The Forming of Gesture: Notes on Luca Signorelli and Frans van Mieris

Monday 7 November 2016, 4.30PM

Speaker: Professor Andrew Benjamin, Monash University



There is a division at the centre of gesture. In the first instance gesture can be incorporated within the history of literal gesture. It can be located within the history of rhetoric and linked to the history of physiognomy. With such a setting important points of connection can be traced from Cicero and Quintilian via Giambattista della Porta and Andrea de Jorio to Aby Warburg. At the same time there is another thinking of gesture. It draws on the work of Walter Benjamin. Here gesture breaks with its reduction to the literal. It becomes what Benjamin describes as a mode of ‘interruption’ (Unterbrechung). However, it is an interruption that occasions. Benjamin describes it as ‘form creating’. The aim of this lecture is to trace the points of intersection and separation between these two conceptions of gestures within the context created by two paintings: Luca Signorelli Comunione degli Apostoli and Frans van Mieris The Letter Writer.

Location: Bowland Auditorium BS/005