delegated focaliser /
This may sound a bit wacky and pretentious, but I think it's the terminology being invoked here. A "porte-regard" is an observer, an onlooker, but I believe it means more than that: just as a "porte-parole" is a delegated speaker, someone who speaks for another, so a "porte-regard" is a delegated observer, someone who "looks" for another (in this case the viewers of the painting: ourselves).
You are right that "porte-regard" is a literary term. It was coined by Philippe Hamon, who has used it in a number of his studies of narrative theory, and what he means by it is a function of the "focalisateur", the focaliser: put simply, the character through whose eyes we see the story:
The idea of focalisation in narrative was first developed by Gérard Genette.
"On peut de bon droit voir en ces analyses un prolongement des travaux de Philippe Hamon sur les fonctions du personnage focalisateur (« porte-regard », « porte-parole » ou « porte-travail »), appliqué à l’esthétique balzacienne. Ph. Hamon, Introduction à l’analyse du descriptif, Paris, Hachette, 1981."
"D'autre part, enfin, le personnage focalisateur, celui par les regards, ou le « point de vue », ou les paroles de qui sont systématiquement présentés [...] les objets, les milieux, les autres personnages, n'est pas forcément le personnage le plus focalisé, le plus important, fonctionnellement ou idéologiquement, du récit. Et il est évident, notamment, que certains « rôles » de simples focalisateurs, de « porte-regard » ou de « porte-parole » ou de « porte-travail », personnages chargés tout spécialement d'introduire des descriptions [...] coïncident souvent avec des personnages très secondaires de l'oeuvre"
Philippe Hamon, Texte et idéologie
Note that Hamon's point here is that the "porte-regard" focaliser can be and often is a minor character: as is the case in this Giotto painting.
Another enlightening passage in English, making the connection with the idea of delegated seeing:
"Philippe Hamon analyses how descriptive passages are introduced into a text. He concludes that representations of space are typically presented by a focalizer, an individual who is seeing [...] Spatial representation 'stems from the ability of the character to whom vision has been delegated'"
Michael James White, Space in Theodor Fontane's Works: Theme and Poetic Function, p. 6
And finally, an application of this idea of focalisation to painting, in a discussion of Rembrandt's Danaë:
"But in combination with the look of the servant behind the curtain, an internal focalizer, the hand sends away the voyeuristic gaze. [...] The viewer [...] is equally deprived of his identity, as his eyes hit his mirror image in the two represented onlookers: in narratological terms, the delegated focalizers.
Vision and Textuality, p. 164
And I think that's the term I would use here.
Just as an afterthought, and not entirely seriously, I've added Laura Mulvey's expression "the bearer of the look". It's an interesting coincidence that Hamon coined the term "porte-regard" around 1980, just a few years after Mulvey put forward the idea of the male "bearer of the look" in film, in 1975: the male gaze being the one through which the characters and action are normally seen. I'm not suggesting there's a causal connecion, but since Mulvey's term has become so well known (among those interested in this sort of theory), I am almost tempted to suggest it as a translation here. But not quite: it invokes quite a different set of ideas, really.
Note added at 7 hrs (2018-07-07 18:09:32 GMT)
Well, "bearer of the look" has deleted itself from the answer box, perhaps because I put it in inverted commas. Probably a good thing, in fact. But it's just about worth mentioning, I think.
| Charles Davis|
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