retractareSaturday, July 30, 2016
Del lat. retractāre 'retocar, revisar', 'corregir'.
1. tr. Copiar, dibujar o fotografiar la figura de una persona o de una cosa.
2. tr. Hacer la descripción de la figura o del carácter de una persona. U. t. c. prnl.
3. tr. imitar (‖ parecerse).
4. tr. Describir con exacta fidelidad algo.
5. tr. retractar. U. t. c. prnl.
Real Academia Española © Todos los derechos reservados
mid 16th century: from French, past participle (used as a noun) of Old French portraire ‘portray.’
These days of shifting one minute from reading Jorge Luís Borges (in Spanish) to Emily Dickinson (in English) the difference between these languages is in my thoughts all the time. As an example of how a language will approach the same thing in a different way take the word portrait and its equivalent in Spanish retrato.
A hint to the meaning of the word in Spanish might illuminate those who speak English in the similarity between retrato and retract.
Thus in Spanish, according to my excellent on line dictionary RAE (Real Academia Española) a retrato has as its root origin from the Latin the word retractare which means revise, retouch, correct!
Did the Romans suspect that a likeness of a person could never be accurate?
As a semi-hippie high school teacher in the early 70s I often told my students of an experiment involving my idea of very early computers. A young woman would place in a room a camera on a tripod with a light on one side. Nothing would then be moved and she would stand on one spot without movement. Then, one at a time, her father, her brother, her mother, her sister, the plumber, her best friend, her boyfriend, her physics teacher, would each snap the shutter once. I believe that the resulting portraits if studied carefully would reveal the intention of each snapper, with the reaction of the woman snapped. We might be able to guess who took which photograph.
And my further idea was that if we fed all the photographs into a super computer that we would instruct to combine all images into one, we would then approach an almost totality of the person, perhaps a Platonic Essence.