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17 Jan van Hemessen’s Anatomy of Parody

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Chapter Summary

Jan van Hemessen's indeterminacies extend beyond the relationship between mimesis, beauty, and pleasure. They also include the identification, and thus interpretation, of depicted objects in the first place. Indirection of the kind one sees in the Brussels Prodigal Son was neither new nor uncommon in 1536. The aptness of indirection comes into question because anthropomorphic sexual metonymy is strongly reciprocal. A knob on a chair is just a knob, except when a lascivious figure gropes it suggestively, in which case it lends itself to anatomical associations. Substitution establishes an analogical circuit between two entities, but that circuit is contingent on more than simply a base of shared knowledge. Interpretive validity takes on particular importance with respect to Hemessen's Brussels painting, for the tale of the Prodigal Son is a parable - that is, an exercise in figurative indirection.

Keywords: anatomical metonyms; anthropomorphic sexual metonymy; Jan van Hemessen; Prodigal Son



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