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Perceiving different images at different scales of research: the case of early Netherlandish painting
By Jeanne Nuechterlein
The International Journal of the Humanities, Vol.6:8 (2008)
Abstract: As we divide into ever narrower and more detailed fields of study, our gains in depth and specificity of knowledge frequently come at the expense of broader understanding: we can hardly see any bigger picture that might emerge from our accumulation of particularized knowledge. In some areas it may be possible to achieve a close symbiosis between detail and whole, but our subjects of research often lead to a different experience, where the meaningful detail of the close-up view fades away at a greater distance. This does not mean that no larger picture exists: instead we might discover new patterns and contours only visible on the broader scale. How we interpret our research thus depends not only on our methodological approach but the scale of the context within which we place the subject. The example of early Netherlandish painting provides both a metaphorical image and a case study of this problem.