Sight and Spirituality in Early Netherlandish Painting examines the importance of vision as a narrative and thematic concern in works by artists such as Jan van Eyck, Petrus Christus, and Roger van der Weyden. Bret Rothstein argues that their paintings invited the viewer to demonstrate a variety of mental skills. Depicting religious visual experience, these works alluded to the imperceptibility of the divine and implicated the viewer's own experience as part of a larger spiritual and intellectual process. Rothstein demonstrates how and why the act of seeing became a highly valued skill, one to be refined and displayed, as well as a source of competition among both artists and patrons.
Introduction: forms of interest in early Netherlandish painting. 1. Picturing vision; 2. The imagination of imagelessness; 3. The devotional image as social ornament; 4. Reflexivity and senses of painterly strength; Epilogue: notes on the rise of visual skill.