ABSTRACTMost eighteenth- and nineteenth-century portrait paintings have eyes staring outward at the beholder. A minority of these eyes have slightly elevated pupils in comparison to the iris. These off-centre pupils are not the norm, but they occur regularly in works by skilful European portrait painters in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This article takes a closer look at selected portrait paintings by Danish artists Jens Juel and Constantin Hansen and argues that the discrepancy between the pupils and the rest of the paintings creates an illusion of movement or presence when looking the paintings in the eye. The discrepancy creates an aesthetic effect corresponding with Merleau-Ponty’s concept of internal discordance. According to Merleau-Ponty, visual art can create the illusion of movement by portraying its parts in different moments. These internal discordances make the painting “move” because the beholder unconsciously creates a fictive link between the parts thereby expanding time in space. The article combines presence theory, phenomenology and art theory and perception theory in order to study the effects and possible reasons for creating pupils out of sync with the rest of the painting.
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DOI 10.1080/20539320.2019.1587966
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