2018 64th Annual Meeting Renaissance Society of America, New Orleans

2018 Conference

There were three IAS-Sponsored sessions at RSA 2018

Beyond Scylla and Charybdis: Exchanges Between Early Modern Sicily, Spain, and North Africa, I and II

Panel I: Thursday, 22 March, 9:00 to 10:30am, The Chicory, The Gallery

Panel II: Thursday, 22 March, 11:00am to 12:30pm, The Chicory, The Gallery

Organizers: Cristelle Baskins (Tufts University) and Elizabeth Kassler-Taub (Case Western Reserve University)

The Functions of Landscape I

Panel I: Friday, 23 March, 11:00 am to 12:30 pm. Hilton New Orleans Riverside, 3, 3rd Floor – Magazine Room (see also sessions II and III)

Organizers: Sarah B. Cantor (University of Maryland, University College) and Melissa Yuen (Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University)

New Directions in Representation of the Italian Landscape (3 linked sessions)

I: The Functions of Landscape

II: Landscapes, Architecture, and Antiquity

III: Displaying and Viewing the Landscape


Sarah B. Cantor, University of Maryland, University College

Melissa Yuen, Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University

Abstract for the sessions:

Images of the Italian landscape, both real and imagined, have been the subject of many fruitful investigations, from research on broad trends and refined definitions to focused monographs on individual artists. Recent studies have shed new light on the display of landscape paintings in palaces and villas, artistic practice, professional networks, and the intersections between antiquity and natural history. In particular, research into the growing interest in empirical study and the interpretation of nature in early modern Italy has led to a greater understanding of representations of the natural world. The papers in the three panels build on these themes and present new ways to reconsider the portrayal of the landscape and landscape artists working in Italy.

New Directions in Representation of the Italian Landscape I: The Functions of Landscape
(IAS Sponsored Session)

 Friday, 23 March

11:00 am to 12:30 pm
Hilton New Orleans Riverside, 3, 3rd Floor – Magazine Room

Chair: Sarah Cantor, University of Maryland, University College

Chloé Pelletier, University of Chicago

Background & Landscape: Environmental Painting in the Quattrocento

As gold-ground painting waned in the quattrocento, Italian artists became increasingly interested in the potential of background as a representational space. Gentile da Fabriano, Carlo Crivelli, and Giovanni Bellini combined meticulously-rendered architectural details with evocative landscape imagery to represent multiple dimensions of the natural environment rendered as systems of functionally and visually interrelated parts: fields, buildings, and people organized and animated by the forces of God, Nature, and man. Existing interpretations of such background images often cast them as derivative of Northern art (charged symbolic landscapes) or as precursors of the landscape genre (naturalistic, objective representations). Resisting binaries of symbolism/naturalism, secular/religious, and content/ornament, this paper proposes to treat these backgrounds as ‘environments,’ a term that allows one to think critically about how backgrounds construct and determine pictorial meaning. Beyond a setting for narrative, background landscapes are complex systems that bring viewers into particular spatio-temporal proximity to depicted events.

Anna House, University of South Carolina

The City and its Other: Landscape and Sixteenth-Century Cartographic Practice

This paper examines the multivalent functions of landscape at the margins of sixteenth-century maps and city views. As cartographic methods became more scientific in this period, marginal landscapes remained stubbornly pictorial, providing natural, unruly boundaries that frame manmade territory. Yet the mountains, grassy knolls, and forests at the margins of maps and city views are not neutral; in unacknowledged ways, they could extend, rather than delimit, the world of the map’s depiction. I consider the possibilities of marginal landscape in three prominent sixteenth-century examples: Jacopo de’Barbari’s 1500 View of Venice, with its Alpine horizon; Leonardo Bufalini’s 1551 Plan of Rome; and Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg’s 1571 Civitates Orbis Terrarum.

James Harper, University of Oregon

Virtual Duchy: Francesco Mingucci’s Landscapes for Pope Urban VIII and the Devolution of Urbino

When Pope Urban VIII concluded the 1623 negotiations that would result in the devolution of Urbino to the papacy, he still had to wait for the elderly, heirless Duke to die before he could take possession of the territory. During those eight years of waiting, however, he could comfort himself with a sumptuous volume of over a hundred watercolor landscapes of the duchy, prepared for him by the painter and cartographer Francesco Mingucci. Paging through these views, the pope could access a direct and visceral sense of ownership and accomplishment.

This paper analyzes Mingucci’s paintings and his panegyric introduction in their political context, and offers the volume as an unusually concrete example of the idea that landscape views are simulacra of the places they depict. Mingucci’s bird’s-eye views and encyclopedic approach match his goals; taken together, the landscape images in the volume represent the state both literally and conceptually.

New Directions in Representation of the Italian Landscape II: Landscapes, Architecture, and Antiquity

Friday, 23 March

2:00 to 3:30 pm
Hilton New Orleans Riverside, 3, 3rd Floor – Magazine Room

Chair: Melissa Yuen, Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University

Arthur J. DiFuria, Savannah College of Art and Design

Panoramic Thinking and the Ruin in mid-Cinquecento Rome

The developing awareness of the Roman ruin’s poetics was essential for the panoramic landscape’s emergence as a pictorial category. An accrual of erasure, the ruin occupies the gap between memory and oblivion. The focus of mid-Cinquecento literary, archaeological, cartographic, and artistic efforts to recoup Roman antiquity, the ruin embodied the Eternal City’s supra-temporality. The panorama manifested as a vital pictorial production in the same cultural moment that the ruin became a locus of inquiry. The panorama comprises a potent visual suggestion of vast temporal expanses approaching the eternal. As the framing of that which cannot be framed – everything – the panorama is, moreover, proleptic; it presumes the viewer’s penetration before it is possible. However, by definition, prolepsis broadcasts its own temporal impossibility. Like the ruin, it forestalls closure. Thus, the visualization of Rome via her ruins marks the conceptual genesis of the panorama, though scholarship to date has not acknowledged it.

Anatole Tchikine, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection

Heterotopic cityscape: urban representations in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Florence

City views captivated Renaissance artistic imagination as much as natural scenery, with urban representations becoming a characteristic element in the emerging genre of landscape painting (pitture dei paesi). While most of Italian cities were identifiable by their distinct skyline, not all of these pe in Claude Lorrain’s Paintings Since the magisterial study of I.G. Kennedy, “Claude and Architecture” (1972), relatively little attention has been paid to the roles of architecture in the pastoral landscape and seaport paintings of Claude Lorrain (1604-1682), the French landscape painter who spent his career in Rome. I investigate the roles, structural and emotional, that Claude gave to his exquisite architectural invenzioni, so highly prized by contemporaries and critics such as Filippo Baldinucci, in his landscape and harbor paintings. I focus on the dialectical tensions that he set up between architectural and landscape forms, both within pictures and between paired pendants: as in ancient pastoral, he often reversed the roles of these forms. Hybrids and intermediary forms created place, narrative, and mood. A key context for his approach was the renewed study of antiquity and topography in circles such as Cassiano Dal Pozzo’s in Rome, starting in the 1620s, when Claude arrived there.

New Directions in Representation of the Italian Landscape III: Displaying and Viewing the Landscape

Friday, 23 March

4:00 to 5:30 pm

Hilton New Orleans Riverside, 3, 3rd Floor – Magazine Room

Chair: Mirka Benes,  University of Texas at Austin

Respondent: Sarah Cantor, University of Maryland, University College

Geoff Lehmann, Bard College Berlin

Leonardo, Van Eyck, and the Epistemology of Landscape

The young Leonardo’s Arno valley drawing, dated “5 daghossto 1473,” proclaims a relationship to the temporal and the topographical, and yet its clearest point of reference is pictorial: the Eyckian perspectival landscape type that predominated in Florentine workshop practice. Leonardo, however, transforms Van Eyck’s synoptic vision of landscape, with all its epistemological implications (vision as desire for knowledge), into a means of exploring dynamic processes and the geometry of natural laws. In later drawings, such as the Deluge series, this perspectival model of landscape provides the mathematical and theoretical underpinning for Leonardo’s dynamic vision of natural structure, where his fluid drawing articulates the movements of clouds, air, and water as a continuum of interlocking forces and elements. But for Leonardo, perspective’s rectilinear commensurability is no longer adequate to a depiction of landscape moving towards genuine scientific inquiry, which demands a new geometry, that of the spiral and the helix.

Natsumi Nonaka, Illinois State University

Toeput, Verdant Architecture, and Tripartite Chorography

This paper seeks to resurrect interest in Lodewijk Toeput, who achieved a synthesis of the Flemish portrayal of nature and the Italian villa tradition, and to anchor his contribution to landscape representation in early modern Italy. Two distinct features in Italian villa culture are observed in his works: the use of verdant architecture as mediating structures and boundaries; and the perceptual logic of tripartite chorography formulated as a mental map in three divisions. Shifting from the world landscape tradition to an approach that directly engaged with Italian villa and garden discourse, Toeput exemplified one aspect of the duality in Italian villa culture, namely the formal garden with axial layout and regularly designed plantings and water features that flourished in the cinquecento. His contemporary Paul Bril exemplified the other aspect, the naturalistic landscape that developed alongside the formal garden and gained popularity in painting and villa designs in the seicento.

Melissa Yuen, Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University

The Economics and Display of Mattia Preti’s Landscape Experiments

During the late 1630s, Mattia Preti painted a number of mythological and biblical subjects set in lush landscapes, including Triumph of Silenus (Tours), Bacchanal (Miami and Florence), and Moses on Mount Sinai (Montpellier). These canvases not only represent Preti’s emulation of Titian’s paintings of similar subjects but also are a radical departure from his earlier Caravaggesque scenes to the point where these canvases appear as if executed by another hand and represent the Calabrian’s first and only experiments in the genre. This paper considers the significance of Preti’s attempt in this category of painting. First, the economics of Preti as a landscape painter vis-à-vis him as a Caravaggesque painter will be addressed. Then, a hypothesis for the display of these paintings will be proposed. In sum, this paper presents the first sustained examination of Preti’s landscapes in order to contextualize his experiments within the genre of landscape paintings.

Beyond Scylla and Charybdis: Exchanges Between Early Modern Sicily, Spain, and North Africa, I and II

(IAS-Sponsored Sessions)


Cristelle Baskins (Tufts University)

Elizabeth Kassler-Taub (Case Western Reserve University)

Abstract: This set of panels responds to a rising interest in the Italian South and its remarkable geographical and cultural reach in the early modern period. The limited scholarship on fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Sicily focuses on the island’s split identity, its connections to both Spain and Italy. We propose to complicate this scheme by looking to links with North Africa — a region that, as Braudel argued, our “imperfect knowledge” has “left without a name.” Ranging from discussions of the trafficking of African slaves in Palermo to the trans-Mediterranean trade in artistic materials, and the exchange of architectural models on the front lines of war, these interdisciplinary contributions will consider contact between Sicily, the Ottoman world, and North Africa at the height of the early modern period.

Panel I:

Thu, March 22

9:00 to 10:30am

The Chicory, The Gallery

Chair: Daniel Hershenzon (University of Connecticut)

Alessandro Vanoli (Independent Scholar)

Hercules in Sicily: The Mediterranean Past in Fifteenth-Century African and Spanish Sources.

The paper intends to analyze reconstructions of the past and political strategies found throughout the late fifteenth-century Mediterranean. From Spanish political use of classical mythology to the idea of the Mediterranean past conveyed by Arabic chronicles and geographic texts, it is possible to highlight a number of common elements: characters and figures, mostly from ancient Greece and Rome, whose new presence reveals a complex circulation of ideas and cultural elements.

Lori di Lucia (University of California, Los Angeles)

Between Sainthood and Slavery: Early Modern Palermo and the Mediterranean-Saharan Slave Trades

The study of early modern Mediterranean slave trades situates Sicily as a crossroads between West Africa and Europe. In Palermo, an important port city connected to both the Iberian Peninsula and trans-Saharan trade routes, West Africans fought in the military, were baptized in Catholic churches, lived as freemen and even achieved sainthood. In my presentation, I will move between the exceptional example of an African beatified in sixteenth century Sicily and the less well-documented cases of the thousands of enslaved Africans living in Palermo, to explore how West Africans helped shape the early modern landscape of this port city. Ultimately, the trans-Saharan routes that both examples shared will encourage a reconsideration of the edges of the Mediterranean, transforming Saharan borders to passageways.

Lamia Balafrej (University of California, Los Angeles)

Sugar and Marble: The Labor of Diplomatic Exchange in the Early Modern Mediterranean

This paper is about the interconnectedness of trade, cultural exchange, and labor in the early modern Mediterranean. I seek to bring together two realms of experience that are usually kept apart in the study of the cross-cultural: the circulation and consumption of luxury products such as sugar and marble on the one hand, and the labor systems that produced these goods on the other. The Saadian monarch Ahmad al-Mansur (r. 1578-1603) is known to have used materials from Europe, including Italian marble, to construct the Badi‘ palace. Yet this desire for cosmopolitanism has been treated separately from the political economy that enabled it. As a Moroccan chronicler later reported, marble was likely purchased in exchange for sugar produced by slaves in the South of Morocco. This paper deconstructs the notion of the “Saadian Renaissance” by examining the link between human exploitation and cultural capital in Morocco and the Mediterranean.

Panel II:

Thu, March 22

11:00am to 12:30pm

The Chicory, The Gallery

Chair: Borja Franco (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia)

Respondent: Avinoam Shalem (Columbia University)

Elizabeth Kassler-Taub (Case Western Reserve University)

Architectural Traffic Between Sicily and North Africa

This paper examines the exchange of defensive models and building technologies between Sicily and Spanish outposts along the coastline of North Africa with a focus on Goletta, fronting the Bay of Tunis. From 1535 until 1574, the defensive system of Goletta was modernized by a succession of itinerant Italian and Spanish engineers dispatched to North Africa by the Spanish crown. I argue that the Spanish refortification of Goletta reveals substantive exchanges with construction efforts on Sicily, where the same circle of engineers was simultaneously fortifying cities such as the viceregal capital of Palermo. Moreover, engineers active in Goletta directly grappled with a fortress and landscape interventions surviving from the Ottoman period. By questioning how this architectural legacy was assimilated into the form of Goletta nuova, I offer an expanded vision of the Iberian-Sicilian encounter with the Ottoman presence in the central Mediterranean.

Antonio Urquízar (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia),

Early Modern Spanish Descriptions of North African Architecture

Early Modern Spanish travellers found both Islamic architecture and Roman antiquities in their visits to the lands of North Africa. While historical writing in Spain had frequently developed a close link between these two poles, the descriptions of North Africa did not continue this approach. What where the expectations of the authors? What links with the Peninsula did they find?

Cristelle Baskins (Tufts University)

The King of Tunis in Black and White.

Like some of his sons, grandsons, and nephews, Muley Hassan, the Hafsid ruler of Tunis, (r. 1526-1550), was a Habsburg vassal who spent time in viceregal Palermo and Naples, as well as papal Rome. After his death, the exiled king enjoyed a posthumous afterlife in Europe through the medium of illustrated books published into the early eighteenth century. Print portraits of the king depend either on a woodcut broadsheet by Silvester van Parijs (Antwerp, 1535) — on the model of Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen — or they take inspiration from an anonymous panel now in the collections at Versailles (ca. 1545). This paper will compare visual images of Muley Hassan to the texts that accompany them. These portraits conveyed to readers and viewers not only the king’s elevated status but also his tainted reputation and political stigma.