The Ontology of the Venetian Halo in its Italian Context
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This thesis aims to reposition the halo’s status within an artwork through arguing a reassessment of its activity 'as a sign' rather than acceptance of its passivity. This active state is further explored and expanded by a heuristic application of semiotic theory to interrogate its fluctuation between sign/non-sign and its oscillation between a seemingly real status and behaviour juxtaposed with its very consciously artificial “manifestation”. A variety of halo shapes are considered, together with texture contained in and on its surface, and this has revealed the Venetian and Venetan artistic innovation of “glass” and “silk” haloes, through artists’ utilisation of contemporaneous industrial practices and their application to halo appearance. Additionally, extant architectural vocabulary is translated and reformulated into internal halo motifs by Venetian and Venetan artists, further enhancing the halo’s somatic characteristics, contextualized by examination of halo representation in various media in Florence, Rome and Siena, and a consideration of haloes within other, mainly Italian, centres. Additionally, the fugitive and transient qualities of the nimbus are noted, with its mimesis of the dying corporeal body in its fading insubstantiality, a further factor in its inexorably reductive form as increasing realism in art challenges its ontological traits. Textual characters contained within the halo body are also examined in their many forms and languages and their contribution to an intertextual function espoused by the ideologeme. An adjunct to this function is the halo’s propagandist role presented by artists. It will be demonstrated how all these different strands of interpretation are imbricated in the changing theological, political and societal landscape, encapsulated within the halo.
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