Paralipomena to a Re-examination of Plato’s Category of the Image

Very nice set of insights on the power of the image… “presence shining through absence.” Worth the read for the contemplation it will inspire.



The origin of drawing and painting in the West is often associated with the story of the potter Butades recounted by Pliny the Elder’s in his Natural History. Pliny reports how Butades’ daughter traced in sand, illuminated by lamp-light, a figural outline of her lover’s shadow. Her love was a soldier who was soon to go off to war, and her gesture appears as one of tender memorialization. It occurred to Butades to fill this outline with clay in order to fashion an effigy of the young man’s likeness. This construction is the purported beginning of the practice of clay modelling in Europe. Accordingly, it seems to gesture toward technical innovations in sculptural practice, and, moreover, prefigures the use of the camera obscura used by painters throughout the ages.

Although the young man perishes tragically in battle, his wax figure is still able to cast a shadow. The phantom…

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