2014 SCSC Annual Conference, New Orleans
Broken Bodies: Representing Pain in Early Modern Visual Art
Organizers: Tiffany L. Hunt, Temple University and Heather Graham, Independent Scholar Read abstract
Pain exemplifies an intersensorial phenomenon, one that utilizes all of the senses to articulate the physiological, mental, and emotional responses to stress and injury, both physical and psychological. Like pleasure, pain is an interior sensation whose external articulation can stimulate both sympathetic and empathetic reactions. Italian Renaissance and Baroque artists attempted to simulate those sensations by bridging the fissure between the internal experience of pain and its outward expressions. Contemporary interest in pain and its place in early modern culture has catalyzed a wide array of scholarly contributions. This panel seeks to bring together scholars exploring the phenomenon of pain in early modern culture and its representation – and repression – in visual art in a critical reassessment of the state of this topic in current scholarship. Together with Sensuous Suffering: the Early Modern Experience of Pain, a proposed multi-disciplinary roundtable discussion examining the topic of pain in the Early Modern context, this series of papers will examine the body as a multisensory medium that was used in depictions of such phenomena as martyrdom, passion, and plague. How did artists use the body to communicate the intersensorial experience of pain? What is the relationship between suffering and theologies of the body? What is the function of bodily torment in early modern visual culture? How does the performance of pain relate to identity construction and what role did the visual arts play in this performance?
Vernacular Violence: Popular Reception in Post-Tridentine Rome and the Martyrdom Cycle at S. Stefano Rotondo
Grace Harpster, University of California, Berkeley Read abstract
These visual inconsistencies will be explored as a productive disjuncture between two competing post-Tridentine approaches to religious art, the emotive appeal of violence and the need for ordered didacticism. These dual functions will be explored specifically as tactics tailored to the uneducated pilgrims of Counter-Reformation Rome, a population underemphasized in previous interpretations of the S. Stefano Rotondo frescoes. The shocking violence of this cycle offers a way into early modern theories on the function of religious art. Yet when attention is shifted from the intent of the Jesuit patrons to popular reception, the depiction of torture in its most nauseating forms—the dismemberment, disembowelment, and boiling of Christian bodies—reveals its inherent instability, alluding to the broader problem of the gap between religious art in theory and in practice.
Pain and Paint: Titian , Ribera and the Flaying of Marsyas
Itay Sapir, Université du Québec à Montréal Read abstract
Pain is primarily felt, not seen. Of the five senses, touch is the only one directly capable of experiencing pain. Painting’s capability to represent a painful experience is thus directly related to the pictorial “circumlocutions” by which the most visual of media cleverly addresses the beholder’s tactile sensibility.
It is perhaps not just a fortunate coincidence that in the early modern period, the most visual and the most haptic of painters, respectively Titian and Jusepe de Ribera, were both interested in the pictorial representation of pain. More specifically, both artists created excruciating depictions of what is possibly the most painful scene imaginable: flaying a person alive. Titian’s testamentary Flaying of Marsyas (c. 1575) and Ribera’s two versions of Apollo and Marsyas, created sixty years later, are sophisticated treatments of the visual appearance of physical suffering, of the tactile presence of paint and of the interrelation between texture, color and form in the depiction of painful bodies.
Touch and sight, however, are not the whole story: after all, Marsyas predicament is a direct consequent of a “hearing disorder”, responsible, in turn, for a more general loss of order and harmony. The musical contest to which the satyr foolishly challenged Apollo resulted, as is clear from Titian’s painting, in general chaos; while Ribera’s pagan martyr, deprived of the hope of redemption and confronted with Apollo’s vain, spectacular visuality, can only address our ears – although his silent scream on a painted canvas remains, of course, as desperately futile as are Ribera’s haptic surfaces from which concrete touch is forever excluded.
Pain and Pathos: Antonello’s Paintings of Ecce Homo
Peter Weller, UC, Los Angeles Read abstract
Executed in the 1470s, Antonello da Messina’s paintings of Ecce homo mark an anomaly regarding the Renaissance depiction of Christ. Few works before, and certainly none in the following century, would equal the power of Antonello’s vivacious realism in the human countenance of Jesus in living agony. No documents confirm patronage of these paintings. From the mid-duecento, however, early Franciscans were the first in Italy to demand pathos from depictions of Christ in extreme pain. However, with Giotto’s 1312 painted crucifix in Santa Maria Novella, the portrayal of Christ’s torment had begun a conversion from degradation to the aesthetic beauty of the 1500s. Sixteenth-century Italy, tempering the imago of Franciscan pathos, searched for a tender Messiah, not a pitiless reminder of the humiliation of Christ in Jerusalem. Michelangelo, for example, would remove all blood and wounds, saying; “My eyes, eager for beautiful things, and my soul, no less eager for salvation, have no other means by which it may ascend to heaven;” consequently, his 1539 drawing for Vittoria Colonna transformed Christ’s suffering into radiant victory. In contrast to the preponderance of sixteenth-century works, on the other hand, Antonello’s Ecce homo paintings provoke the verisimilitude of Rome’s brutality. I argue that these pictures of pathos represent a last vestige of radical Franciscan iconography, and that, in comparison, no pictures, until Caravaggio in the opening decade of the 1600s would depict the face of Christ in a commensurate acuity of realistic pain.
Artistic Competition, Collaboration, and Exchange: Early Modern Academies of Art in Central Italy
Organizers: Tamara Smithers, Austin Peay State University, and Anne Proctor, Roger Williams University
Chair: Kelley Helmstutler Di Dio, University of Vermont Read abstract
This session presents studies that explore the histories, practices, and goals of academies of art during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries in Florence and Rome. With an emphasis on communal training and artistic theory, regional academies of art founded during this time period shared similar roots. Nonetheless, newly formed institutions varied in their goals, workshop practices, organization, theoretical frameworks, and relationship to their respective state. In these early years of their histories, academicians collaborated in their efforts to define principles and standards of practice while seeking to promote unity of the arts. What were these communal standards of artistic theory and training? Were members always in agreement? Moreover, some artists were participants in more than one of these entities and were also members of literary academies. What was the result of the cross-pollination of creative ideas? Was there a common academic dialogue? Scholars in this session address rivalry within the Florentine Accademia del Disegno during its formative years, the social and professional value of membership in multiple academies as in the case of Cavaliere d’Arpino in Rome, and the practice of drawing and copying from collections in the Accademia di San Luca during the seventeenth century in Rome.
Sembran della Sepultura: Dissention and Contention in the Crucible of the Early Accademia del Disegno
Christine Zappella, University of Chicago Read abstract
In 1563, the founders of the Florentine Accademia del Disegno set out to assemble the “bright spirits and honored geniuses” of the duchy. Endorsing the ideal that the artists would be “more perfect together,” these men hoped that an academy would shore up the burgeoning prestige of their profession. Nonetheless, the academy was plagued with rivalry and suspicion from its very inception.
This paper examines those enmities in the context of the academy’s first official spectacle, the 1564 state funeral of Michelangelo. This massive ephemeral program filled the church of San Lorenzo and forced four great professional rivals—Bronzino, Vasari, Cellini, and Ammannati—to collaborate on a high-stakes public event. Famously, Cellini became so incensed during this collaboration that he eventually refused to participate. But all was not well between the remaining three organizers. By mapping workshop contributions inside San Lorenzo, I will demonstrate that subtle competitions were still staged by the pairing of artists’ works. I will then turn to the Montauto Chapel in SS. Annunziata, painted contemporaneously by young academician Alessandro Allori, and argue that the artist pointedly grouped portraits of friends and excluded those of adversaries, fomenting new and greater tensions. This public airing of grievances resulted in a firestorm of attacks and barbed bons mots, hurled by Cellini, other artists, and the poets of the academy’s literary counterpart, the Accademia Fiorentina. I hope to show that, counter-intuitively, by forcing competing artists to cooperate, the early Accademia del Disegno became characterized almost immediately by animosity and dissension.
Exchange between Roman Academies: The Case of the Cavaliere d’Arpino
Jesse Locker, Portland State University Read abstract
Today the word “academy” is generally taken to refer to an elite formal institution dedicated to the pursuit of higher knowledge and reinforcement of an official culture. In early modern Italy, however, the term accademia could refer to almost any regular, informal gathering dedicated to collective pursuit of knowledge—whether informal life-drawing, scholarly debate, convivial conversation, literary recitation, poetic improvisation, or musical or theatrical performance. As estimated, there were as many as 132 such academies in early seventeenth-century Rome alone. What was the nature of these academies? How did they relate to one another? And how did they contribute to artists’ educations?
This paper focuses on one of the leading painters in Rome around 1600: Giuseppe Cesari, known as the Cavaliere d’Arpino. Contemporary sources indicate that Arpino was involved in several academies, including the official artistic academy, the Accademia di San Luca, and the Accademia degli Umoristi, a prominent literary academy. Arpino also founded an academy that met in his own home, called the Accademia degli Uniti and dedicated to theatrical performance. Given that Arpino himself had very little formal education (by some accounts he was virtually illiterate), the exchange between these institutions demonstrates one means by which he and other artists in his orbit were exposed to ideas about literature, poetry, theater, and art theory. Because many of Rome’s leading artists—including Caravaggio and Guido Reni—trained in Arpino’s workshop, this case gives us broader insight into the artistic and intellectual exchange between early modern academies as a whole.
The Drawing Practices at the Accademia di San Luca in Rome: Fundamental Precepts of the Didactic
Rachel George, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes Read abstract
This paper focuses on the question of workshop practices at the Accademia di San Luca from the election of Federico Zuccari in 1593 to the second princedom of Carlo Maratti, at the threshold of the 18th century. Drawing, which was at the heart of the precepts of the didactic program established by Zuccari, was the backdrop of academic teaching. The learning and the mastering of drawing, a study particular to painters, sculptors and architects, also allowed artists to distinguish themselves from craftsmen practicing professions related to art, like gilders, embroiderers or painting dealers. The definition of the drawing practices is possible with a gradual analysis, from the texts to the more concrete evidence of archival documents. Through the analysis of the statutes of the institution, the profile of the protagonists of the artistic formation and the pedagogic orientation of the academy are clarified. The data collected on the nature of theoretical lessons confirms the academy’s intention to transmit a complete teaching to young artists. This in-depth study of documentary sources indicates the importance of academic collections, and provides evidence of the exercise of copy making and reveals the great academic models. Lastly, the identification of some artistic practices is possible thanks to the partial reconstruction of the workshop environment, didactic material and its functioning. The totality of the data related to teaching highlights an institution with complex internal dynamics, supported by a workshop where artistic practices were mid-way between Renaissance traditions and innovation.