Diacritics 44 (2):86-103 (2016)

Jimena Berzal de Dios
Western Washington University
At the twilight of the nineteenth century, the French symbolist writer Marcel Schwob assimilated Paolo Uccello (1397-1475) into modern sensibilities: “For Uccello did not care about the reality of things, but about their multiplicity and about the infinitude of lines.” Schwob’s consideration of Uccello (much like Antonin Artaud’s, who wrote the surrealist “Uccello le poil”) has been traditionally neglected by art historians. And yet, these literary encounters with the painter retain a sense of hermeneutical validity that, I argue, transcends the “merely” poetic. In this essay, I examine an unusual work of art, The Funerary Monument to John Hawkwood, which has been seen as exemplifying Uccello’s artistic deficiencies in its lack of unified space and illusionistic volume. In contrast, by being attentive to Schwob and Artaud’s analyses, I propose that the fresco presents a never-fulfilled visual experience in which resonating negations (of centrality, spatiality, and existence) articulate the spatial relationship between the artwork and its viewers. A reticent monument, the paradoxical space in Uccello’s Hawkwood presents a series of dislocations, traces, and erasures, which disclose the artifice of the painting and bring Hawkwood forth, not as a living being, but as a disembodied memory.
Keywords Anachronism  Hermeneutics
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