including Anatomie d'un spectre and Les origines intellectuelles du lÚninisme.

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