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The Look of the Past
Visual and Material Evidence in Historical Practice


  • Date Published: September 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521709064
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About the Authors
  • How can we use visual and material culture to shed light on the past? Ludmilla Jordanova offers a fascinating and thoughtful introduction to the role of images, objects and buildings in the study of past times. Through a combination of thematic chapters and essays on specific artefacts – a building, a piece of sculpture, a photographic exhibition and a painted portrait – she shows how to analyse the agency and visual intelligence of artists, makers and craftsmen and make sense of changes in visual experience over time. Generously illustrated and drawing on numerous examples of images and objects from 1600 to the present, this is an essential guide to the skills that students need in order to describe, analyse and contextualise visual evidence. The Look of the Past will encourage readers to think afresh about how they, like people in the past, see and interpret the world around them.

    • A complete guide to using visual and material evidence in the study of the past
    • Extended discussions of description and evidence, craft and visual intelligence evidence, periodisation, audience and display and comparative analysis provide the necessary theoretical grounding for students
    • Short essays on specific images, objects and buildings illustrate key themes and demonstrate core analytical methods
    • Extensive illustrations give concrete examples of how to use images and objects in historical research
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Few scholars can match Jordanova's ability to further historical practice through precise analysis, originality and thought-provoking questions, and this pioneering publication is a 'how-to' book in the best possible sense. Beautifully illustrated and offering carefully selected bibliographical advice, The Look of the Past significantly enriches the historians' toolbox and throws out rusty remains. A winner!' Ulinka Rublack, author of Dressing Up: Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe

    'A master historian of visual culture brings the subject to life, shows its importance to understanding any period of history, and offers concise and compelling guidelines for making sense of how it works. The Look of the Past strikes just the right tone in offering an accessible, wondrously wide-ranging, and intellectually satisfying account of visual objects from handbags to Baroque paintings.' Lynn Hunt, University of California, Los Angeles

    'A staunchly argued, exceptionally lucid demonstration of the enlightenment, and also pleasure, to be derived from alert, informed, enquiring looking at the myriad artefacts surrounding us. Enlivened by wide-ranging case studies and a provocative choice of illustrations, it is a timely and invaluable resource for students of history and art history alike.' Elizabeth Cowling, University of Edinburgh

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    Customer reviews

    03rd Feb 2019 by Schu1970

    A meaningful topic selection and unique perspective! This is a work worth reading.

    Review was not posted due to profanity


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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2012
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521709064
    • length: 263 pages
    • dimensions: 246 x 189 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.67kg
    • contains: 54 b/w illus. 36 colour illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    A handbag?
    1. Description and evidence
    Essay – a 'sumptuous structure': the Wren Library at Trinity College, Cambridge
    2. Craft, skills and visual intelligence
    Essay – 'the jewel of the church': Bernini's Ecstasy of St Teresa
    3. Periodisation
    Essay – photographing 'the family of man'
    4. Audiences and display
    Essay – deposits of friendship: Renoir's 1908 portrait of Ambroise Vollard
    5. Comparative analysis
    List of reference works.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Art and Conversation
    • Collecting and Museums
    • Ideas of History
  • Author

    Ludmilla Jordanova, King's College London
    Ludmilla Jordanova is Professor of Modern History at King's College London. Her publications include History in Practice, now going into its third edition.

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