Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Important new example of British early Celtic art. 4. Oblique anamorphosis

The illustration on the left shows two overlays drawn to clarify the oblique anamorphosis. The left side reveals the typical "monster" face -- in this example, a bug-eyed goldfish; the right side showing a Celtic two-dimensional composition with elements previously used in early Celtic art. Above the yin/yang boss, is a palmette derivative and a cusp outside of that, at the 2 o'clock position. No other example is recorded of such a case of  the transformation of three dimensions into two in early Celtic art.

The illustration on the right shows a different face of the finial where one can see the "monster" as having two eyes, or a combination of the "monster" and the linear pattern. Both of these views are dependent on the viewpoint of the observer. For example, the cusp is actually the upper surface of the trumpet, its mouth being transformed into the lower leaf of the palmette.  in the case of the view of the "monster" with both eyes, the left eye is the snail-coil boss of the top of the finial, while the right eye is one of the yin/yang bosses of the side of the finial.

Oblique anamorphosis has been thought to be an artistic creation of the early 15th. Cent. AD. Modern artistic use of the phenomenon has yet to produce a truly sculptural example like this one where an actual object (the finial) can be transformed by the mind into something very different. The fact that the transformations are both from 3D to 3D and from 3d to 2D is unrecorded at any period, to the best of my knowledge.

The various "monster" faces which peer out at the observer on some examples of the Plastic Style on the Continent have been designated the 'Walt Disney' style by Ruth and Vincent Megaw in Celtic Art -- From its Beginnings to the Book of Kells, Thames and Hudson, 2001, p. 139ff. where they say of the examples cited: "All demonstrate a particular type of abstraction of human and animal heads which, since it shares with modern cartoonists the ability to produce immediately recognizable forms by the economical use of pattern, may be dubbed the 'Walt Disney' style".

Yet, all of these Continental designs consist of deliberately created and detailed faces -- they are not solely a phenomenon of observation as is the face on this finial. The work of this master had an influence on British early Celtic art right down to the 1st Cent AD, and Chris Rudd points out some hidden faces in the abstract design on a gold coin of Tasciovanus.

We should also ponder the nature of this metamorphosis in the minds of the creators of this British development to the Plastic Style and their clients. Although focused, of course, on later art, this paper by Dan Collins, Associate Professor of Art, Arizona State University, investigates the compositional and psychological meanings behind the applied phenomenon. 

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