Léal souvenir? La photographie, la peinture et le serment de l’image fidèle

Bertrand Rougé


The aim of this paper is to question the objectivist conception of photography by confronting it with the history – and epistemology – of the painted image. I suggest that the idea of photography as an objective testimony seems to rest upon a phenomenon already described by ancient rhetoric – enargeia, which Cicero latinized into evidentia. Thus the question is raised whether the objectivity of the photographic image is not the mere continuation of an old rhetorical and pictorial tradition about the epistemic-rhetoric evidentia of testimony. Moreover, through the detailed analysis of two paintings by Jan Van Eyck – The Arnolfini Portrait and Léal Souvenir –, I argue that what guarantees an image’s objectivity to the point of its being accepted as evidence ultimately is not the non-subjective mechanical process or the automatic indexical device used to make the photographic image but the image’s built-in pledge of faithfulness which was at the heart of painters’ thoughts long before the invention of photography.


photography; painting; indexicality; evidence; objectivity; performativity

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13128/Aisthesis-22780

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