59th Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, 2013, 4-6 April, San Diego

59th Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, 2013, 4-6 April, San Diego
The Italian Art Society sponsored four sessions at RSA 2013 and hosted a reception.

Thursday, April 4, 5:30-7:00PM, Sheraton Hotel and Marina, lobby level
Grazie to all who joined us at our get-together after Thursday’s sessions in the Tapatini Lobby Bar. Light snacks and good conversation were enjoyed by all. Please join or renew today!

The Physicality of Devotion in Late Medieval and Early Modern Italy I
Friday, April 5, 2:00-3:30PM, Sheraton Marina Tower / Nautilus 4
Sponsor: Italian Art Society; Organizer and Chair: Esperança M. Camara, University of Saint Francis

Margaret Morse, Augustana College, “Art, Body and Devotion in the Domestic Sphere.” This paper explores the material culture of domestic religion in early modern Italy and the ways in which it physically engaged the body to experience and reinforce belief. Household inventories reveal an assortment of religious goods, consisting not only of images, but also jewelry, rosary beads, holy dolls, books, prayer benches and altars, all of which necessitated direct contact and engagement with the body. Authors of domestic economies, largely directed towards women, encouraged the use of such objects to strengthen one’s spiritual experience, and advocated these materially inclined practices as a means of transmission of faith.  Additional texts addressed the importance of corporeal demeanor as a reflection of one’s inward character. In the arena of personal devotion, the actions of the body were thus central in manifesting belief, and the home, with its vast array of holy goods, offered a fitting environment for such practices for all family members.

Daniele Di Ludovico, University of Washington, “The Touch of Devotion: The Ritual Dramatization of Late Medieval Italian Wooden Crucifixes.” Wooden crucifixes with movable arms, a genre popular in late medieval Italy, played a crucial role in the celebrations of Good Friday, placing the sculpted body of Christ at the center of the ritual reenactment of the Passion. Within the context of their liturgical use, these life-size sculptures provided the faithful with the possibility of touching, quite literally, the body of the Lord. As a simulacrum of real presence, the ritually animated crucifix allowed for what may be termed the “appropriation” of the body by the faithful, pointing to a mode of visceral engagement and identification that went beyond the forms of veneration and religious decorum sanctioned by the Church. The emphatically naturalistic style of wooden crucifixes, combined with their ritual function, rendered these sculptures a unique art form. By making Christ’s humanity visible and, indeed, tangible, they offered the worshipper nothing less than direct, physical access to the divine.

Ivana Vranic, University of British Columbia,”Negotiating Devotion and Mediating Verisimilitude in Italian Terracotta Passion Groups (1450-1540).” By mimicking human scale, gesticulation, physiognomy, movement, emotive expression and garb, groups of eight Biblical figures representing scene of Christ’s Passion have a physical presence in dozens of churches across Northern Italy. The verisimilitude of these life-size, terracotta figures induces the viewer into an embodied, sensory experience of a blurring of boundaries between nature and artifice, subject and object, and icon and idol. Pious viewers in the 15th and 16th centuries would have prayed to these groups and received indulgences—precisely the kinds of behaviour defined by Protestant reformers as idolatry. Focusing on the material and physical characteristics of Passion groups produced between 1450 and 1540 by different artists in Milan, Bologna and Modena, my paper examines the relationship between the devotional practices and the process of production of the groups, contextualizing them within the theological debates over the role of art in mediating piety.

The Physicality of Devotion in Late Medieval and Early Modern Italy II
Friday, April 5, 3:45-5:15PM, Sheraton Marina Tower / Nautilus 4
Sponsor: Italian Art Society; 
Organizer and Chair:  Esperança M. Camara, University of Saint Francis

Anna Kim, University of Virginia, “Somatic Piety:  Devotion, Descent and the Vision of Gregory at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome.” The icon of Christ at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme is justly famous as a cult object whose legendary status was founded on its claim to be the image of Pope Gregory’s vision of Christ as Eucharist, the original imago pietatis.  Yet to date, scholars have not considered the icon in the setting of the chapel in which it was venerated during the Renaissance, designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger circa 1520.  A pendant to the cappella di Sant’Elena, which held the relics of the True Cross and earth from Jerusalem, the antechapel was similarly constructed as a subterranean room.  In this paper, I draw out the implications of the physical descent required on the part of the devotional viewer and the frames of vision that shaped this sacred encounter, reflecting upon how bodily movement and guided seeing become an integral part of the image’s meaning and cultic power.

Margaret Bell, University of California, Santa Barbara, “Image as Relic: Bodily Vision and the Reconstitution of Viewer/Image Relationships on the Sacro Monte di Varallo.” On the Sacro Monte di Varallo, a fifteenth-century Italian simulacrum of the Holy Land, pilgrims could see and touch “mysteries” (misterii), tableaux that represented biblical events.  This practice was part of the devotional experience of the site until the mid-sixteenth century when paned glass partitions, or vetriate, were installed in front of the tableaux.  Scholars have suggested that these vetriate were the products of Counter-Reformation efforts to discipline engagement with the tableaux by eliminating the possibility of physical contact but I argue that the semi –transparent barriers functioned like reliquaries, simultaneously marking off the scenes while emphasizing the specialness of the visual encounter. The new arrangement used the new visual discipline to intensify the older, physical one. The reconstituted viewer/image relationship underscored the bodily nature of vision and the importance of physicality in “bearing witness” to the mysteries in the corporeal experience of moving though the site.

Kathleen Sullivan, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, “Girolamo Romanino, the Anticlassical Style and the Sacro Monte: The Frescoes of Santa Maria della Neve.” Scholars have noted that Romanino’s fresco cycle of the Passion of Christ at Santa Maria della Neve in Pisogne draws from the tradition of the sacro monte, both in the spatial arrangement and the general evocation of emotions, but have said little about the particular mechanics of the viewer’s experience of this space. This paper will more thoroughly explore that issue, while also raising the question of the role that style can play in engaging the viewer. Painting in a so-called anticlassical style that emphasized dynamism, emotion and corporeality, Romanino augmented the impact of the spatial arrangement and subject matter, by creating images to which the viewer could relate both physically and spiritually. A pointed investigation of these frescoes permits an exploration of how the powerful synthesis of style, subject matter and space can shape the devotional engagement of the viewer.

Situating Patterns of Patronage in the Italian Renaissance City
Saturday, April 6, 10:30AM-12:30PM, Sheraton Marina Tower, Lower Level – Nautilus 2
Sponsor: Italian Art Society; Organizers: Anne Leader, Savannah College of Art and Design-Atlanta; Saundra Weddle, Drury University; Chair: Sally Cornelison, University of Kansas, Lawrence

Anne Leader, Savannah College of Art and Design-Atlanta, “Santa Croce as Communal Burial Ground.” The church of Santa Croce in Florence has long been recognized as an important commemorative site. While many of those buried and honored within the Franciscan convent lived and died in the neighborhood, a large number of tombs at the church belonged to Florentines from other quartieri. Moreover, all who chose interment with the Franciscans were consequently rejecting their home parishes, the traditional locale of burial and commemoration, raising questions about competition between the city’s neighborhood and monastic churches. This paper explores the demography of death and remembrance at Santa Croce during the Florentine Republic to discern patterns of tomb patronage and their relationship to social networks among the living.

Douglas Dow, Kansas State University, ”Confraternal Emblems in the Florentine Cityscape.” Unlike their counterparts in Venice and Rome, Florentine confraternal oratories were relatively unobtrusive additions to the cityscape, and the eighteenth-century suppression of the lay companies further eroded their architectural presence. The oratory was not the only locus of confraternal identity, however, and many companies maintained tombs in major churches and real estate holdings throughout the city. These properties were frequently marked with the emblem of the organization, thereby projecting the identity of the group beyond the walls of its seat. This paper examines a few extant examples and explores how these markers established a wider urban presence for the confraternity.

Saundra Weddle, Drury University, “Venetian Convents and the Significance of Place.”  While neighborhood identities and alliances played important roles in Renaissance Florentine society, politics, and culture, their influence was less coherent and consistent in Venice. There, expressions of identity and alliance extended broadly across the cityscape, and were manifested in multiple dimensions. This paper considers both the urban patterns and discrete locations of Venetian convents and their principal benefactors as one means of exploring the dynamics of patronage.  Examining the variables of site, time, and monastic order, mapping will be used to inform a study of the ways in which women’s monastic institutions shaped Venetian urban fabric and spatial practices.

Collections and Objects of Knowledge: Books, Gardens, and Studioli
Saturday, April 6, 3:45-5:15PM, Sheraton Marina Tower, Lower Level – Nautilus 4
Sponsor: Italian Art Society; 
Organizers:  Sarah R. Kyle, University of Central Oklahoma; Jennifer D. Webb, University of Minnesota Duluth

Susan Nalezyty, George Washington University, “Townhouse and Villa: Pietro and Bernardo Bembo’s orti and studioli in Padua.” Pietro Bembo owned a substantial art collection and library befitting his notable intellectual interests. A lifelong labor to assemble, it did not begin with Pietro; he inherited rich visual arts and a library from his father, Bernardo. Personal and professional differences determined the types of objects that they acquired, the sorts of artistic projects they patronized, and the uses to which they put their rare material remains. They invited an exclusive audience of artists and writers, who not only studied their objects on exhibit, but informed their hosts’ purchases, and crafted their portraits as worldly, intellectual men of letters, who welcomed visitors to revel in the didactic lessons of the visual. Like readership gleaned from marginalia in a text, contemporary viewership may be recovered about this family’s lavish interiors and exteriors.

Joan Boychuk, University of British Columbia, “Parataxis and Disjunctive Time: Joris Hoefnagel’s Artistic Interaction with the Habsburg Kunstkammer.“ In the 1590s, the court artist, Joris Hoefnagel, engaged in a visual dialogue with two calligraphic model books that had been inscribed twenty years earlier by the imperial scribe, Georg Bocskay. Originally commissioned by Emperor Ferdinand I, the two manuscripts eventually passed to the collections of Ferdinand’s grandson, Emperor Rudolf II. While in Rudolf’s possession, the books were given to Hoefnagel to embellish with a pictorial response to the preexisting text; this he did by employing a variety of strategies stemming from current epistemological practices, including natural history and emblematics. Transecting time and media, the manuscripts point to novel ways artists could engage with and contribute to princely collections. Indeed, they indicate the ways artists could respond to objects within such collections and thereby make their own mark in the production of knowledge at the early modern court.

Kelley Magill, University of Texas at Austin, “Collecting the Catacombs: Early Modern Drawing Collections of Christian Antiquities.” Because of their significance as both ancient historical sources and powerful devotional images, drawings of the catacombs circulated widely and inspired diverse responses and interpretations among early modern Catholic scholars and reformers. Following the discovery of the painted catacombs on Via Salaria in 1578, Alfonso Chacón and Philips van Winghe formed the first extensive collections of drawings documenting the early Christian frescoes, sarcophagi, and inscriptions found in the catacombs. Antonio Bosio copied and expanded upon these earlier collections and commissioned a series of engravings after his collection of over two hundred drawings after the catacombs for his treatise, Roma sotterranea. I argue that the reproduction and interpretation of early Christian antiquities in the catacombs impacted historical and theological systems of knowledge in early modern Rome by responding to urgent issues concerning the history of Catholic tradition and post-Tridentine reforms.

Back to IAS at RSA