The Image Seen from the Inside. Mathematical and Iconoclastic concepts in Pavel Florensky`s Reverse Perspective

Project leader

Fabian Heffermehl, PhD candidate


Prof Mattias Martinson (Department of Theology, Uppsala University)

Assistant supervisor

Prof Elena Namli (UCRS)

Project period

November 2011 – November 2015

Project description

For the Armenian-Russian mathematician and theologian Pavel Florensky (1882-1937) the so-called reverse perspective of the icon did not only function as a visual expression, but also as meta-category, which in the end should define a cultural difference between Europe and Russia. In different ways Florensky argues that the Russian-Orthodox reverse perspective represents ethical and esthetical values, which were superior to the Western central perspective. On basis of Florensky’s thinking occurred an icon-theology, which carries on Russian reflections on national identity, which were typical for the 19th century. My dissertation is an attempt to reconstruct Florensky’s position in relation to two contexts, which for him appeared to be relevant. As an Orthodox priest, Florensky identified himself with the church’s tradition and dogmatics, and therefore also with the theory of the medium, developed during the struggle about images of the 8th and 9th century. But as a mathematician and acquaintance with Moscow’s revolutionary intelligentsia, Florensky became part of a modernist thinking, which in the end should become decisive for his methodology.

Keywords: Icon, image, idol, reverse perspective, media theory, art, geometry, Byzantium, Russia, iconoclasm, modernism, avant-garde, Florensky, Tarabukin, Zhegin.

Related publications

Heffermehl, Fabian: ”Нерукотворность и проблема мнемотехники ГУЛАГа” (Acheiropoiesis and the Problem of Mnemotechnique in GULAG). Forthcoming.

Heffermehl, Fabian: ”Wi-Fi in Plato’s Cave – The Digital Icon and the Phenomenology of Surveillance”. Accepted for publication in the journal Digital Icons. Will be published in July 2015.

Heffermehl, Fabian: ”Kuss eines Zyklopen. Die umgekehrte Perspektive Florenskis zwischen Weltbild und Kunstbild“ Accepted for publication in Pape, Carina / Sederström, Holger (red.); Dialog – Диалог – Dialogue. Russisch-deutsche Dialoge in Wissenschaft und Kultur. Verlag Königshausen & Neumann GmbH. Würzburg.

Heffermehl, Fabian (2013): ”Иван Карамазов как математик” (Ivan Karamazov as Mathematician). Dostoevskij i mirovaja kul’tura, n. 30 (1).

Heffermehl, Fabian (2013): ”Från cyklopens kyss till ikonens blick – Optiska experiment och omvänt perspektiv i rysk modernism” (From the Kiss of the Cyclop to the Gaze of the Icon). Arche. Tidskrift för psykoanalys, humaniora och arkitektur, n. 42-43.

Heffermehl, Fabian (2012): ”Pavel Florenskij mellom geometriske utopier og ikonkosmologi” (Pavel Florensky between Geometrical Utopias and Icon Cosmology). Nordisk Østforum, vol. 26, n. 3-4.

Heffermehl, Fabian (2011): ”Империализм Достоевского” (Dostoyevsky’s Imperialism). Scando-Slavica 57:1.

Heffermehl, Fabian (2008): ”Мир на изнанку – иллюзия объема как свидетельство о существовании Бога” (The World with the Inside Out – Depth Illusions as Evidence of God´s Existence). Rossijskie i Slavjanskie issledovanija, n. 3. Belarus State University.

Heffermehl, Fabian (2007): ”Verden på Vrangen – en formal-estetisk analyse av ikonets dybdeillusjoner”. Nordisk Øst Forum, n. 4.

Book reviews

Heffermehl, Fabian (2013): ”Die Rolle Deutschlands im Völkermord an den Armeniern 1915-1916 by Sigurd Sverre Stangeland”. Segl. Katolsk årsskrift for religion og samfunn, 2013.

Popular articles

Heffermehl, Fabian (2011): ”Putin tar makta tilbake med renter”. Klassekampen. 6 December.

Heffermehl, Fabian (2008): ”Turkiet, på jakt efter armeniska minnen”. Ny Tid, n. 7.

Heffermehl, Fabian (2008): ”I spora etter eit folkemord”. Syn og Segn, n. 3.

Heffermehl, Fabian (2007): “Med skisseblokk i verdens eldste kristne land”. Vagabond, n. 3.


Heffermehl, Fabian: ”Kuss eines Zyklopen – die umgekehrte Perspektive Florenskis zwischen Weltbild und Kunstbild”. Conference, Kunstgeschichte des östlichen Europas. Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 30 Mai 2015.

Heffermehl, Fabian: ”The Digital Icon and the Phenomenology of Surveillance”. Annual Convention for the Study of Nationalities (ASN). Columbia University. New York, 23 April 2015.

Heffermehl, Fabian: ”NSA and the Icon”. Uppsala Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, 28 October 2014.

Heffermehl, Fabian: ”Kuss eines Zyklopen”. Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften. Maria Taferl, Austria, 25 August 2014.

Heffermehl, Fabian: ”От образа культа к образу искусства – эстетика Павла Флоренского“. Moscow State University, 24 October 2013.

Heffermehl, Fabian: ”Бинокулярность и прозрачность”. Symposium Obratnaja perspektiva Pavla Florenskogo. Dom Russkogo Zarubezhja. Moscow, 13 June 2013.

Heffermehl, Fabian: ”Ikonmaleriet som kultur- og sivilisasjonskritisk prosjekt”. Uppsala Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, 11 April 2013.

Heffermehl, Fabian: ”Обратное в эстетике Павла Флоренского”. Symposium: Pavel Florensky – the Russian Leonardo. House of Losev. Florensky Museum of Moscow, 16 December 2012.

Heffermehl, Fabian: ”Der Kuss des Zyklopen – Oscar Wulff und die Russische Ikonentheologie”. Conference: Dialog in russisch-deutscher Perspektive, Russisch-Deutscher Philosophischer Kreis, Humboldt University of Berlin, 24 October 2012.

Heffermehl, Fabian: ”Достоевский и не-эвклидовая геометрия”. 6th Russian Philosophical Congress, Philosophy in the Modern World, Dialogue of World Views, Lobachevsky State University of Nizhny Novgorod, 28 – 30 June 2012.

Heffermehl, Fabian: ”Ivan Karamazow as Mathematician”. Uppsala Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, 7 February 2012.

Heffermehl, Fabian: ”Atheismus Iwans”. Conference: Globalisation and Identity. Moscow State Linguistic University, 24 – 25 September 2011.

      Heffermehl, Fabian: ”Geometri og ikonteori – en russisk historie”. Symposium: Ikonets dag. Uppsala University, 12
      May 2011.

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