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Bildet sett fra innsiden: Ikonoklastiske og matematiske konsepter i Florenskijs omvendte perspektiv
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Uppsala Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies.
2015 (Norwegian)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
The Image Seen from the Inside : Mathematical and Iconoclastic Concepts in the Reverse Perspective of Pavel Florensky (English)
Abstract [en]

For the Armenian-Russian mathematician, theologian and art-theoretician Pavel Florensky (1882–1937), the so-called reverse perspective of the Byzantine cult-image (in Greek: eikon) functioned not only as a phenomenon within painting, but also as an expression of a world-view that should ultimately define a cultural distinction between Russia and Europe. Florensky argued in various ways that the Russian-Orthodox reverse perspective represents ethical and aesthetical values that are superior to the Western linear perspective. He saw the lack of an exact definition of depth in the icon as an expression of true religious orientation towards a spiritual realm, which cannot be described within frames of our earthly – or Euclidean – categories of space and time. In other words, the reverse perspective became regarded as a real reversal of Western painting, requesting a different space, a different observer, and a different concept of reality.

This dissertation is an “archeological excavation” in the 20th century Russian-Orthodox icon theology. By analyzing theories of Florensky in the first line, and also a number of his contemporaries and predecessors, I identify a complex of different layers similar to a palimpsest. In this palimpsest, archaism, paganism, patristic theology, and romanticism interact with a modern re-conceptualization of the medieval Orthodox icon. However, in a usual palimpsest the old letters shine through the new ones; Florensky, on the contrary, seems to project paradigms of his contemporary culture and science into his description of the medieval icon. In this case, would the reverse perspective not instead be a reverse palimpsest, where new texts become visible in the old texts? With this question, my dissertation introduces an approach to Florensky and the icon that is more complex than what has been the case in earlier research. A usual explanation of the formal aesthetics of the icon is that the icon painter directs his/her spirit towards Heaven and, consequently – and in contrast to the Renaissance painter – does not try to make a mimesis of the earthly things. However, I argue that this dichotomy between a profane and spiritual mentality should be regarded both as a condition for Florensky’s world view and, at the same time, as a construction produced by his thinking.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2015. , 297 p.
Uppsala Studies in Systematic Theology and Worldviews, 5
Keyword [en]
icon, reverse perspective, image, Russia, modernism, mathematics, geometry, avant-garde, cult, utopia, apocalypsis
National Category
Visual Arts General Literature Studies Religious Studies
Research subject
Systematic Theology and Studies in Worldviews; Slavic Languages; History of Art
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-261608ISBN: 978-91-554-9334-9OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-261608DiVA: diva2:852878
Public defence
2015-10-30, Gustavianum, Auditorium Minus, Uppsala, 13:15 (Norwegian)
Available from: 2015-10-09 Created: 2015-09-02 Last updated: 2015-10-12

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