Is the world as it appears... or not really?


Keeping with the 'word of the day' theme, this one is a blinder.

verisimilitude

I encountered this one in Rebecca Solnit's A field guide to getting lost (2006), a small, but profound book. In the first chapter of the book, 'The blue of distance', Solnit explains how in the 15th century European painters become more concerned with rendering the world as it appeared to the human eye (who would have thought?!) For instance, it was around this time that artists began painting the blue of the distance (ie, the sky) in their works. Astoundingly, before this, the sky didn't tend to feature in paintings: 'Sometimes a solid wall of gold backed up the saints and patrons; sometimes the space curved around as though the earth were indeed a sphere but we were inside', Solnit explains.

Rendering the world as it appears to the human eye is referred to as 'verisimilitude', which comes from the French word, in turn derived from the Latin verisimilitudo, meaning 'likeness to truth'.

Interestingly, the term today is more often used to mean something, such as an assertion, that appears to be the truth but isn't really. Cripes ... tricky.

Image: The Heart of the Andes, 1859, by Frederic Edwin Church.

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