by Jean Marie Carey on September 4, 2013

14-16 February 2014,¬†Florence, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut,¬†conference organized by Alessandro Nova and Fabian Jonietz.¬†For the past decade and a half, numerous research projects have¬†rededicated themselves to the key sources of art history and to editing¬†and commenting on early art historiographical writings (Vasari,¬†Bellori, Sandrart, Malvasia). One main difference between earlier¬†attempts which dealt with these authors is a current approach which no¬†longer concentrates on factual and documentary evidence alone, but¬†which aims to reveal the narrative models and literary strategies of¬†such texts as well. This fact may be connected to the self-reflexive¬†modes of modern art historical studies and the attention to its own¬†narrative traditions. Hans Belting’s “The End of the History of Art?”¬†(1983), in particular, led to general questions regarding art¬†historical methodologies – which were followed by various attempts to¬†define the discipline in a new way (under diverging rubrics such as¬†e.g. “kunsthistorische”, “kunstwissenschaftliche”, “bildhistorische” or¬†“bildwissenschaftliche Forschung” in German scholarship).¬†The “Lives” of Giorgio Vasari, published in 1550 and 1568 respectively,¬†have to be acknowledged as an inevitable center of all of these¬†discussions. As a purposeful continuation, the implicit model of¬†reference or the decided rejection, Vasari serves as paradigm to all¬†art historical writings of both the early modern period and modernity.¬†The issues of current art historians (regarding questions such as how¬†specific approaches to works of art are conditioned or how historical¬†processes can be translated into a narrative) are particularly linked¬†to art history’s own traditions as an academic discipline, which in¬†many ways continued Vasari’s narrative: Such is the case of Jacob¬†Burckhardt, who composed his works using excerpts from the “Lives”¬†(“700 tiny notes just with quotations from Vasari […] cut out and put¬†into order”), Anton Springer and Herman Grimm, transforming the¬†artist’s biography into a 19th-century bestseller, and many more. And¬†even if there have been numerous attempts to renounce the ‘Vasari’ of¬†this older tradition, many of the key concepts of the “Lives” still¬†persist as models in current scholarship, being more present¬†(‘Renaissance’) or less (e.g. the artistic ‘school’ of a person or¬†region), intensely discussed or almost ignored.¬†This conference aims for the first time to review Vasari’s role in the¬†formation of theoretical concepts and practices of later ‘art¬†histories’ in its entirety. The proposed time frame covers his early¬†modern followers (besides those authors already mentioned above e.g.¬†Van Mander, Houbraken, D√©zallier d’Argenville or Fuseli) as well as the¬†intensive discussion of the “Lives” in the 19th century, when the¬†critique regarding Vasari’s truthfulness led to historical¬†contextualization by Gaetano Milanesi, Carl Frey and Wolfgang Kallab.¬†Not only will national differences in the reception of Vasari’s work¬†have to be considered, but also how this transformed view of Vasari¬†from 1870/1900 influenced the generation of Warburg, Panofsky and¬†Gombrich, whose studies shaped the modern art historical discipline¬†more than any other. By doing so, this look at the “Lives” as model¬†will hopefully explain what relevance Vasari’s concepts still hold for¬†today’s interests and practices of art historical studies. Even more¬†crucial, however, is the question of whether the critical revision of¬†this art historiographical model might also open new perspectives for¬†future challenges of art historical studies.¬†Interested applicants should send their proposals of max. 500 words (in¬†German, English or Italian) and a current CV to¬†Alessandro Nova¬†and Fabian Jonietz. Deadline 15¬†September.

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