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From the Beautiful to the Sublime in Calderón’s El pintor de su deshonra

From: Bulletin of the Comediantes
Volume 64, Number 2, 2012
pp. 45-64 | 10.1353/boc.2012.0045



This article analyzes Calderón de la Barca’s El pintor de su deshonra in the framework of the sublime, with sustained attention to the comedia’s reflection on painting. Diverging from the notion that the sublime emerges in eighteenth-century Northern Europe, this study approaches the sublime as an ongoing development from antiquity through modernity, Calderonian drama being an illustrative example of its tension-ridden aesthetic function. Specifically, the sublime is formulated in the play’s articulation of a shift from Renaissance conceptions of beauty as a harmonious integration of senses and intellect to a Baroque disencounter between corporeal and conceptual perception. Echoing Longinus’s and Kant’s definitions of the sublime as differing from Platonic beauty, the Calderonian sublime subverts civic forms of aesthetic pleasure. Replicating the physical and conceptual density of the mise-en-abîme common in seventeenth-century painting, the work combines a self-reflexive skepticism of appearances with the implication that specular representation, although desultory, is an essential epistemological tool. In the dynamic ocular movement that it elicits, it maintains a productive, albeit disturbing, oscillation between analytic and sensorial fruition.

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