What do Facebook and Rembrandt have in common? Everything

Aug 05, 2011

Facebook and artists like Rembrandt have much in common, says the author of "Friending the Virgin: some thoughts on the pre-history of Facebook" in the open access journal SAGE Open.

The main commonality lies in the act of portraiture, which consists of more than just the realistic depiction of a subject, but also a number of rhetorical decisions closely intertwined with evolving ideas of identity and society, according to author Larry Friedlander. The article points out the complex negotiations that artists had to make when painting some of their most famous works, similar to the choices people make today with respect to selecting images, interests, and descriptions to represent themselves on .

"In traditional portraiture pose, , prop, costume, glance provided the raw materials out of which a specific presence was evoked," wrote Friedlander. "For example, in (the) portrait by of Nicolaes Ruts, the sitter presents himself to the viewer with admirable directness. Ruts was a Mennonite fur trader and his sable coat and hat refer to his trade. Nothing extraneous distracts from the image's message: this is a merchant, a rich man, evidently serious and respectable."

Similarly, today's Facebook –or any social networking site— profile allows contemporaries to share their collective portraiture. This may seem easier than sitting for a portrait, but Friedlander contends that today's tools of text, pictures and video almost allow for more potential for failure than the paintbrushes of masters.

"Anxiety, the subject's and the viewer's (of the painted portrait), is hidden well beneath the surface. But it is there precisely in the artist's effort to smooth those anxieties out of existence," wrote Friedlander. "We, in contrast, wear our anxieties on our sleeves. But both Rembrandt and Facebook strive for mastery over the challenges of representation."

Explore further: Reddit launches crowdfunding platform Redditmade

More information: doi: 10.1177/2158244011415423

Related Stories

Facebook shrinks Web page fonts

Nov 04, 2010

Facebook set some users to squinting by shrinking text size on pages of the world's most popular online social networking service.

Recommended for you

HTML5 reaches 'Recommendation' status

Oct 29, 2014

W3C stands for World Wide Web Consortium, and the W3C HTML Working Group is responsible for this specification's progress. As the title suggests, they have a far-reaching job of watching out for the progress ...

Online dating service admits to fake profiles

Oct 29, 2014

A British-based online dating service admitted to US regulators Wednesday that it created fake, computer-generated profiles to lure users into upgraded memberships.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Telekinetic
3 / 5 (2) Aug 05, 2011
What do Facebook and Rembrandt have in common? Nothing. And to speak of them in the same breath is disgusting. Say good-bye to civilization.
Milou
not rated yet Aug 06, 2011
Now really? I agree with Telekinetic. Might as well compare the cave man drawing in the "cave" with facebook, Rembrandt and your child's drawing. All the same with their interpretation of the "sameness"!!!! "...their collective portraiture. This may seem easier than sitting for a portrait, but Friedlander contends that today's tools of text, pictures and video almost allow for more potential for failure than the paintbrushes of masters....". Failure is no kidding (Duuhhhhhh...).

"...But both Rembrandt and Facebook strive for mastery over the challenges of representation." The word "Mastery" is way overrated expression for Facebook.
Bob_B
not rated yet Aug 06, 2011
Puke science for pukes.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.