46th International Congress on Medieval Studies (2011)
University of Western Michigan, Kalamazoo MI, May 12–15, 2011
The Study of the Art and Architecture of Italy: A Reassessment of the Discipline
These four linked sessions reconsidered fundamental assumptions underlying the current practice of medieval art history, including the temporal and geographic parameters bounding the study of “Italian medieval art,” the methodological structures of the field, the influences of key figures on the development of the discipline, and the privileged role of the urban environment in studies of the Italian peninsula. These sessions dovetailed with broader concerns current within the humanities, including a shift toward new geographical divisions, investigations of formerly neglected time periods, and a renewed engagement with the works of such pioneering scholars of medieval Italian art as Bernard Berenson, Arthur Kingsley Porter, Josef Strzygowski, Pietro Toesca, and Aby Warburg, and their successors, including Otto Demus, Ernst Kitzinger, Richard Krautheimer, and Mario Salmi.
From classical antiquity to the fifteenth century and beyond, the study of Italian art and architecture is locked into a narrative of continuity and tradition, disjunction and rupture. On a surface level, a geographic association with the peninsula and islands governed by the modern Italian state unifies scholars of Italian art. Although defined at the base level by contemporary geopolitics, this unity has historical depth in that it responds to the centrifugal role played by the art of Italy in the development of art history as a discipline and, more recently, to the questioning of the privilege given to specific moments in Italian art within the formation of our discipline. These sessions arise from the conviction that it is time to step back and examine critically the structures and methodologies of our field. What common elements of intellectual inquiry may bind the scholar of Early Christian Rome with the scholar of late medieval Florence? What points of intersection might exist between studies of a medieval town in the Val d’Aosta, Umbrian altarpieces, and the Islamic presence in South Italy, Corsica, and Sicily? These sessions sought to address such broad thematic issues as spatial, geographic, and temporal assumptions, historiography, and methodology, as we asked, What does it mean to be a historian of medieval Italian art?
Our four linked sessions proposed to address this question from four different thematic angles:
Seminal Figures (chair: Alison Perchuk): This historiographic session seeks to examine the methodologies of key figures in the study of Italian art of the “long” Middle Ages. Who were they? What narratives did they construct? What legacies have the structures of their scholarship created?
Session 84: Thursday, May 12, 1:30 PM, Bernhard 105
Martina Bagnoli, Walters Art Museum, “‘Prima conoscitori poi storici’: Pietro Toesca, Italian Medieval Art, and America”
Niall Atkinson, University of Chicago, “Reoccupying Urban Space for Architectural History”
Catherine McCurrach, Wayne State University, Respondent
Geographic Limits (chair: Felicity Ratté): How does the definition of the geographic boundaries of modern Italy shape the study of Italian art? From the cores of Florence and Rome to the peripheries of the piedmont and Sicily, how does one define the “map” or “boundaries” of the field, and how does that map define us?
Session 131: Thursday, May 12, 3:30 PM, Bernhard 105
Nicole Paxton Sullo, Yale University, “Imagining Local Identity in Medieval Puglia: Narratives of Martyrdom and Baptism in the Rock-Cut Churches of Casalrotto”
Nicola Camerlenghi, University of Oregon, “The Mediterranean Origins of Medieval Italian Domes”
Jennifer D. Webb, University of Minnesota-Deluth, “Looking East: Rethinking Geographical Boundaries and Art Historical Categories by Way of Fifteenth-Century Art and Architecture in Italy and Dalmatia”
Roxann Prazniak, University of Oregon, “Tabriz as Cultural Context for Early Trecento Art”
In Praise of Ambiguity (chair: Catherine McCurrach): This session examines the concept of categorization more broadly, through papers that challenge the limits of divisions. It asks, what is to be gained by such categorizations? Can sufficient commonalities be identified to support the divisions as currently applied, and, if so, within what limits and with what caveats?
Session 257: Friday, May 13, 1:30 PM, Schneider 1220
Karl Peter Whittington, Ohio State University, “Beyond Space and Narrative: Diagrammatic Painting in Fourteenth-Century Italy”
Ingrid Greenfield, University of Chicago,”Can ‘African’ Mean ‘Italian’? Broadening the Historical Boundaries of Early Modern Collecting”
Urbanism (chair: Niall Atkinson): From the Christianization of imperial Italy to Mussolini’s demolition of large swaths of medieval Rome, creation and manipulation of the urban center has been a constant on the Italian peninsula. This session considers the privileged position of urbanism, notions of urban identity, motives of urban creation, practices of urban space, and modes of urban patronage.
Session 315: Friday, May 13, 3:30 PM, Schneider 1220
Catherine McCurrach, Wayne State University, “A Thread in the Urban Fabric: The Parish Church in Medieval Rome”
James Fishburne, University of California-Los Angeles, “Depicting Urban Dominion: The Portrait Medals of Pope Julius II”
Rebekah Perry, University of Pittsburgh, “Civic Landscape, Sacred Journey: Tivoli’s Savior Triptych and the August Procession of the Inchinata” *2011 IAS Travel Grant Recipient*