How might the supernatural be represented in religious paintings that imply continuity between the virtual space of painting and the real space of the beholder? Such an implied continuity might be thought to threaten a necessary distance demanded of religious works. This article examines how a number of Italian paintings employ strategies for representing the supernatural through displacement devices that create a 'gap' within perception - an inviolable space that is implied as being outside normal spatiotemporal relations. The contention is that these distancing devices are dependent on an imagined spatial proximity that is established but then broken. They exploit inherent ambiguities as to where a painting is relative to its beholder, by means of withholding both perspectival distance and positional cues for a discrete section of the work.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.