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A Neuroaesthetic Approach to the Study of Responses to Unfinished Works of Art of the Italian Renaissance

Citation: Tononi, Fabio (2021) A Neuroaesthetic Approach to the Study of Responses to Unfinished Works of Art of the Italian Renaissance. Doctoral thesis, School of Advanced Study.


Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Records of discussions about unfinished works of art, their morphologies, and the ways in which they are perceived date back to classical antiquity. However, the insights from these debates have never been fully explored in relation to the aesthetic responses of beholders to works of art. This dissertation seeks to address this gap by asking the following questions: What are the aesthetic implications of the unfinished? How do beholders respond to unfinished works of art? A fresh analysis of the artistic debate on the phenomenon of the unfinished from classical antiquity to the Italian Renaissance, combined with neuroscientific research, may help to answer these questions. This study focuses on the aesthetic responses of beholders to different types of incompleteness and the role imagination plays in visual perception. In order to provide an account of how beholders biologically respond in the contemplation of the unfinished, I will draw upon insights from aesthetics, philosophy of mind, and experimental psychology, exploring a series of mental faculties, theories, and concepts such as embodied simulation, empathy, imagination, imitation learning, mental imagery, neural filling-in, and prediction error minimisation. My hope is that this multipronged approach will both illuminate and present novel finding about (i) the implications of the unfinished in artmaking and perception; (ii) the role of the beholder’s imagination in the aesthetic response; and (iii) the assumption that imitation learning is a human faculty that is exceptionally relevant when responding to the unfinished.

Creators: Tononi, Fabio and
Subjects: Culture, Language & Literature
Keywords: Neuroaesthetic, Unfinished Works of Art, Italian, Renaissance
Divisions: Warburg Institute
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • 28 February 2021 (accepted)


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