Wolfgang Kemp’s “The Honorable Deceivers” | EUROtoday

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II stroll every single day via the sway of a giant crowd with as a lot pleasure and luxury as you do via your avenues, and I take a look at the folks I see there no otherwise than I take a look at the bushes in your forests or the animals that go by there .” So René Descartes wrote in 1631 to an acquaintance in France who lived in seclusion at his fortress in Angoulême. At that point, Descartes had already been residing, on and off, for 2 years in Amsterdam, which was considerably smaller than Paris, however giant sufficient to permit him, as a stranger, to reside the hidden life, unnoticed by these round him, for which he had left France.

Helmut Mayer

Editor within the options part, answerable for “new non-fiction books”.

It is unattainable to say whether or not he heard Rembrandt spoken of in his approach of utilizing town, not less than in his later years. Maybe, as a result of Rembrandt, who additionally got here to Amsterdam in 1631, rapidly grew to become a sought-after and profitable artist with a flourishing workshop. It is clear that he gained completely different benefits from the hustle and bustle of town than Descartes.

Wolfgang Kemp: “The Honorable Deceivers”.  Rembrandt and Descartes in 1641.

Wolfgang Kemp: “The Honorable Deceivers”. Rembrandt and Descartes in 1641.

Image: Loops Verlag

Which is why it is not straightforward to consider linking Descartes and Rembrandt. Wolfgang Kemp does it anyway, utilizing their shared place of residence as a foundation and selecting the 12 months 1641 as the main focus – that is when Descartes revealed his “Meditations on the Foundations of Philosophy” and Rembrandt painted the image “Girl in a Picture Frame” that now hangs in Warsaw. The motif talked about within the title of the essay is performed forwards and backwards between these two poles: deception.

Painted palms, shadows, body

In Descartes, each the “genius malignus”, the deceiver in extremis introduced into play for the aim of philosophical basis, known as upon, in addition to the sensual properties of the perceived issues, that are finally misleading about their ontological secondary standing, that are swept apart as secondary qualities in favor of mere extension to depart the stage for the brand new pure philosophy. But the Cartesian maxims of masking their writer, the “larvatus prodeo” or the (unsustained) bracketing of his daring story of the creation of the world as a mere “fable” within the posthumous treatise “Le Monde” additionally come into play.

On the opposite hand, with Rembrandt, the deception is already current via the modern literature on the artwork of portray via well-established topoi: photos as misleading imitations, with the paradigmatic style of trompe l’oeil. What is particular about Rembrandt has not but been reached, which is what Kemp is primarily involved with, particularly the economical, however exactly due to that fascinating use of the eye-deceptive breaking via of the image aircraft in a play of painted palms and frames, with which an elevated presence of the proven is achieved. In the case of the chosen picture: one hand getting ready to the touch this painted body whereas the opposite has already rested on it.

Paul Valéry as guarantor

One can’t say that Kemp’s delicate and catchy interpretation of Rembrandt’s image, which pulls on numerous different works, is a hyperlink or way more a distinction with Descartes – in any case, the thinker resolutely relegates to the second rank what’s prima materia for the painter, the colour – actually essential. Nevertheless, this can be very engaging, because it makes surprising connections, for instance from the well-heated room during which Descartes pursues his described workout routines, to the chilly or fired fireplaces of the painted Dutch interiors, from Descartes’ “larvatus prodeo” to the paneling in Rembrandt’s studio and the variations of the portrait style which might be examined there, or from a woodcut from the “Dioptrique” to Rembrandt’s methodology of permitting the gaze to emerge from a shadowed zone.

Especially for the reason that artwork historian Kemp has definitely regarded into the literature on Descartes. Perhaps much more essential on this regard is his alternative of an middleman who advocates a studying of Descartes that enthusiastically adopted all of the rhetorical strikes of his zero-point fiction of elementary mental self-reform (“semel in vita”), particularly Paul Valéry. Reading his texts about Descartes once more or for the primary time is a stimulus that this elegantly written, exactly crafted essay additionally supplies.

Wolfgang Kemp: “The Honorable Deceivers”. Rembrandt and Descartes in 1641. Loops Verlag, Berlin 2023. 155 pages, illustrations, br., €23.20.