61st Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, Berlin, March 26-28, 2015

The IAS sponsored five sessions at RSA 2015. Click on the links to read full abstracts. We co-hosted a reception with the Historians of Netherlandish Art on Friday, 27 March, after the last sessions of the day.

Vittoria Colonna and Michelangelo: A Broader Vision
Thursday, March 26, 8:30-10:00am
Hauptgebäude, Unter den Linden 6, Audimax
Organizer: Tiffany Lynn Hunt, Temple University
Chair: Bernadine Barnes,Wake Forrest University

Research about Vittoria Colonna’s interest in the visual arts is centered on her relationship with Michelangelo, especially around the 1540s, when the two exchanged ideas about reformed spirituality. But Colonna’s influence on Michelangelo lasted longer—even beyond her death in 1547—and may be seen in works other than the presentation drawings he did explicitly for her. Colonna was part of a large network of aristocrats, religious leaders, relatives and friends who also had an interest in art and who sometimes requested copies of the works that Michelangelo made for her.For this session we seek papers that consider how images were commissioned, copied, used and shared within this network. Did the works of art made for this circle of friends play a role in spreading ideas about reform? We welcome contributions dealing with works Vittoria Colonna did for Michelangelo, works she requested from other artists, as well as examples of her influence in Michelangelo’s late oeuvre. We are also interested in the distribution and reuse of these works, and shared themes in pieces commissioned by her friends and correspondents, such as Cardinals Reginald Pole and Ercole Gonzaga.

Beyond the Spirituali: Vittoria Colonna, Michelangelo, and Meditation
Emily Fenichel, Florida Atlantic University

When considering the friendship of Vittoria Colonna and Michelangelo, scholars have emphasized their involvement with the radical religious group, the Spirituali. The problem with the focus on Vittoria Colonna’s and Michelangelo’s “reformist” theologies is that it has been entirely too narrow — ignoring their engagement with orthodox theology and personal devotion, particularly meditation. Examining Colonna’s poetry and prose, principally the Pianto Sopra la Passione di Cristo, this paper will argue for the critical importance of meditation in Colonna’s devotional practice. Moreover, I will consider how Michelangelo’s late work – including his drawings for Colonna – bears witness to the artist’s understanding of meditation. The Florentine Pietà, in particular, is a testimony to the lasting influence of Colonna’s meditation on the artist, even after her death. Far from being a failure, the Florentine Pietà demonstrates the artist’s innovative combination of creation and meditation following the example of his spiritual guide and friend.

The Influence of Vittoria Colonna on Michelangelo’s Frescoes for the Capella Paolina
Anne Dillon, Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge

Michelangelo frescoes in the Cappella Paolina, the pope’s private chapel in the Vatican, were planned and painted by him during the 1540s. This was a time when the intellectual, theological and emotional relationship between the artist and Vittoria Colonna were critically important influences. Michelangelo shared with Vittoria the beliefs of the group of influential churchmen and academics, the Spirituali, who gathered around Cardinal Reginald Pole, Vittoria’s close friend and mentor. The frescoes of the Cappella Paolina: The Conversion of St Paul and The Crucifixion of St Peter, are suffused with the influences of the Spirituali. This paper will demonstrate that the relationship between Michelangelo and Vittoria Colonna had a profound influence upon the creation, narrative and theological intentions of Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Cappella Paolina.

Colonna and Michelangelo on the Quirinal
Marjorie Och, University of Mary Washington Read abstract

Scholarship on Francisco de Hollanda’s Four Dialogues on Painting has concentrated on Michelangelo’s comparison of poetry and painting and his observations on Flemish painting. But Vittoria Colonna initiates this conversation by sharing with Michelangelo that she wished to build a convent on Colonna property on the Quirinal Hill, “… where stands the broken portico from which Nero is said to have watched Rome burning….” My paper will argue that this comment is significant because Colonna’s proposal offered Michelangelo his first opportunity to incorporate ancient Roman structures into a new edifice for Christian worship, an idea that was at the heart of his work at St. Peter’s and his project to convert the Baths of Diocletian into the church of Sta. Maria degli Angeli. Vittoria Colonna was thus instrumental in Michelangelo’s creation of monumental architecture that directly references the struggle and faith of the early Christian Church in Rome.

Italians Look at Germans
Thursday, March 26, 10:15 to 11:45am
Hegelplatz, Dorotheenstrasse 24/1, 1.103
Organizers and Chairs: Kathleen Giles Arthur, James Madison University and Martha Dunkelman, Canisius College

The impact of Italian art on Germany during the Renaissance is a familiar topic. Writers note Venetian color in Durer, ancient sculpture in Jan Gossaert, and Roman Mannerism in Jan van Scorel. If German artists visited Italy, special attention is given to what they took to the north when they left. Less consideration has been given to exploring ideas introduced into Italy by German artists. The few exceptions to this center on prints, such as the story of Michelangelo copying Schongauer’s St. Anthony, or the interest of Raphael in Durer. There were certainly other ways, however, that German images, ideas, and techniques evoked responses in the Italian artistic community. This session welcomes papers that present new research on how German art, artists, and patrons who were present in Italy were influential on Italian artists during the Renaissance. Essays may consider specific borrowings, theoretical concepts, material practices, or any other aspect of the influence of Germans on Italians.

The Reception and Influence of German Single-Sheet Woodcuts in Ferrara
Kay Arthur, James Madison University

This paper investigates the collection and influence of German fifteenth-century single-sheet woodcuts in Northern Italy, especially Ferrara. These ephemera were diffuse in this area before c.1450-80.  In Bologna, German playing cards were first mentioned in 1395; in 1425 Bernardino da Siena complained about their pernicious influence on the populace. In Venice, by 1412, prints circulated to stimulate the cult of Catherine of Siena. In Parma, merchant laymen like Jacopo Rubieri collected devotional woodcuts in albums, but what about the many monks and nuns? In Ferrara, “formae,” or printing blocks, were documented in the 1440s. This paper argues that a German woodcut provided the model for a Man of Sorrows drawing by the artist nun Caterina Vigri c. 1450 and another woodcut, gifted to her convent by an Observant preacher in 1463, exhibited miraculous powers and became the nuns’ treasured relic.

Beware, you envious thieves of the work and invention of others, keep your thoughtless hands from these works of ours.”
Bryony Bartlett-Rawlings, Courtauld Institute

The case of Marcantonio Raimondi copying Dürer’s Life of the Virgin woodcuts in the early 1500s is frequently cited as an example of Italians looking to German art. Marcantonio was just one of many artists copying engravings by German printmakers including Dürer and Schongauer at this time. This paper will investigate copies of German prints by two little studied printmakers, Nicoletto da Modena and Giovanni Antonio da Brescia. These prints document the impact of German art in Italy at the turn of the sixteenth century. This paper will consider what Northern prints were being copied and why. Close comparison of the Italian copies with the German originals will investigate how these prints were made. Contemporary writings and inventories of collections will place both German originals and Italian counterfeits within the context of early sixteenth-century Italy to consider how these works were regarded and used, both by collectors and artists.

Response
Sean Roberts, Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies

The Absent Image in Italian Renaissance Art
Thursday, March 26, 1:15-2:45pm
Hegelplatz, Dorotheenstrasse 24/1, 1.103
Organizers and Chairs: Lauren Dodds, University of Southern California; Emily R. Anderson, University of Southern California

Lacunae mark the study of Italian Renaissance art. Canonical works like Giotto’s Navicella, Michelangelo’s monumental bronze sculpture of Pope Julius II, and Raphael’s missing “Portrait of a Young Man” disappeared in the face of renovation and war. Less dramatically, vast swaths of art and material culture failed to survive to the present due to changing perceptions of their value and purpose; in most cases, objects like wax death masks, innumerable portrait covers and cases, ephemeral pageantry banners and triumphal arches are no longer extant. Beyond expanding our objects of inquiry, studying the lost elements of Renaissance art and visual culture illuminates the ways in which the concept of the Renaissance shapes and is shaped by surviving works of art. This panel invites papers considering absence in Renaissance art: how have lost objects stimulated creative energy in the past or present? Have interdisciplinary approaches aided the re-envisioning of lost works of art? How might the fundamentally visual discipline of art history grapple with the absent image?

Italian Drawings
Evelyn F. Karet, Independent Scholar

Early drawings from the 14th and 15th centuries are rare. Although seldom preserved, the early history of drawings collected in early modern northern Italy is documented in inventories and descriptions, illuminating our understanding of one of the quintessential aspects of Renaissance culture and the aesthetics of that culture. My paper surveys lost drawings in the collections of professional artists, artist-collectors, and amateur private collectors including men of letters, humanists, aristocratic patrons and ordinary citizens. Ranging from the early fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries the lost drawings include those in the northern Italian collections of usurer Oliviero Forzetta (1335–1373); master Francesco Squarcione (1394/7-1468); humanist Felice Feliciano (1433 -1479); patron Isabella d’Este (1474-1539); Cardinal Pietro Bembo (1470-1547); humanist-jurist Marco Mantova Benavides (1489-15820); patrician Gabriele Vendramin (1484-1552); Cardinal Domenico Grimani (1461-1523); letterato Marcantonio Michiel (1484-1552); patrician-senator Giacomo Contarini (1536-1595); Counts Mario Bevilacqua (1536-1593) and Girolamo Canossa (1534/36-1592) and cittadino Federico Morando (1561-1607). Such early collections of lost drawings stimulated the awareness, appreciation and potential of drawings thereby promoting a growing interest in their collection.

The Afterlife of Pontormo’s lost frescoes in San Lorenzo at Florence and the historiography of a“Mannerist” Artist
Elizabeth Pilliod, Rutgers University

Pontormo’s frescoes in the choir of San Lorenzo were a complex cycle of over fourteen subjects covering an area twice the size of the famous battle cartoons of Michelangelo and Leonardo combined–yet, according to conventional wisdom it seems they had little influence on subsequent art. Destroyed in 1738, the status of the paintings has been a vexed issue in Renaissance art. Antonfrancesco Doni predicted they would be a marvel; Vasari claimed Pontormo failed utterly. It has been argued that Pontormo deformed his subjects because he was eccentric and that they were so unpleasant that other artists ignored them.  Abandoning notions of Pontormo as neurotic, which reflect a now dated concept of “Mannerist Art,” new documents and a new reconstruction will reveal the influential afterlife of Pontormo’s inventive images.

Resurrecting the Colossus in Renaissance Print
Sean Roberts,Villa i Tatti

Though the colossal statute had tumbled to the earth over a millennium previous, the silhouette of Helios striding across the harbor at Rhodes was familiar to educated viewers from Renaissance Nuremberg to Naples. Remembered from the notices of Pliny and Strabo, the ancient giant was perhaps most efficaciously evoked in dozens of engravings and etchings produced in print centers from London to Rome and Cologne to Utrecht. This talk examines these resurrections in paper and ink, exploring how artists including Maarten van Heemskerck, Gerard de Jode, and Antonio Tempesta fabricated enduring and fantastical traces of this ever- absent wonder. In these prints, the colossal sun god appears paradoxically both as lost and mourned fragment and simultaneously as an incorruptible monument to the flowering of classical civilization. For Renaissance printmakers and collectors the colossus straddled not only land and sea, but also the permeable boundaries between ruin and reconstruction.

Reception, Reuse, and Repurposing in Italian Renaissance Art I and II
Organizer: Kirstin Noreen, Loyola Marymount University

These two sessions will examine the reception, reuse, and reworking of earlier art during the Italian Renaissance in order to explore how the active reframing of an object, site or structure develops new layers of meaning and redefines the original liturgical, political or social function.  In the first session, papers will consider how ancient structures, spolia, and grotteschi have been integrated and reinterpreted in Renaissance Rome; the memory of sites, the reception of reused objects, and the repurposing of decorative elements in diverse media will be of special interest.  In the second session, the reinvention and re-framing of representations of the Virgin and Christ will be examined to explore how contemporary devotional practice shaped the installation of venerable images, serving to reinterpret their original functions; the themes of physical, mental, and spiritual pilgrimage will link the three papers.

I: Architectural Revival and Reinterpretation
Saturday, March 28, 2:00-3:30pm
Hegelplatz, Dorotheenstrasse 24/1, 1.103
Chair: Kirstin Noreen, Loyola Marymount University

The Displaced Identities of the Curia Senatus and the Secretarium Senatus in Rome
Gregor Kalas, University of Tennessee

The late antique Senate House (Curia Senatus) and the adjoined Secretarium Senatus were both converted into the churches of Sant’Adriano and Santa Martina respectively during the seventh century with minimal interventions.  During the sixteenth century, the location of an ancient triumphal arch of Marcus Aurelius outside of Santa Martina and the trajectory of the Via Sacra proceeding toward it had embedded these churches in a cityscape featuring such civic activities as liturgical processions proceeding along the same terrain as ancient civic rituals.  This paper argues that the submersion of the city under rising, silt-laden strata both displaced the once-contextualized identities of these monuments and also set up the conditions for the partial masking of the Senate House by Martino Longhi the Younger and the near total loss of the Secretarium Senatus to make way for a church by Pietro da Cortona.

Anticaglie”
Dale Kinney, Bryn Mawr College, Research Professor

The medieval churches of Rome are well known for their reuse of columns, capitals and other ancient artifacts for structural or ornamental purposes.  These elements are rarely mentioned in medieval written sources and never as antiques, although age is implicit in adjectives denoting their size, fine craftsmanship, and precious materials.  A change of perception occurred in the 15th century, such that beginning around 1500 architectural elements appear in a new form of literature as anticaglie (antiquities), spoglie, and “marvelous things.”  This paper explores the 15th-century context for this change in reception as well as its consequences for the design of new churches.

II: Re-Framing the Holy
Saturday, March 28, 3:45-5:15pm
Hegelplatz, Dorotheenstrasse 24/1, 1.103
Organizer: Kirstin Noreen, Loyola Marymount University
Chair: Sheryl E. Reiss, Italian Art Society

Re-framing the Virgin in Counter-Reformation Umbria
Dorigen Sophie Caldwell, Lecturer in Italian Renaissance Art, History of Art Department, Birkbeck, University of London

In 1513, Julius II approved the erection of an oratory to house a miracle-working trecento fresco of the Virgin and Child, originally situated in a wayside aedicule near Tavernelle, in the diocese of Città della Pieve. The Madonna di Mongiovino soon acquired a prodigious following and by 1524 an ambitious sanctuary church was raised on the site. The structure was built on a centralized plan, in keeping with many similar Marian shrines erected between the end of the fifteenth century and the middle years of the cinquecento, including S. Maria delle Carceri at Prato and S. Maria della Consolazione at Todi. At Mongiovino, two identical facades, each with an entrance portal, were placed on the cross-axis, suggesting the need to facilitate the movement of a large number of devotees. The popularity of the shrine is confirmed by its continued embellishment through the sixteenth century, as the once-lowly image was given an increasingly prestigious setting. My focus in this paper is the Counter-Reformation framing of this late Medieval image, which saw not only its installation on an elaborate, gilded tabernacle altar, but also its ‘completion’ to incorporate the figure of God the Father. The image was now additionally framed by a fresco cycle of the life of the Virgin, in a chapel separated from the main space of the church by a highly unusual arcaded screen adorned with sculptural figures. These later interventions were designed not only to honor this particular image, but also to clearly underline the Virgin’s broader importance to the Catholic faith. This new setting, which is both sophisticated and archaizing, and includes frescoes by that go-to interpreter of the Tridentine decrees on images, Niccolò Circignani, provides an intriguing encapsulation of Counter-Reformatory concerns.

Climbing the Scala Sancta: Reliving the Passion, Ritual Performance and the Lateran Icon of Christ
Kirstin Noreen, Loyola Marymount University

The cancellation of the Assumption procession in Rome in 1566 during the pontificate of Pius V altered the ritual topography of the city, removing holy images like the Lateran icon of Christ from an annual contact with local inhabitants. With the construction of the Scala Sancta under Sixtus V, the Lateran icon and the Sancta Sanctorum were reframed as a destination for pious pilgrims and were established as the inner core of an elaborately designed architectural reliquary. This paper will examine how image, site and holy object were integrated to engage and edify the viewer through the particular spatio-temporal experience of climbing the Scala Sancta. The reframing of the Christ icon through ritual performance allowed viewers to physically reenact the Passion.  The establishment of Rome as a New Jerusalem, already expressed in the decoration and contents of the medieval Sancta Sanctorum, could be viscerally experienced through late sixteenth-century devotional practice.