Conferences & Lectures

Venice in Blue: The Use of carta azzurra in the Artist’s Studio and in the Printer’s Workshop, ca. 1500–50

Location: Virtual

University of St Andrews, International Online Conference: 2–3 September, 2021
Organisers: Alexa McCarthy, Laura Moretti, Paolo Sachet

At the turn of the sixteenth century, blue paper emerged as a chosen support for drawing and printing in Venice. Artists including Vittore Carpaccio (ca. 1460–ca. 1526), Lorenzo Lotto (ca. 1480–1556), Titian (ca. 1488–1576), Sebastiano del Piombo (ca. 1485–1547), and Jacopo Tintoretto (1518/19–1594) utilised this support for drawings to explore the tonal effects of light and shade on colour. At the same time, publishers like Aldus Manutius (ca. 1445–1515), Francesco Marcolini (ca. 1500–after 1559), and Gabriele Giolito (ca. 1508–1578) printed books on blue paper, capturing the interplay of the materials that form the page, text, and image. The impact of these practices quickly became internationally influential.

This conference explores the use of blue paper (carta azzurra; carta turchina; carta cerulea) for the purposes of drawing and printing in Venice in the first half of the sixteenth century. Recent scholarship has considered the role of this medium in artistic practice and has called for further attention to be paid to this material, beyond its mention in art historical literature as a support for images and text (Brückle 1993; Bower 2002; Brahms 2015; Burns 2020). Bringing together perspectives on drawing, printing, and networks of exchange, this conference will shed new light on the significance of blue paper in Venice between ca. 1500–50 and the material’s cross-cultural impact.


The conference will take place over the course of two days. The programme consists of presentations highlighting new research and objects preserved in international collections, and a roundtable discussion. Presentations will be in an online format. An online exhibition will accompany the conference.

Day 1, Thursday, 2 September 2021:

12:00 pm (GMT): Opening Remarks by Alexa McCarthy, Laura Moretti, Paolo Sachet

12:15–1:15 pm: Session 1, The Material of Blue Paper (moderator: Laura Moretti)
• ‘The Handmade Blue Paper Project: Applying Interdisciplinary Experimental Archaeology to the Study of the Materiality of Historical Blue Papers,’ Leila Sauvage, University of Amsterdam; Rijksmuseum, Department of Conservation
• ‘Carta azzurra: interpreting the material evidence, Venice circa 1500,’ Thea Burns, Queen’s University

1:15–2:15 pm: Session 2, Drawing on Blue Paper (moderator: Alexa McCarthy)
• ‘Bartolomeo Montagna’s Figure Drawings on Carta Azzurra: Practice, Purpose and Presentation,’ Genevieve Verdigel, Getty Paper Project Fellow, British Museum
• ‘“La strada vera” – Tintoretto’s drawings on carte azzurre and art theory,’ Iris Brahms, Freie Universität, Berlin

3:30–4:30 pm: Collection Presentations, Part I (moderator: Paolo Sachet)
• Stephanie Stillo, Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection and Aramont Library Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress
• Edina Adam and Michelle Sullivan, J. Paul Getty Museum

4:30–5:00 pm: Closing Discussion, Day 1

Day 2, Friday, 3 September 2021:

12:00–12:30 pm (GMT): Open Presentation, Laura Moretti

12:30–1:30 pm: Session 3, Printing on Blue Paper (moderator: Laura Moretti)
• ‘In Between Aldus and Giolito: Venetian Imprints on Blue Paper (1514–1543),’ Paolo Sachet, University of Geneva
• ‘Aldus, Bomberg, and the Origins of Blue Paper in Hebrew Printing,’ Brad Sabin Hill, George Washington University

1:30–2:30 pm: Session 4, Venice and Beyond (moderator: Paolo Sachet)
• ‘Blue Paper for Drawings and Etchings in the Veneto and the Manner of Parmigianino,’ Alexa McCarthy, University of St Andrews
• ‘From Venice with Blue: The spread of blue paper in the Marches around 1550,’ Luca Baroni, Scuola Normale Superiore

3:30–4:30 pm: Collection Presentations, Part II (moderator: Alexa McCarthy)
• Maria Aresin, Thyssen Fellow, Centro Tedesco Venice, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München
• Stephen Parkin, British Library

4:30–6:00 pm: Round Table Discussion (moderators: Paolo Sachet and Alexa McCarthy)
• Emily Rose Anderson, University of Southern California
• Maria Aresin, Thyssen Fellow, Centro Tedesco Venice
• Laura Carnelos, Eton College Library
• Thomas Dalla Costa, Independent Art Historian and Curator
• Luca Fiorentino, Istituto Universitario Olandese di Storia Dell’Arte
• Daryl Green, University of Edinburgh
• Elsje van Kessel, University of St Andrews
• Anita V. Sganzerla, Curator, Private Collection

6:00–6:30 pm: Closing Discussion and Remarks by Alexa McCarthy, Laura Moretti, Paolo Sachet

To Register, click here.

This conference has been generously supported by the Society for Renaissance Studies.


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