Missing arts

Seeing Beyond the World: Visual Arts and the Calvinist Tradition, edited by Paul Corby Finney

The story is old but appropriate. A German scientist published a book on The Flora and Fauna of Iceland. With Teutonic thoroughness he covered everything. Still, Icelanders were bemused by a line in the table of contents: "Chapter Eight: Snakes in Iceland." Turning to the page, they found one sentence: "There are no snakes in Iceland."

There must be some visual arts in the Calvinist tradition, since experts here fill 540 pages with pictures and texts on the subject. Yet for the most part the choices in this book are so random, the examples so idiosyncratic, the discussions so detailed that one is not likely to walk away from a reading with much sense of "the" tradition.


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