Future readings

A Reading Note

Alberto Manguel, commenting on the ways in which each viewer creates a different reading of the image before her:

The Virgin and Child before a Firescreen is at least two paintings: one shows a comforting interior and an ordinary domestic scene; another tells the story of a god born to a mortal woman, assuming in His human guise both the sexuality of the flesh and the knowledge of a certain end. This story threatens to be infinite, since every new reading adds other layers to its plot. Reading it today, we bring to the painting a wealth of curious details (the halo that travelled eastward, the ancestral images of mothering, the effects of nineteenth-century prudery) of which the artist could not have been aware; we ourselves, of course, can’t know what new chapters will be added to the story in future readings.

Manguel, Reading Pictures, page 63

As long as there are others left to read, no reading can ever be final.

Related books

Reading Pictures

Alberto Manguel

Manguel—author of A History of Reading—turns his eye to how we “read” art. A welcome correlative to Berger’s Ways of Seeing.