Thursday, July 26, 2012


For all their brilliance, energy, and persuasiveness, Vasari and Winckelmann clung to a narrow classical taste that by definition banished most of the world's art to the realm of barbarism. In order to access a broader range of aesthetic phenomena, a major change in orientation had to occur.
The new approaches addressed in this and the following chapters of this book could not have occurred without the rise of the romanticism. This great sea change in sensibility and in creative expression is so complex that it merits study in terms of its leading aspects, and not simply as a unitary phenomenon unfolding in strict chronological sequence.i This exposition requires a postponement, until the next chapter, of the discussion of the chief trends in narrative art historiography.
The roots of the romanticism go back to the early eighteenth century. Some historians even trace the ultimate origins of the trend back to classical antiquity, when the mysterious Longinus (first century of our era) advocated the cultivation of sublime effects in literature. And even earlier, the philosopher Plato, with his concept of love as longing for the ideal and his utopian notion of the ideal republic, had anticipated key romantic themes. At the other end of the time scale, suvivals of romanticism have been detected in the late twentieth century, as seen in the emotionality of rock music and the free-form paintings of neo-expressionism. It may be that in fact romanticism is a perennial state of mind, waxing stronger during some periods and fading during others. If so, it was providential that it burgeoned in the opening decades of the nineteenth century, when it demolished the hegemony of the Neo-classical style, opening the way for a pluralistic approach to the world's cultural achievements.
The complexity of this period of triumph--romanticism par excellence--reflected a number of social factors: the question of the proper organization of society raised by the Enlightenment and the French Revolution; European imperialist expansion abroad and political rivalries at home; and--above all--rapid technological change as the industrial revolution relentlessly progressed on the continent of Europe.
In the sciences this was the age of Cuvier and Comte, of Faraday and Darwin; it was also the time when the steamship, the telegraph, and the railroad began to bind the world together. To many observers, the cascade of useful innovations in science and technology made the arts seem trivial by comparison.ii To counter this dismissive tendency, those who still held the fine arts in high esteem were compelled to generate new arguments in their favor. Some advocates sought to invest the arts with a quasireligious aura. In a period in which dogmatic verities were increasingly subject to doubt, art could become a surrogate for religion, pouring balm on the wound inflicted by the loss of faith.iii Cultural conservatives, unwilling to abandon tradition and more sanguine about the prospects of religious revival, held that art could play a valuable ancillary in this process of spiritual regeneration.iv In fact new schools of pietistic painting--the German Nazarenes and their counterparts in other countries--arose to fill this perceived need. Yet other observers, more practically inclined, stressed the civilizing power of the visual arts; tastefully displayed, art objects became, so to speak, the guarantors of the respectability of the bourgeois home. Eventually, this trend gave rise to the profession of interior decorator and the countless magazines catering to the aspirations of the house-proud middle class.
Not only did science and technology force the arts into a defensive posture--albeit often a creative one--they invaded the realm of art itself. In ceramics, furniture, and other crafts, new processes of production began to take hold. Economic advantages notwithstanding, mass production and mass consumption tended to lower aesthetic quality, a lesson painfully learned in the great international exhibition held in London in 1851. 
As a response to the situation, the Arts and Crafts Movement arose under the aegis of William Morris in the later decades of the nineteenth century.  The intent was to reverse the degradation of taste by creating objects that, even though ordinary, were well-made and beautiful.v Yet there was a catch, so to speak. Implicitly, the new sense of the dignity of the so-called minor arts called into question the old idea of the absolute superiority of the fine arts of architecture, painting, and sculpture--a cardinal feature of the system of the arts inherited from the Renaissance.
The subjectivity of taste was more and more conceded, however tacitly and reluctantly. In France admirers of the official salon paintings, with their elaborate mythological and religious themes, believed that the display and purchase of such works helped to hold the line against the barbarism invading the new industrial society. Conversely, advocates of advanced, experimental art maintained that the pompous "machines" of the salon, with their lifeless mimicry of outmoded styles and subject matter, were themselves symptoms of declining standards. In their view, the new progressive art of the avant-garde best reflected what was best in contemporary society.
All these changes notwithstanding, art itself flourished mightily; and even today, nineteenth-century art is a powerful magnet for the crowds that continue to flock to museums and galleries that display it. Moreover, the new climate of uncertainty and questioning fostered a demand for lectures and writings addressing these issues. As never before, art historiography flourished--accounting for the common misperception that this branch of scholarship actually originated during this period, instead of much earlier, as we have seen.

The Emergence of Aesthetic Relativism.
Matters of taste had not always been as uniform and predictable as the defenders of the sanctity of Renaissance norms were wont to claim. There was more variety on the ground than the ideal suggested. During the middle ages and after Europeans had been attracted to Islamic art; textiles and ceramics of Muslim manufacture were cherished possessions of church treasuries, in large measure because in keeping with Islamic avoidance of figuration they had little detectable iconography that was specifically  The conquests in the Americas had yielded booty in the form of pre-Columbian art, capturing, for a time, the admiration of Europeans.vii   As regards Asia, the European eighteenth century saw a sustained enthusiasm for things Chinese, not only in the form of imports but also in works produced at home; however, the motifs imitated were selected and adjusted to suit European, essentially rococo tastes.viii  In various ways, though, these "exotic" forms were cordoned off from European art, or neutralized by partial incorporation.  When all is said and done, it seems that aesthetic choice--even when it was allowed--took the form of a selection from European models.
Ultimately, the foundations for change were to be laid in the conceptual sphere. One underlying principle is the notion of organic unity.ix  This biological metaphor had long been honored in the analysis of individual works, and now it was applied to society and its relation to the arts.  It was held that each civilization brought forth the cultural objects that were appropriate to it.  In a telling metaphor, Jacob Burckhardt remarked that one cannot expect a fig tree to put forth grapes, nor a vine figs. Of course a civilization is not a tree.  Still we feel that some important issues are being addressed here.  Even in advanced industrial societies there are common characteristics--family resemblances--that link the artefacts of a given period.  We recognize this when we speak of the nineteen-twenties or the 'fifties as producing objects that have a recognizable period style.
One of the features of Enlightenment thought as a whole was a healthy dose of relativism.  Thus while it was generally held that aesthetic standards were absolute and knowable, a subcurrent acknowledged an element of the unknowable, perhaps even the irrational in aesthetic pleasure.  Some writers chose to affirm this aspect in the formula "Je ne sais quoi" ("I known not what").x  Spread by a number of French writers on aesthetics, this idea originated in Renaissance Italy, where in 1541 Agnolo Firenzuola spoke of the grace of women as residing in "un non so che." One is reminded also of Vasari's grazia, that special gift of God and nature; informing the works of the greatest artists, it could not be attained simply by adherence to the rules.  From the continent this idea that licence might be permitted under exceptional circumstances spread to Britain. In his verse Essay on Criticism (1711), Alexander Pope had noted that Great Wits sometimes may gloriously offend/And rise to Faults true Criticks dare not mend;/ . . . And snatch a Grace beyond the Reach of Art."xi
For Pope, as with Vasari, this subversive implications of this idea were kept in check within the bounds of a classicizing aesthetic: only "Great Wits" are accorded such licence. But as it spread, the principle of the Je ne sais quoi tended to release this idea from its bonds, universalizing it by suggesting that all works of art may have significant elements that cannot be precisely elucidated in words and may even transcend rational processes altogether.  This tendency, of course, was to find an appropriate place in the great mosaic of romanticism, with its stress on the supreme importance of intuition and feeling over against the cold processes of reason.
An old theme, familiar to the Greeks, was that art works act as a form of magic.  In Renaissance Europe the hermetic tradition attempted to formulate rules for the separation of white magic (good) from black magic (bad) and to show how the former could work for human good.  Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) had adumbrated a way in which this approach could be applied to art.  
Some later thinkers placed the idea under the emblem of the Circean principle.xii  Circe, it will be remembered, was a powerful sorcer­ess who enchanted men, turning them into beasts at her beck and call.  Art works, of course, do not make us beasts but they may captivate us in a fashion somewhat akin to Circe's magic.  Today we even express this notion in certain "sunken" metaphors.  We may speak of an "enthralling" play, derived from a word meaning to enslave.  Other critics may refer to a performance as "rivet­ing," implying that one is fixed to one's seat.  "I couldn't put the book down" means that one has lost control.  One can even imply annihilation: "that painting is dynamite; it just blew me away."  Such comments do indeed reflect psychic realities, and as writers on art found themselves confronted with a larger, more disparate public such "unsophisticated" responses had to be anticipated, and to some respect catered to. Earlier critical theories, created to meet the needs of a narrower, more aristocratic audience, had not faced this problem.
A feature that tended to divide the neo-classicists from their romantic brethren was their attitude towards line and color respectively.xiii  Following the Florentine tradition crystal­lized by Vasari, and reinforced by the study of ancient marbles, the neo-classicists tended to exalt line, as the vehicle of reasoned perception, over color.  For the romantics it was just the opposite: whether subtle or intense, color reigned supreme as the conveyer of feeling.  This conflict has its roots in the sixteenth century in the contrast between Florence (line) and Venice (color).  Yet Venice failed to produce theoreticians of sufficient stature to defend its preference. Towards the end of the seventeenth century, however, a more evenly balanced version of this debate emerged.  In France the followers of Poussin, who defended the classic principle of the supremacy of line, disputed with the adherents of Rubens, who supported his magnificent example as a colorist.
With reference to the eighteenth century, changing discourse strategies in writings about art and aesthetics require somewhat closer attention. The first question has to do with the criteria whereby the quality of art works was judged. For much of the eighteenth century cultivated opinion clung to the notion that the rules of "good taste" were absolute.  Invariable and universal they could in principle be acquired by anyone with the patience and sensitivity to do so. Bad taste, most blatantly represented by the horrors of the Middle Ages, had to be shunned. Whether critics followed the older Vasari model or the newer Winckelmann one, there was general agreement on the underlying aesthetic norms. As the century drew to a close, however, this confidence began to give way. Daringly, some advanced thinkers and writers insisted that the monuments of the Middle Ages deserved attention in their own right.xiv
The establishment first tried containment. This upstart rival to good taste might be allowed only as a kind jeu d'esprit, as when writers remarked ironically of "Gothick excellences"--implying that they were not excellences at all. However, the emergence of the concept of the sublime, alongside the traditional veneration for the beautiful, raised the awful prospect that there might in fact be two truths in art, rather than one.
The problem of dualism could be solved--very drastically--by simply inverting the hierarchy. Arts that appeal to the sublime principle are the highest, with the merely beautiful ones standing on a lower level. Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852) and other enthusiasts for the Gothic revival attempted to preserve their judgmentalism by simply reversing it: Gothic is good, Renaissance bad.
Well before Pugin wrote, however, an increasing number of observers began to suspect, often uneasily, that more than one yardstick was needed. Sympathetic study of a medieval cathedral demanded criteria different from those appropriate for a Greek temple. This new aesthetic relativism found support in the theory of the Baltic German Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803), who proposed that all cultures had produced intellectual creations that are worthy of our interest.xv At the same time these creations are highly specific; as he remarked in 1774, "Every nation has its center of happiness in itself." The key to this national uniqueness, Herder believed, is language, which condenses the essence of a people.
Herder and those who followed him believed strongly in the organic wholeness of art. Yet at the same time they affirmed that art manifested itself differently in different times and places. Instead of lamenting these variations as departures from a single universal standard, which was basically the previous view, diversity should be celebrated. In his own way Herder was a precursor of today's multiculturalism.
In the practice of art, as distinct from the way in which it was regarded, the opening chapter in the rise of the new relativism was the battle between the neo-classic and romantic styles. The coexistence of two styles, each exalted by its champions as the only appropriate vehicle of the sentiments of the age, was an unprecedented situation.

The Sublime.
The kernel of this idea goes back to an essay on literary criticism, On the Sublime, attributed to Longinus, a Greek rhetorician writing under the Roman empire. To put the matter in a nutshell, our response to the sublime is evoked by the presence of two factors: vastness of scale and vehemence of the emotion. It is easier to state the effects of the sublime than to define it. "The true sublime, by some virtue of its nature, elevates us; uplifted with a sense of proud possession, we are filled with joyful pride, as if we ourselves had produced the very thing we had heard."xvi
The Renaissance was familiar with the effects of transport, the marvelous, and of magic that are integral to Longinus' concept, but it did not recognize the sublime as an autonomous aesthetic category. This development was left for English writers in the eighteenth century.xvii The essayist Joseph Addison (1672-1719) influentially addressed the matter, though he tended to prefer the term greatness. "By greatness," he states, "I do not mean the bulk of any single object, but the largeness of the whole view considered as one piece."xviii Contemplation of the unbounded views of greatness flings us into "a pleasing astonishment." The examples he gives come from the contemplation of nature: "a troubled ocean, a heaven adorned with stars and meteors, or a spacious landscape cut into rivers, woods, rocks, and meadows."
At this stage the concept of the visual sublime seems to have been restricted to our experience of nature--works of art did not provoke the emotion. However, a bridge to art may be detected landscape architecture, which, though a human artifact, could be contrived in such a way as to elicit a sublime or picturesque response. However this may be, the definitive step of extending the sublime concept to painting was taken by the painter-connoisseur Jonathan Richardson (1665-1745). His views are more evident in criticism of particular paintings, in which he relished free brush strokes, than in any general theory.
That lack was made up by Edmund Burke (1729-1797), now best known from his later career as a British parliamentarian and political thinker. This Anglo-Irish writer offered a comprehensive account of the sublime in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas about the Sublime and the Beautiful (1757; revised ed., 1759).xix Shifting the discussion from the realms of rhetoric (particular sets of words) and visual display (scenes provided by nature and human artifice), Burke grounded the contrast of the beautiful and the sublime in the response of the observer--in the twin emotions of pleasure and pain. Beautiful works gain our approbation by offering the pleasing reassurance that the world is a comfortable place, where we can readily comprehend our own situation. But sublime works induce a shivering sense of the uncanny, even of the terrible and repul­sive. We are fearful, but since we suffer no real pain, but only the suggestion of it, our sense of dread yields to one of delight.
As Tom Furniss has recently shown, it was not Burke's intention to upset the established patterns of eighteenth-century sociey or aesthetics.xx But without foreseeing the result, he opened for later investigators a broad avenue for enlarging the scope of art history by making medieval and "Oriental" works worthy objects of study. Beauty they might lack, but sublimity they often possessed.
Hollywood has made billions from horror movies.  So Burke was onto something with his concept of the transformation of threatened pain into delight.  We choose not to live solely in a "vanilla" world of soothing experiences; we also have a need to be frightened. Of course few major works consist solely of either beautiful or sublime moments.  The two choices rather represent a scale of aesthetic gambits in which the artist may choose an intermediate strategy, mingling pleasing beauty with striking sublimity. Towards the end of the eighteenth century some writers posited that the term "picturesque" might aptly describe an intermediate position between the two poles of the beautiful and the sublime.
The idea of the sublime was taken up by no less a figure than the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). His early Observations on the Feeling of the Sublime and the Beautiful date from 1764; he returned more conclusively to the matter in his Critique of Judgment (1790). According to Kant beauty and sublimity are both predicates of the aesthetic judgment.xxi But they differ in that beauty is concerned with the form, that is the boundedness of an object, while the sublime involves an experience of boundlessness. The sublime is "absolutely great," by comparison with which everything else is small. The sublime experience differs from estimation in terms of numbers because it is a matter of imagination and intuition that stretches the very boundaries of Reason.xxii
The combined effect of Burke and Kant was to establish a two-source scheme in which the beautiful and the sublime are equal in dignity, though different in effects. The importance of this breach with the monistic conception of Renaissance taste and aesthetics can scarcely be exaggerated.
Are sublime themes more characteristic of certain nations and peoples? At first glance, they seem to be more typical of northern Europe, where the greater extremes of climate facilitated their appreci­ation. But what about Francisco Goya (1746-1828)? He was a major transitional figure between Enlightenment and Romanticism and therefore perhaps sui generis. Yet the Italian painter Salvator Rosa (1615-1673) was often honored as the true pioneer of the sublime. Perhaps one could say that the cultivation of the sublime in art began in southern Europe, subsequently migrating to the north where it was most truly at home. 
A somewhat similar trajectory characterized the picturesque, championed towards the end of the eighteenth century by William Gilpin, Richard Payne Knight, and Sir Uvedale Price.xxiii Connoisseurs detected picturesque qualities in the atmospheric works of Claude Lorrain and other landscape painters working in Italy. English collectors acquired these works and then put them to practical effect in their great landscape gardens. Then the concept helped once again to generate paintings, sometimes landscapes but often not. The picturesque came gradually to be identified with a certain freedom of brush stroke that produced a deliberately imprecise, evocative effect. As noted above, the picturesque did not so much displace the sublime as served as an intermediary between the extremes of the sublime and the beautiful. 
A subsidiary effect of the enthusiasm for the picturesque was the promotion of travel. A veritable mania set in for visiting picturesque sites, first in the British Isles (where North Wales was especially favored) and then in the wider world. New types of guide books appeared to satisfy the middle-class travelers' appetite for information. As the Murray and Baedeker guides were to demonstrate, one and the same book could serve to lead one to landscapes and to the works of art preserved in churches and museums. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the automobile was becoming common as a means of satisfying the tourists' demands to see new places and new works of art. The new fascination with the Romanesque depended in large measure on the newly won access (by car) to remote abbeys and churches.
All this traveling facilitated comparisons among the arts of different countries. Yet the question of national character remained problematic, and consensus remains elusive to this day.xxiv  The matter could perhaps be ignored altogether were it not that writers on art themselves make such assumptions.  Vasari, as has been noted, believed that the Greek (i.e. Byzantine) and German (i.e. Gothic) styles were not suitable to Italy.  The young Goethe, in turn, held that French and Italian art was not right for Germany.  More recently Sir Nikolaus Pevsner has sought to define The Englishness of English Art.xxv  These efforts to characterize art as a product of national spirit are invariably flawed, but they tell us something about the historians and their interaction with the public. 
Wackenroder, Schlegel, and the Beginnings of Romantic Art Historiography.
By common consent the two countries in which romanticism, as sensibility and aesthetic practice, first emerged to full maturity were England and Germany. In England the romantic inclination had deep roots, and accordingly was for a long time practiced directly, with little theoretical reflection. Theory, when it came, was largely borrowed from Germany, as the examples of Coleridge and Carlyle show. In Germany, as the eighteenth century drew to a close, a general intellectual ferment coupled with a need to escape the normative bonds of French classicism created a powerful wave of theory alongside creative works of romantic literature.
The manifesto of the romantic approach to art in Germany was a slender volume, the Herzensergiessungen eines kunstliebenden Klosterbruders, which appeared anonymously in Berlin in 1797.xxvi The the book was written mainly by the short-lived Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder (1773-1798), with additions by his friend Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853), whose long and productive career was just beginning. The friar who entertains these "Outpourings of the Heart" locates the source of all genuine are in religious sincerity. This theme of a renewed subordination of art to religion was to become common during the romantic period, but actual practice differed from this ideal for, as M. E. Abrams has brilliantly shown for England, the usual pattern was an aesthetism sheltering under the auspices of nondemoninational pantheism.xxvii
For the contemporary reader, the most striking contribution of Wackenroder's tract was its aesthetic relativism. To be sure, the contrast of Gothic cathedrals and Greek temples, each to be appreciated according to its own norms, was by 1797 a familiar one, as was the contrast between northern and Italian art. Much more novel is the injunction that non-European culture deserves our respect. "Why should one condemn the Indians for speaking Indian and not our language? In like fashion, Indian art works will reflect the appearance of Indian peoples. So too we must regard the artistic products of the Africans. Had you been born in the African desert, then you would have preached to everyone that glossy black skin, a flat round face, and short crinked hair were essential constituents of the highest beauty." And when you saw white men for the first time you would find their appearance repellent and hateful.xxviii 
Viewed objectively, it is not only that the arts of the Indians and the Africans simply are different from ours, it is understandable and right that they should be. These comparisons, while strikingly innovative for the period, may stem from the pre-Socratic relativist Xenophanes. who remarked that "[t]he Ethiopians say that their gods are snub-nosed and black, the Thracians that theirs have light blue eyes and red hair" (fragment 171).
It is not just that we can register aesthetic difference, but we can school ourselves to savor the contrasts,  for are not Germans capable of crossing the Alps and appreciating Italian art? These few remarks anticipate a whole program of world art history.
Another Wackenroder contribution is the idea that art (alongside nature) is a language, though one that is deeper than verbal language, for "words cannot call down into our hearts the invisible spirit which reigns above us." In order to bring us closer to this mysterious spirit art uses the device of the symbol. Setting aside the metaphysical element, Wackernagel foreshadows semiotics in viewing visual expression and language as two parallel, though different modes of human communication.
When all is said and done, though, the contribution of the Outpourings to art history remained limited; it was more a manifesto than a model. Wackernagel shows no real historical sense. In his eulogies of Raphael, Dùrer, and other artists he relies on anecdotes. Significantly, he quarried picturesque details from from Giorgio Vasari's Lives, but not the overarching historical schema. For Wackenroder art must find its way back to the timeless truths that were lost at the time of the Reformation. One group of artists listened to him and sought to put his ideas into practice, the Nazarenes or Brothers of Saint Luke, German artists who settled in an abandoned monastery in Rome in 1810.
It is generally recognized that Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829) is the pivotal figure in the formulation of the theory of romanticism.xxix Although his main concern was literature of the middle ages and the early modern period, from the medieval epics to Shakespeare and Calderón, he did make a concerted effort, in 1803-05, to understand painting.
The son of a protestant minister, Schlegel was reading Greek drama in the original at the age of sixteen. His subsequent studies at the University of Göttingen, where an atmosphere suffused by Winckelmann's idealization of Greek art and literature prevailed, confirmed--at least for a time--this inclination. Influenced by the prevailing "Grecomania," Schlegel held that the works of literature produced by the ancient Greeks were pure gifts of nature; as such they were perfect in and of themselves.
During the mid-nineties Schlegel turned to reading post-classical literature. Retaining his former idea of the innate perfection of Greek works, he concluded that medieval and Renaissance European literature was indeed imperfect. His new ideas appeared in lapidary form in the Fragments contributed in 1802 to the periodical Athenäum. The gist of his idea, expressed in the famous Fragment 116, was that our imperfection is also its glory: "modern" literature--or romantische Poesie, as he termed it in his own jargon--is characterized by a progressive striving for self realization, in which it always traveling but is destined never to arrive. The concept of yearning (Sehnsucht) is a core characteristic of the romantic sensibility.
For all their perfection, Greek works have a major limitation. As one modern interpreter has glossed his view, "[i]f the Greeks reached finite perfection, the moderns (and hence, also, their poetry) are imperfect at every stage, but they are infinitely perfectible. ... Our defects themselves are our hopes, and there is no limit to our prospects."xxx In this way Schlegel gave a new interpretation to the contrast of the ancients and moderns that had earlier raged in France and England.
This sense of progressive movement over time made the historical positioning of particular works part of their essence. Hence, Schlegel's ideas, which were eminently capable of adaptation to the other arts, gave an impetus to historical study, especially of medieval and Renaissance works.
Schlegel's isolation of two contrasting governing principles, one for the Greeks, the other for the later Europeans, is a two-source theory, recalling the contrast advanced by Burke and perfected by Kant of the beautiful and the sublime. It also shows close affinities with the dramatist Friedrich von Schiller's dichotomy of the naive and sentimental (1795-96), which may have directly influenced Schlegel's formulation.
In Paris in 1803-05 the German literary theorist turned his attention to painting, using as his basis the tremendous collection of masterpieces assembled in the Louvre as a result of the looting by the French armies. Schlegel's observations took shape in a series of reports published in his Frankfurt-based periodical Europa.xxxi He shares Wackenroder's view that the essence of art resides in fidelity to religious sentiment. Schlegel's earlier theme of incompleteness as the essence of the post-classical found a new place here. Gothic cathedrals, with their unfinished towers are the clearest example, but even works that are formally complete belong aesthetically to this realm of striving for ultimate realization. As with literature, where no further works of the order of Shakespeare's have appeared, he held that art had fallen from grace. While literary excellence lasted into the seventeenth century, in art the seeds of decay are already present in the later works of Raphael (from about 1510 on). Schlegel's proclaimed enthusiasm for early works is not new--it belongs to the general field of the enthusiasm for the "primitives"--but he tried to characterize the formal qualities of the works as having clear outlines and few figures.
Schlegel rejected the tendency, inculcated in the academies, to subordinate painting to sculpture. Here he adhered to the idea, made familiar by the Dutch writer Frans Hemsterhuis (1721-1790), that sculpture is the characteristic vehicle of ancient art, painting that of the modern. Our art being necessarily Christian, Schlegel believed, it must not accede to a distortion caused by the intrusion of a principle that was valid for the Greeks but not for us. His approach shows a new nationalism, as seen in his praise of the early German school, and a growing affinity for Roman Catholicism (to which he was to convert in 1808). Many of Schlegel's views about the attribution of works have been overtaken by later scholarship, but he gave a vital impetus to other more sustained efforts, notably those of Carl Friedrich von Rumohr, whose achievement figures in the following chapter of this book.
Wackenroder and Schlegel agree, and many romantics shared their view, that the presenting aspects of art--what the naive observer sees--are only a part, and probably the lesser part. Genuine art works are symbolic or "hieroglyphic."xxxii While a complete account of these depths is probably not possibly in words, one can still advance quite far. This hermeneutic quest underlies the development of the nineteenth-century "science of mythology," and ultimately the rise of iconography--beginning with medieval iconography as initiated in France towards the middle of the century--and its ambitious heir, iconology.

The Attractions of the Exotic.
The appreciation of foreign cultures served to augment the spread of aesthetic relativism--but such knowledge was not easily attained.  As has been noted above, Wackenroder's remarks about Indian and African art were very brief, and were not based on any actual contact with the works. Even when works of other traditions were accessible, their enjoyment had to overcome ingrained elements of chauvinism which caricature foreign peoples.  Thus until recently the French have stereotyped the Germans as crude and aggressive, while the Germans decried the French as unruly and decadent. 
The device of assuming the guise of a foreign observer criticizing one's own culture is a sophisticated one.  During the Middle Ages it is impossible to find a European writer adopting an Islamic point of view in order to look at his own culture ironically.  The voyages of discovery began to change this insularity, and already in Montaigne one sees elements of cultural relativism based on an effort to recreate in one's own mind the foreign point of view.  In the eighteenth century Montesquieu (Les lettres persanes) and José Cadalso (Cartas marruecas) exposed shortcomings of their own countries by couching their critiques in the form of letters written by exotic visitors.
Perhaps the first alien civilization to capture the consist­ent admiration of Europeans was that of imperial China.xxxiii  Iron­ically, this enthusiasm for things Chinese was begun by Jesuits who settled in the country in order to convert its population to Catholicism.  Later, Leibniz claimed that his invention of the infinitesimal calculus was Chinese-inspired, and Voltaire regarded Confucius as the ideal philosopher. Chinese porcelains were imported because Europeans did not know how to produce this kind of pottery—though finally in Dresden in the early eighteenth century they succeeded in replicating the processes.  But Europeans showed little genuine appreci­ation of the Chinese aesthetic.  Certainly there were no attempts to write the history of Chinese art, for Chinese objects, like Egyptian ones, were almost automatically assumed to stem from an intensely conservative culture that had no meaning­ful change and therefore no history.  Judgments of other cultures were much harsher, so that the English, even after they had acquired most of India, continued to regard its sculptures as monstrous idols.xxxiv
It was not until the second half of the nineteenth century, beginning with the interest in Japanese prints, that Europeans began actually to attend closely to the qualities of "exotic" art objects that made them distinctive, and to incorporate some of these qualities in their own work.xxxv
In architecture the babel of styles was noted even earlier.xxxvi Ultimately this confusion of styles was to yield a solution in the austere form of modern functionalist architecture, but while it reigned attention was perforce directed at the nature and definition of styles.  The later nineteenth century saw the reexamination of several styles that had been neglected or misunderstood, above all the Baroque.  These trends in varied architectural practice, which put the variety of styles directly before the public, combined with the earlier trend towards aesthetic pluralism, created an understanding of the possibility of a much expanded history of art. Some German scholars even sought to include non-European art within its bounds, but the data available to them were insuf­ficient. Paradoxically, the sense of confusion and ambivalence in the practice and contempla­tion of contemporary art produced a dividend in the form of the enhanced appreciation of the art of the past.  This difference, however, probably contributed to the growing estrangement of art history, addressing the past, and art criticism, focused mainly on the present.

Politics and Art.
During the French Revolution the seating pattern of the National Assembly in Paris (beginning in 1789) produced an enduring metaphor for political orientations.xxxvii The conservative parties sat on the right side of the chamber (as viewed from the speaker's chair), the radical ones on the left. While these terms fell into abeyance in France during the early decades of the nineteenth century, they spread to Italy in the 1850s and then to the rest of Europe. In this way right and left became an easily comprehensible political shorthand.
Until the retreat and then collapse of so-called "scientific socialism" in the 1980s, many intellectuals gave an almost automatic preference to the political left--at least in its moderate versions. This allegiance is somewhat paradoxical in the light of the history of hand symbolism: most traditional cultures favor the left hand less than the right--it may even be taboo.xxxviii In the Christian conception of the Last Judgment the damned appear at the left hand of the Savior before being consigned to the eternal flames. But perhaps these associations only heightened the sense of transgression and defiance of traditional norms that many revolutionaries felt in keeping with their wish to make an absolute break with the past.
Another new term in the political lexicon was "reactionary," referring to individuals who sought to stop, by all means at their disposal, the growing forces of social change. But since progress was inevitable--or so it was thought--the reactionaries could only retard the timetable of progressive change. The opposite of reactionary was the avant-garde, the vanguard of those who took a position on the "cutting edge" of social change. (Avant-garde and vanguard were originally military terms.)
It was tempting, all too tempting, to apply these themes to the world of art.xxxix And in fact people began to speak of progressive and reactionary artists. But what in fact was the art of the left? During the French revolutionary period it was taken for granted that this was neo-classicism, allied with the Revolution as the tireless activity of Jacques-Louis David. In the middle of the nineteenth century realism was considered the preeminently leftist style--a position still held until recently in countries dominated by Marxist regimes.
This exaltation of realism as the revolutionary style, did not last in Western Europe. Although the point was rarely explored in any detail, it became the conventional wisdom to characterize changes in the program of "advanced" art--including the sequence of impressionism, post-impressionism, fauvism, cubism--as so many "revolutionary" advances. After all, the political landscape of nineteenth-century France had been characterized by a series of drastic shifts--in 1815, 1830, 1848, and 1871; does not art show also a series of sharp breaks? One problem, which was usually neglected, was that some artists, such as Cézanne and Degas, who were artistically "progressive" were politically conservative. One way of overcoming this problem was to say that such artists had "low consciousness"; they themselves were unaware of the progressive character of their art, and hence neglected to harmonize their overt political opinions with the true nature of their creative accomplishment.
Another term associated with both advanced art and politics was "experiment." The French scientist Claude Bernard (1813-1878) popularized the idea of the experimental method in medicine. Then came Emile Zola's concept of the experimental novel. And art critics spoke of innovative works as experiments.
Of course this proliferating political discourse was not responsible for the idea of artistic progress. As we have seen, Vasari and his followers had held that art moves from primitive beginnings to a better state and finally to a pinnacle of progress. But the new view colored the idea of progress in art by linking it with political change. As a rule, the importation of the contrast of left and right was the gambit of critics applauding new works, rather than of art historians, who preferred a more ivory-tower approach. Nonetheless, the politicized view gradually seeped into the historiography of modern art, which came to be viewed as an unceasing struggle against the forces of reaction personified by the dodderers of the salon (the "artistes pompiers"). Modern art was thought to be ruled by a relentless dynamism, in which yesterday's revolutionaries (say, the impressionists) turned old fogies, diehards blocking the advance of youthful revolutionaries (the post-impressionists). Just as with the cadres who dedicated themselves to political radicalism, adepts of progressivism in art must be constantly on the qui vive so as to detect the most advanced trends and rally to them. In this way artists and critics were seduced by the "more revolutionary than thou" mentality.
But not everyone wanted to be up to date. Sensitive souls sought to flee from the rough and tumble of modernity and o find consolation in the Old Masters. A flood of sentimental popular writings on Raphael, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt reminded those in search of solace of art's past glories. A late product of this trend is Bernard Berenson's (1865-1959) critical writings. An American who lived in Italy, Berenson sought an ideal past in Renaissance art which, he held, supplies us with an unremitting flow of "tactile values" as a consolation for the brutal truths of the industrial present.xl In keeping with the aspirations of his wealthy clients, Berenson offered an escapist, elitist utopianism. Significantly, Berenson first converted to Episcopalianism, and then Catholicism, before returning to Judaism. Berenson and the members of his circle are telling instances of the overlap between art as a surrogate for religion and affirmation, however qualified, of religious belief itself.
Neo-classicism had posed the question of religion in an ambiguous form, since its subject matter characteristically stemmed from pagan antiquity. Finding allies in the Catholic revival, romanticism took a more sympathetic view towards Christianity; it also turned to a more generalized cult of nature. The romantic sense that the meaning of life was not a matter of surface appearances helped to foster the idea that in its highest achievements art itself was a form of religious feeling. Symbolism was suffused with religious sentiment, often of a deliberately vague sort. Then, in the late nineteenth century, artists felt the attraction of occult "New Age" religions such as Rosicrucianism and Theosophy. Needless to say, all these "mystical" preoccupations were (and are) anathema to those who advocated the role of art as an agent of social change.
Although many art historians were personally conservative and therefore resistant to the implications of the political interpretation of art, this interpretation did help to direct attention to change. Whether one agrees with the dichotomy or not, artists came increasingly to define themselves as progressive or traditional, so that these categories had psychological reality. Critics and art historians have had to take these affinities into account. Recent discussions, for example, have focused on the early anarchist views of Picasso over against his allegiance, beginning in the 1940s, to the Communist Party. Commitments of this kind cannot be simply walled off from the creative life of the artist.
It might be thought that the "nostalgic" exaltation of the art of the past, which was generally hostile to advanced modern art, would discourage historical study because it seemed to relegate art to a timeless sphere of perfection. Yet this Golden Age approach did reveal, perhaps unintentionally, how different the art of the past was from the present and in this way called for a historical interpretation.

Duality in the Contemporary Arts: Neo-classicism and Romanticism.
Neo-classicism was a broad movement that embraced literature and music, even politics, as well as art.xli On the one hand, it looked back to Greece and Rome; on the other, it sought a new start, and in this sense could claim to possess revolutionary content.
Winckelmann's precepts were a major contributor to the formation of the neo-classical style; this is the first instance in which the writings of an art historian had a catalytic effect on the creation of a new style, as distinct from consolidating our understanding of past and present styles.  Yet Winckelmann's passionate advocacy of his aesthetic principles could not by itself have assured the success of the new trend.  Neo-classicism gained its adher­ents because it linked up with the general movement of society.  Because it addressed larger concerns it became the dominant period style, which it could not have done had it only been the manifestation of a single sensibility. 
Curiously, in view of these strengths, the hegemony of the new trend was to be shortlived.  While neo-classicism was still at its height, in the opening years of the nineteenth century, it was challenged by a rival: romanticism.xlii  A protean tendency, romanticism resists any easy definition. But its central goal seems to have been the exploration of our intuitive and emotional dimensions, leading to a comprehension of the suprarational or transrational elements of human experience as distinct from the rational approach held to characterize classicism, considered too narrow. With regard to sources of inspiration, romanticism favored previously neglected or undervalued eras, such as the ancient Near East, the Middle Ages, and Europe's prehistoric and early historic past. In reaction to the universalism of the Enlightenment, romanticism emphasized specificity--of the individual and of particular objects and experiences. As the poet-artist William Blake (1757-1827) remarked: "He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars. General good is the plea of the scoundrel, the hypocrite, and flatterer, for Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars." ("Jerusalem"). This emphasis on specificity linked up with the sense of contemporary German historians that the precise analysis of particular events and mentalities was the great task facing their profession.
Some artists displayed the influence of both trends, and are sometimes termed romantic classicists.xliii  The Swiss-English painter Henry Fuseli (1742-1825), a disciple of Winckelmann, is a telling example, for his works show not only an attentive study of classical prototypes but a preoccupation with uncanny medieval and folklore themes hitherto taboo, as seen in his most famous work, The Nightmare (1781).xliv Fuseli also created works based on Shakespeare's plays (interest in the English bard was virtually a litmus test of rising romantic taste) and on Germanic mythology.
This "cohabitation" of two styles, the neo-classical and the Romantic--in Western Europe implicitly posed the question of the relationship of style to civilization.  In earlier periods the assumption of a single "correct" style had been taken for granted, though there might be disagreement as to what it was.  In the seventeenth century Bellori thought the contemporary art of the Carracci and Poussin admirable, that of Pietro da Cortona execrable. The point was that for the discerning, contemporary art furnishes reliable models of what is to be done. Now that assumption, the call of the one, true style, was put into question.  It is no longer certain what the normative style is. Perhaps one might even change one's style as one changes ones clothes, choosing one style for one function and another for a different one.  Thus by the middle of the nineteen­th century churches were erected in the Gothic style, banks in the classic style, and prisons and cemeteries (some­times) in the Egyptian style.xlv 
Other things being equal, choice is usually accounted a human good. Yet this style pluralism did not please everyone, for it seemed to reflect a failure of nerve, a lack of the confidence and certainty that had characterized earlier eras. Possibly the new pluralism was even a symptom of pathology, a kind of social schizophrenia.  So the question continued to be asked: is there one style only that is appropriate to a particular era?  If so, what is it? And finally, why should this commandment of stylistic monism be the case?

The effort to stem the "barbaric tide" by defending classic and Renaissance standards to the death did not succeed. New fashions in aesthetics and art--generally under the romantic aegis--assured that the world could not remain as it was. The note of uncertainty sounded by the loss of religious faith and by relativism was reinforced in an unsuspected way by the new appreciation for non-European and medieval art. To anticipate the theme of a subsequent chapter, the "taste for the primitives" in the form of pre-Renaissance paintings of Italy and Flanders and the revival of Gothic architecture opened the way to a vastly enhanced appreciation first of medieval and then of all non-classical art. Moreover, this understanding, in turn, fostered the appreciation of neglected styles of more recent vintage, such as the Baroque and Mannerism.

i Arthur O. Lovejoy, in a challenging 1924 paper "The Discrimination of Romanticisms" (reprinted in his Essays in the History of Ideas, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1948, pp. 228-53), concluded that the definitions of the term are so varied and contradictory as to render it useless. In due course, however, his contentions were rebutted by René Wellek and others. Whatever one concludes with respect to this controversy, a flood of interpretive studies suggests that scholars continue to find the concept useful. See for example, Stewart Curran, ed., The Cambridge Companion to British Romanticism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993; and Michael Ferber, ed., A Companion to European Romanticism, Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.  There are also new approaches,  e.g., Karl Kroeber, Ecological Literary Criticism: Romantic Imagining and the Biology of Mind, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994; and Michael Löwy and  Robert Sayre, Romanticism Against the Tide of Modernity, Durham: Duke University Press, 2001.
ii A classic example is Thomas Love Peacock's 1820 essay "The Four Ages of Poetry" (conveniently reprinted in Howard Mills, ed., Thomas Love Peacock, Memoirs, Essays and Reviews, London: Hart-Davis, 1970, pp. 117-32). The heroic ages of poetry, Peacock maintains, lay in the past; in our own time science and philosophy have marginalized the poetic enterprise. While this judgment may seem quaint, in that it was rendered in the flood time of British romantic literature, in the longer term it proved prophetic. As the twentieth century draws to a close, poets struggle--usually in vain--to achieve even a modicum of public attention. On Peacock (1785-1866) and his relations with Shelley and other contemporary writers, see Felix Felton, Thomas Love Peacock, London: Allen & Unwin, 1973.
iii For survivals and transformations of Judaeo-Christian religious themes in British romanticism, see Meyer Howard Abrams, Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature, New York: Norton, 1971.
iv The advocacy of art as an adjunct to the restoration and consolidation of the Roman Catholic faith has been the particular province of French writers, from François-Auguste-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) to Jacques Maritain (1882-1973).
v See e.g. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, Pioneers of Modern Design: From William Morris to Walter Gropius, 3d ed., London: Penguin, 1975.
vi Richard Ettinghausen, "The Impact of Muslim Decorative Arts and Painting on the Arts of Europe," in J. Schacht and C. E. Bosworth, The Legacy of Islam, 2nd ed., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974 pp. 292-320.
vii George Kubler, Esthetic Recognition of Ancient Amerindian Art, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991.
viii Hugh Honour, Chinoiserie: The Vision of Cathay, London: John Murray, 1961.
ix George S. Rousseau, ed., Organic Form: The Life of an Idea, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972.
x Allen G. Wood, "Je ne sais quoi," in Alex Preminger and T. V. F. Brogan, eds, The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993, p. 667.
xi See the important article of Samuel Hold Monk, "A Grace Beyond the Reach of Art," Journal of the History of Ideas. 5 (1944), 131-50.
xii Alice M. Laborde, L'Esthétique circéenne, Paris: Nizet, 1969.
xiii See, most recently, Jacqueline Lichtenstein, The Eloquence of Color: Rhetoric and Painting in the French Classical Age, trans. Emily McVarish, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.
xiv A useful overview is still provided by the older book of Kenneth Clark, The Gothic Revival: An Essay in the History of Taste, 3d. ed., London: John Murray, 1962.
xv Herder has attracted much scholarly attention in recent years--appropriately enough considering his portentous significance. Among the most stimulating contributions is Isaiah Berlin, Vico and Herder: Two Studies in the History of Ideas, London: Hogarth Press, 1976, pp. 143-216.
xvi On the Sublime, VII, 2; quoted after Monroe C. Beardsley, Aesthetics from Classical Greece to the Present, New York: Macmillan, 1966, p. 77.
xvii The standard work is still Samuel H. Monk, The Sublime: A Study of Critical Theories in Eighteenth-Century England, New York: Modern Language Association, 1935. For a philosophical analysis, see Walter J. Whipple, The Beautiful, the Sublime and the Picturesque in Eighteenth-Century British Aesthetic Theory, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1957.
xviii Cited after Moshe Barash, Modern Theories of Art,1: From Winckelmann to Baudelaire, New York: New York University Press, 1990, p. 78.
xix See the exemplary edition prefaced and annotated by J. T. Bolton, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1958.
xx Edmund Burke's Aesthetic Ideology: Language, Gesture and Political Economy in Revolution, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Seeking to bridge the distance between the Philosophical Enquiry and Burke's even more famous Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Furniss offers much useful comparative material and bibliography. On occasion, however, his present-minded approach, influenced by Jacques Derrida and other deconstructionists, borders on anachronism.
xxi Beardsley, Aesthetics, pp. 218-19. See also Paul Crowther, The Kantian Sublime: From Morality to Art, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989.
xxii For an attempt to trace collateral aspects of this Kantian heritage, see Andrew Bowie, Aesthetics and Subjectivity: From Kant to Nietzsche, Manchester University Press, 1990. 
xxiii A large secondary literature addresses this topic. The classic study is Christopher Hussey, The Picturesque: Studies in a Point of View, New York: Putnam, 1927. A recent monograph is Malcolm Andrews, The Search for the Picturesque: Landscape, Aesthetics and Tourism in Britain, 1760-1800, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989. For an exhaustive study of the Italian background, see Philip Sohm, Pittoresco: Marco Boschini, His Critics, and Their Critiques of Painterly Brushwork in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Italy, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Several British and American scholars seek to strike out in new directions in Stephen Copley and Peter Garside, eds., The Politics of the Picturesque, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
xxiv For a collective study of national variations in romanticism, see Roy Porter and Mikuláš Teich, eds., Romanticism in National Context, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1966.
xxv New York: Praeger, 1956. As Pevsner acknowledges, he is indebted to the Viennese art historian Dagobert Frey.
xxvi See the English version by Edward Mornin, Ourpourings of an Art-Loving Friar, New York: Ungar, 1975. A useful review of Wackernagel scholarship is Martin Bollacher, Wackenroder und die Kunstauffassung der frühen Romantik, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1983.
xxvii Natural Supernaturalism.
xxviii Mornin translation, p. 47.
xxix A variety of recent views is represented in Helmut Schanze, ed., Friedrich Schlegel und die Kunsttheorie seiner Zeit, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1985. For a more general account, see Hans Eichner, Friedrich Schlegel, New York: Twayne, 1970.
xxx Hans Eichner, "Germany / Romantisch--Romantik--Romantiker," in Eichner, ed., 'Romantic' and Its Cognates: The European History of a Word, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972, p. 105. See also his article "Friedrich Schlegel's Theory of Romantic Poetry," PMLA, 71 (1956), 1018-41.
xxxi These are conveniently reprinted in Hans Eichner and Norma Lelles, eds., Gemälde alter Meister, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1984. Excerpts in English translation appear in Gert Schiff, ed., German Essays on Art History, New York: Continuum, 1988, pp. 59-72.
xxxii For the history of this influential idea, see Liselotte Dieckmann, Hieroglyphics: The History of a Literary Symbol, St. Louis: Washington University Press, 1970.
xxxiii Still the fullest study is Hugh Honour, Chinoiserie.
xxxiv Partha Mitter, Much Maligned Monsters: History of European Reactions to Indian Art, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977.
xxxv The literature on this subject is very extensive; see Gabriel P. Weisberg and Yvonne M. L. Weisberg, Japonisme: An Annotated Bibliography, New York: Garland, 1990.
xxxvi J. Mordaunt Crook, The Dilemma of Style: Architectural Ideas from the Picturesque to the Post-Modern, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1987.
xxxvii J. A. Laponce, Left and Right: The Topography of Political Perceptions, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981, pp. 47-68.
xxxviii Anthropologists have given considerable attention to this question. See Rodney Needham, ed., Right and Left: Essays on Dual Symbolic Classification, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973. More general in import is David Maybury-Lewis and Uri Almagor, eds., The Attraction of Opposites: Thought and Society in the Dualistic Mode, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1989.
xxxix For a judicious consideration of the problem, see Francis Haskell, "Art and the Language of Politics," Journal of European Studies, 4 (1974), 215-232.
xl Ernest Samuels, Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Legend, 2 vols. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979-87.
xli For a clear, brief account (which perhaps overstates the link with the Enlightenment), see Hugh Honour, Neo-classicism, New York: Penguin, 1968. Some major aspects are acutely analyzed in Robert Rosenblum, Transformations in Late Eighteenth Century Art, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967.
xlii The largely anecdotal account of Kenneth Clark, The Romantic Rebellion: Romantic Versus Classical Art (New York: Harper & Row, 1973) has been eclipsed by two stimulating thematic analyses: Hugh Honour, Romanticism, Harper & Row, 1979; and Jean Clay, Romanticism, New York: Chartwell, 1981. See also The Romantic Movement, London: The Arts Council, 1959 (exhibition catalogue). In the broader realm of theory, René Wellek's important theoretical essays "The Concept of Romanticism in Literary History" and "Romanticism Re-examined (in his Concepts of Criticism, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963, pp. 128-228) seek to refute Arthur O. Lovejoy's nominalistic contention that the idea of romanticism is too sprawling and protean to admit of any precise definition.
xliii This point seems first to have been made by Walter Friedlaender, David to Delacroix, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1952.
xliv Nicholas Powell, Fuseli: The Nightmare, New York: Viking Press, 1972.
xlv On the latter, see Richard C. Carrott, The Egyptian Revival: Its Sources, Monuments, and Meaning. 1808-1858, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.

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