Thursday, February 11, 2010

sympathetic magic

"Early twentieth-century scholars believed that art fulfills a social function and that aesthetics are culturally relative. They proposed that the cave paintings might be products both of totemistic rites to strengthen clan bonds and increase ceremonies to enhance the fertility of animals used for food. In 1903, French scholar Salomon Reinach suggested that cave paintings were expressions of sympathetic magic (the idea, for instance, that a picture of a reclining bison would insure that hunters found their prey asleep)....

Researchers continue to discover new cave images and to correct earlier errors of fact or interpretation. A study of the Altamira cave in the 1980s led Leslie G. Freeman to conclude that these artists faithfully represented a herd of bison during the mating season. Instead of being dead, asleep, or disabled--as earlier observers had thought--the bison were dust-wallowing, common behavior during the mating season."

- Art History by Marilyn Stokstad, 3rd ed.

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