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A Philology of Image: Rudolf Rahn and the Restitutio of the Rose Window of Lausanne

Sat, March 24, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Hilton Riverside Complex, Chart Room C

Abstract

In 1890, the 13th-century rose window of Lausanne Cathedral became the object of restoration by the art historian, Johann Rudolf Rahn. Rahn understood that the figurative cycle had been altered but that the memory of the original was fused in the glass and could thus be reconstructed. He identified inconsistencies and interpreted them as traces of previous falsifications: they were manipulations modifying the original disposition of the panels in order to respond to changes in theological-philosophical conceptions over the centuries. By consulting other figurative cycles of the same epoch and the allegorical pagan tradition, Rahn succeeded in rebuilding the original order of the window and the Weltanschauung it expressed. Nevertheless, his intervention would provoke an intensive debate – with Jacob Burkhardt as one of his supporters – on the epistemological value of the work of art.

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