Call for Papers: The Network of Cassinese Arts in MediterraneanRenaissance Italy

Conferenceorganized by Alessandro Nova and Giancarla Periti
Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz,Florence, 16-18 March, 2017

From thelate fifteenth to the mid sixteenth century, an impressive corpus ofarchitecture, sculpture, and painting was created to embellish monastic sitesaffiliated with the Benedictine Cassinese Congregation of Italy. A religious orderof humanistically trained monks whose mobility among the network of Cassinesemonasteries was paramount to their spiritual reformed agenda, the Cassinese fruitfullyengaged with the most eminent artists and architects of the early modern period,supporting the production of imagery and architecture that was often highly experimentalin nature. 

The Cassinese Congregation constituted a spiritual infrastructure thatspread across the northern, central and southern regions of Italy, throughwhich not only monks but also works and models circulated, intersected, andinteracted. The mobility and flow of artists, materials, and motifs tiedtogether the reformed religious communities affiliated with the CassineseCongregation and simultaneously connected an antique with a modern Christian artisticcorpus. This system resulted in a virtual continuum linking works ofarchitecture, sculpture, and painting, including the Byzantine church of SanVitale in Ravenna, the Norman cloister of Monreale (Palermo), and Raphael’s Sistine Madonna in Piacenza.

Scholarshiphas presented the Cassinese monks principally as learned patrons of ambitiousbut locally-inflected works created by credited Renaissance masters. But suchan approach has obscured the fact that these modern instances of CassineseChristian arts existed within a larger cultural network and coexisted withothers of differing value, including the management of late antique buildings, thepreservation of Byzantine mosaics, and the custody of poorly made votive imagesin popular shrines. Not only did these lesser-known episodes assure thesurvival of late antique arts, and artifacts of limited aesthetic appeal, butthey also provided occasions for Renaissance masters active in Cassinesecommunities to confront alternative forms of antiquity in a dialogue among thearts for the reinvention of a modern Christianized art.

The presentconference proposes itself as a forum for the task of reconnecting variousartistic episodes that were once Cassinese initiatives in RenaissanceMediterranean Italy and of re-considering the spatial monastic settings inwhich the artworks were originally placed. Investigating the network ofCassinese arts therefore offers a fresh occasion to gain new perspectives on a richbody of antique and Renaissance artworks and their life across time, as well astheir makers’ approaches to past models, recipients’ modalities of viewing andthe pressures put on images as agents of religious reform.  

Proposals engagingwith all aspects of the network of Cassinese arts are welcome, with apreference for investigations of little-explored Cassinese works in southernItaly or new readings of major artworks and their modes of functioning. Comparativeapproaches to cycles depicting rebus-like art forms such as grotesques andhieroglyphs are also of great interest, as are explorations of the social lifeof Renaissance artists building on the evidence that some set up workshopswithin the Cassinese precincts while working for the monks. Other topics couldinclude the appropriation and recycling of Early Christian and Byzantine materialsin Cassinese edifices, the ecological management of built resources (forexample, the transfer of antique columns from San Vitale in Ravenna to theabbey of Santa Maria del Monte in Cesena) that served to symbolically link Cassinesemonasteries, and considerations on the Cassinese visual network of the sacred,spreading throughout Mediterranean Italy by means of copies of primary objects andthe mobility of monks, artists and forms.

Please sendyour proposal (maximum 400 words) and CV in English, German and/or Italian toDott.ssa Mandy Richter.

Applicationdeadline: 30 October, 2016.

Review ofapplications: November 2016.

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