Movements of the Mental Eye in Pictorial Space

Jan J. Koenderink

in Images and Artefacts of the Ancient World

Published by British Academy

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780197262962
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734533 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Occasional Papers

Movements of the Mental Eye in Pictorial Space

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  • Archaeological Methodology and Techniques


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When an observer is faced with a straight photograph, the observer can either look at the image or look into the photograph. This manner of observing photographs presents a difference that is crucial. In the former case, the observer is aware of the photograph as a physical object in a physical space while in the latter, the observer is aware of the pictorial object in a pictorial space. This chapter focuses on the current understanding of pictorial perception and the structure of pictorial space. Pictorial space is different from physical space in that it does not exist outside of the observer's awareness. It is a thread of consciousness and a purely mental object. In contrast, the photograph as a physical object is a mere planar sheet composed of pigments in a certain simultaneous order. The concepts of pictorial object and scene is not limited to the earlier existence of a physical space that figured casually in the present existence of the photograph. The theory of pictorial space is largely derived from psychophysical data. The measurement of it depends on the idiosyncratic movements of the mental eye. It is purely an ‘intentional entity’ that makes its elusive to physiological methods and susceptible to misconception.

Keywords: image; physical object; physical space; pictorial object; pictorial space; pictorial perception; planar sheet; theory of pictorial space; mental eye; intentional entity

Chapter.  7614 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Archaeological Methodology and Techniques

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