Clarity Haynes on Domenico Ghirlandaio

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Clarity Haynes writes about Domenico Ghirlandaio’s An Old Man and his Grandson (c. 1490) in the Louvre, Paris.

Haynes observes: “Barthes describes the punctum as the rupture, the piercing; in this case the unexpected detail that mars the classical, standard and predictable, giving the picture its humanity. The studium is the expected, the archetypal, the idealized — landscape, portrait, figure. The punctum wakes the viewer up, brings her into the moment, the present, the here and now. For me, the punctum in this painting is the sight of the rounded forms on the old man’s nose, which echo the spherical mole on his forehead. His nose, rather than being an expected shape, has the addition of a few more shapes on top of it, almost becoming comical, like a clown wearing a false nose. But it miraculously stops short of ugliness as we know it, or hilarity, or pathos, or shock.”

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