60th Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, New York, March 27-29, 2014

The Italian Art Society sponsored five sessions and hosted a reception at RSA 2014.

IAS Reception
Thursday, March 27, 7:00 to 8:30 pm Building/Room: Warwick, 2nd floor, Warwick Room
With the generous support of the Historians of Netherlandish Art, the IAS held a reception with cash bar and a buffet of light snacks. Grazie to all who attended and made the event such a success.

Painted Objects: Furniture Ornament and the Arts in Renaissance Italy
Thursday, March 27, 1:15 to 2:45pm  Building/Room: Hilton, Nassau A
Organizers: Chriscinda C. Henry, McGill University and Susannah Rutherglen, Gladys Kireble Delmas Foundation
Chair: Chriscinda C. Henry, McGill University

[expand title=”Concealed Flesh: Female Nudes inside Fifteenth-Century Florentine Chests
Rebekah Tipping Compton, College of Charleston” trigclass=”arrowright”]
While recent scholarship has examined the painted exteriors of wedding and betrothal chests, their interior decoration has not been extensively studied. This paper investigates female nudes on the inner lids of cassoni and forzerini, paying particular attention to concealment and display within the nuptial bedchamber. Created during the fifteenth century, these chests contained the clothing and jewelry a woman wore to adorn her body and attract her lover’s admiring gaze. Their insides, however, revealed an unadorned body, whose physical features exemplified the health and fertility necessary to create a new body, preferably of the male sex. This paper explores the interplay between these private nudes and the more public portrayals of Eve, particularly the pristine beauty of her prelapsarian body. It also examines the gradual movement of the reclining nude from interior lids to spalliere and then to large-scale panel paintings, analyzing the art of hiding and exposing feminine flesh.[/expand]

[expand title=”Private Delectation: Jacopo Zucchi’s Cabinet Paintings for Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici
Elinor Myara Kelif, Université Paris I Sorbonne” trigclass=”arrowright”]
Cabinet paintings on copper are a specific class of painted object that had multiple functions but are not well defined by art historiography. These small and delicate pictures were displayed in private studioli and as elements of decorative art for pieces of furniture. They were highly appreciated by European connoisseurs, especially by the Roman cardinalate, but their meaning and function await further study. This paper explores a particularly intriguing example: the lost studiolo di noce of Ferdinando de’ Medici, decorated with eight small paintings by Jacopo Zucchi. I propose a reconstruction of the complex program, probably inspired by the studiolo of Francesco I in Florence, of this unique piece of furniture, one of Ferdinando’s masterpieces in the Villa Medici in Rome. I also consider it in relation to the rest of the decoration of the cardinal’s apartments and to the other sportelli painted by Jacopo Zucchi for the cardinal.[/expand]

[expand title=”Painting at the Threshold: Pictures for Doors in Renaissance Venice
Susannah Rutherglen, Gladys Kireble Delmas Foundation” trigclass=”arrowright”]
This paper focuses on a little explored genre of Venetian Renaissance domestic art, painted doors and shutters. Several of the city’s most notable artists created pictures for these liminal settings, which typically marked the boundary between two rooms or the enclosure of a substantial cabinet. Recently discovered documentary and technical evidence makes possible the identification of well-known easel paintings as original door ornaments. This investigation seeks to reconstruct the intended settings of these objects and to understand how their content relates to their placement and function. I argue that the paintings take up themes of passage and obstruction, privilege and exclusion, and concealment and revelation inherent in the concept of the doorway.[/expand]

Italian Sculpture, a Social History: the Practice of the Craft from Nicola Pisano to Michelangelo
Saturday, March 29, 8:30 to 10:00am  Building/Room: Hilton, Regent
Organizer and chair: Brendan Cassidy, University of St Andrews

[expand title=”“No empty work”: Giovanni Pisano and the Status of Sculpture
Peter Dent, University of Bristol” trigclass=”arrowright”]
On the basis of the inscriptions on the Pistoia and Pisa pulpits and the documentary records of his time as master of works at Siena and Pisa, Giovanni Pisano is often seen as a protomodern artist — temperamental, competitive, and sensitive about his status. The interpretation of the evidence remains contentious. The inscriptions, in particular, are carefully crafted statements shaped more by literary convention than biographical circumstance. I propose to reconsider this material within broader contexts: the relative professional standing of sculpture alongside other art forms, comparable verbal statements of authorship in late medieval culture, and works of art themselves as nonverbal expressions of artistic status. In conclusion, I will consider to what extent Giovanni Pisano anticipates the self-conscious fashioning of an artistic identity that recent scholarship has uncovered in the works of fifteenth-century sculptors, above all, Donatello.[/expand]

[expand title=”Collaboration or Competition? Sculptors in Late Fifteenth-Century Rome
Johannes Röll, Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte” trigclass=”arrowright”]
In fifteenth-century Rome the sculptor Giovanni Dalmata collaborated with Mino da Fiesole and Andrea Bregno. Each developed his own individual style and technique. I will investigate two main issues: first, the ways in which the three sculptors worked together and how their collaboration may have been driven by patrons’ demands; and second, the relationship between the time and effort the sculptors invested in their work (and hence the quality and detail of the resulting sculpture) and the status of the patron and location in which the work would be seen. Dalmata, who worked in marble, stone, and possibly also bronze, dedicated different levels of attention to his works, taking less care when working outside Rome. I will examine the role of the market in these developments, and of the patrons, who presumably took pride in having two or more prominent sculptors on their payroll.[/expand]

[expand title=”Supplying Demand: Economic Considerations in the Production of Sculpture in Quattrocento Florence
Lynn Catterson, Columbia University” trigclass=”arrowright”]
In fifteenth-century Florence, material and production costs for sculptors were significantly higher than for painters. Much has been written about demand and the taste of the patron as reflected in the projects they commissioned. Issues regarding supply have been examined less often. To control costs sculptors chose materials and production processes that increased profit margins and reduced the involvement of the master’s hand. While personal passion and competition are among the factors normally seen to engender innovation, there was also concern for the cost effectiveness of production. And this in turn stimulated the desire for, and evolution of, new technologies and, by the end of the Quattrocento, a keen appreciation of the need for branding and marketing the objects of supply. Drawing on Ghiberti, Donatello, Luca della Robbia, and Michelangelo as examples, this paper will examine the ways in which sculptors successfully negotiated the emergent art-as-commodity market.[/expand]

On “Naturalism” in Early Modern Italian Art
Saturday, March 29, 10:15 to 11:45am  Building/Room: Hilton, Regent
Organizer and chair: Christian K. Kleinbub, The Ohio State University

[expand title=”Naturalism as a Sign in Alberti’s On Painting
Theresa L. Flanigan, The College of Saint Rose” trigclass=”arrowright”]
Throughout his treatise On Painting (1435) Leon Battista Alberti recommends that painters take nature as their guide, especially when composing bodies and their movements. Yet, he also claims that these bodies are not meant to be appreciated by the beholder purely for their visible naturalism per se, but rather for the invisible movements of the soul that they express, in other words, as signs. Moreover, painted depictions of nature are themselves abstracted into geometry and their perception and comprehension is mediated by an intervening force called species, thereby removing painted images from the nature that they represent. In this paper I shall problematize the modern “scientific” and “realist” interpretations of Albertian naturalism and contextualize his theory by considering it in relation to late medieval and contemporary epistemological debates about realism and representation that engage the same theories of optics, geometry, and semiotics that informed Alberti’s treatise.[/expand]

[expand title=”“Real” Faces: Heteronomies of Renaissance Portraiture
Jeanette Kohl, University of California, Riverside” trigclass=”arrowright”]
Renaissance portrait busts are usually noted for their power of articulating and producing presence, deceptive liveliness, and energeia. Yet there are intriguing objects made with the help of masks and casts, which raise questions about more “mechanical” aspects of artistic production and representation. Georges Didi-Huberman has emphasized the importance of such indexical techniques in reconsidering the Vasarian, design-based notion of the Renaissance. Based on this thought, I will discuss a group of bust portraits, which give proof of such a “counter history” of Renaissance art. These radically “naturalistic” images may help to reevaluate the role and functions of likeness and authenticity in the sociopolitical culture of Renaissance Florence. My talk will go beyond the traditional focus on the sitters’ identities and the artist’s production of an illusionistic presence and will discuss these blatantly “authentic” and largely unartistic portraits as heteronomic objects.[/expand]

[expand title=”Geographically Mobile: Depicting Myths in Venice, Depicting Venice in Myths
Jodi Cranston, Boston University” trigclass=”arrowright”]
New cartographic methods in the sixteenth century began to join and displace the production of pictorial vedute. At this pivotal moment, when locating a place with specificity became possible, Venetian artists included in the background of mythological paintings a detailed view of the area near the Piazza San Marco or an evocation of the lagunar skyline — even when these stories were set originally in specific locations other than Venice. This paper addresses the “naturalism” of the identifiable city view in a fictional scene alongside the emerging theme of islands in literary, artistic, and cartographic discourses and the interdependency between fiction, space, and place in Venetian thought. “Naturalism” will be explored here through the ways in which “accurate” city views explore the real through the fictional (and vice versa) as part of the sixteenth-century interest in the utopic and heterotopic landscape and its particular manifestations in Venetian culture.[/expand]

Stillness in Early Modern Italian Art
Saturday, March 29, 1:15 to 2:45pm Building/Room: Hilton, Regent
Organizer and chair: Karen J. Lloyd (Queen’s University)

[expand title=”The Silent Space of Piero della Francesca’s Madonna Enthroned with Four Angels: A New Understanding of Its Mysterious Perspective
Samuel Y. Edgerton, Williams College” trigclass=”arrowright”]
This paper is based on a conservation record recently come to light that reveals that the surface of Piero’s painting is covered with invisible incisions in the gesso ground, etched there by the artist as guides to his perspective projection. From these, I am able to reconstruct what at first appears to be a conventional one-point Albertian perspective, but which the artist then expanded into an unseen but mathematically rational space behind his iconic figural arrangement. To mortal eyes and ears this unseen but clearly rational space is both unexpectedly large, utterly silent, and still. To the spiritually toned eyesight that Piero believed he had achieved, that space celebrates the splendor of ideal geometric proportion, and its association with the divine music of the spheres, both only visible and audible in Paradise, just as Dante had averred in his Divine Comedy, and Luca Paccioli would elaborate in his Divine Proportion.[/expand]

[expand title=”Stillness as Devotional Function in Altarpieces by Giovanni Bellini
Karolina Zgraja, Bibliotheca Hertziana” trigclass=”arrowright”]
Once one of Europe’s major market places, Renaissance Venice’s calle and canali were filled with movement and heavy mercantile noise. Yet Giovanni Bellini’s large altarpieces evoke outstanding harmony and stillness because of the extraordinary contemplative expression of the figures depicted in warmly illuminated and perfectly constructed spaces. This paper assesses the means and function of the phenomenon of stillness in these religious paintings. According to Albrecht Dürer, Giovanni Bellini was a pious man and by setting an example through the figures in an Albertinian sense, he could invite the beholder to raise their awareness and listen to religious admonishments. In the Pala di San Zaccaria the artist might refer to the relevant prologue of the rules of Saint Benedict: “Listen, O my son, to the precepts of thy master, and incline the ear of thy heart, and cheerfully receive and faithfully execute the admonitions of thy loving Father. . .”[/expand]

[expand title=”Stilled Suffering and Devotional Practice in the Roman Paintings of Gerrit van Honthorst
Diva Zumaya, University of California, Santa Barbara” trigclass=”arrowright”]
In Gerrit van Honthorst’s Beheading of St. John the Baptist (1617–18), Mocking of Christ (1617), and St. Sebastian (1620), the central figures appear as if in a timeless vacuum of internal quietude. Influenced by the stilled action of Caravaggio’s religious paintings and the work of his contemporaries Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Jusepe de Ribera, Honthorst’s religious paintings from his time in Rome (1613–20) are characterized by their similar use of the stilled narrative moment. Honthorst’s Sebastian, for instance, is slumped at the base of a tree and isolated in darkness. Drawing from contemporary devotional texts, I argue that Honthorst’s figures allow the viewer to contemplate their stilled suffering while they model the interiority prescribed for devotional practice.[/expand]

Blood: Representation, Materiality and Agency in Italian Renaissance Art
Saturday, March 29, 3:00 to 4:30pm Building/Room: Hilton, Regent
Organizer and chair: Theresa L. Flanigan, The College of Saint Rose

[expand title=”Blood: The Relic of the Corporal at Orvieto Cathedral as Divine Witness
Catherine D. Harding, University of Victoria” trigclass=”arrowright”]
The relic of the Corporal at Orvieto Cathedral came to prominence in Umbria in 1264. The sumptuous chapel housing the miraculous blood-stained cloth, which was marked with twenty-five drops of Christ’s blood, was created in the mid-fourteenth century by a complex team of artists and theological advisers. This paper will examine the multiple agencies at work in this sacred space during the Trecento: relic, reliquary, sculpted tabernacle and altar, and frescoes with detailed written texts explaining the significance of holy blood and the miracle of the Eucharist. Many years later, in September 1506, Pope Julius II venerated the relic on his trip to Orvieto, pausing while on military campaign to engage with the potency of the holy blood of Christ. I suggest here that this miraculous blood offered a powerful instance of an active witnessing to sacred Christian realities at two important moments in Italian late medieval and Renaissance history.[/expand]

[expand title=”Painted in Blood: Materiality and Artifice in the Shroud of Turin
Andrew R. Casper, Miami University” trigclass=”arrowright”]
While debates over the Shroud of Turin’s authenticity currently hinge on the diametrics of blood and artistic manufacture, during the period of its most intense and widespread public devotion such notions were not so readily opposed. This paper shows how sixteenth- and seventeenth-century devotional texts dedicated to the Shroud of Turin treat the cloth’s traces of blood as evidence of a divine manufacture wrought artistically, calling it a painting by God. This intersection of the materiality of blood and artistic tropes crediting art making with the formation of living bodies that conspired to render the image of Christ’s corpse grants the Shroud a unique status. Its conception as a work of divine artifice composed of Christ’s blood at once testifies to the veracity of the Passion and broadcasts the authority of artificial procedures that reinforce (rather than detract from) the Shroud’s prestige as a preeminent religious icon/relic manufactured by God.[/expand]

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