2014 SCSC Annual Conference, New Orleans
IAS-Sponsored Session

Artistic Competition, Collaboration, and Exchange: Early Modern Academies of Art in Central Italy

ACP, Grand Ballroom B
Saturday, October 18, 2014, 1:30-3:00pm

Organizers: Tamara Smithers, Austin Peay State University, and Anne Proctor, Roger Williams University

Chair: Kelley Helmstutler Di Dio, University of Vermont

This session presents studies that explore the histories, practices, and goals of academies of art during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries in Florence and Rome. With an emphasis on communal training and artistic theory, regional academies of art founded during this time period shared similar roots. Nonetheless, newly formed institutions varied in their goals, workshop practices, organization, theoretical frameworks, and relationship to their respective state. In these early years of their histories, academicians collaborated in their efforts to define principles and standards of practice while seeking to promote unity of the arts. What were these communal standards of artistic theory and training? Were members always in agreement? Moreover, some artists were participants in more than one of these entities and were also members of literary academies. What was the result of the cross-pollination of creative ideas? Was there a common academic dialogue? Scholars in this session address rivalry within the Florentine Accademia del Disegno during its formative years, the social and professional value of membership in multiple academies as in the case of Cavaliere d’Arpino in Rome, and the practice of drawing and copying from collections in the Accademia di San Luca during the seventeenth century in Rome.


Christine Zappella, University of Chicago
"Sembran della Sepultura: Dissention and Contention in the Crucible of the Early Accademia del Disegno"

In 1563, the founders of the Florentine Accademia del Disegno set out to assemble the “bright spirits and honored geniuses” of the duchy. Endorsing the ideal that the artists would be “more perfect together,” these men hoped that an academy would shore up the burgeoning prestige of their profession. Nonetheless, the academy was plagued with rivalry and suspicion from its very inception.

This paper examines those enmities in the context of the academy’s first official spectacle, the 1564 state funeral of Michelangelo. This massive ephemeral program filled the church of San Lorenzo and forced four great professional rivals—Bronzino, Vasari, Cellini, and Ammannati—to collaborate on a high-stakes public event. Famously, Cellini became so incensed during this collaboration that he eventually refused to participate. But all was not well between the remaining three organizers. By mapping workshop contributions inside San Lorenzo, I will demonstrate that subtle competitions were still staged by the pairing of artists’ works. I will then turn to the Montauto Chapel in SS. Annunziata, painted contemporaneously by young academician Alessandro Allori, and argue that the artist pointedly grouped portraits of friends and excluded those of adversaries, fomenting new and greater tensions. This public airing of grievances resulted in a firestorm of attacks and barbed bons mots, hurled by Cellini, other artists, and the poets of the academy’s literary counterpart, the Accademia Fiorentina. I hope to show that, counter-intuitively, by forcing competing artists to cooperate, the early Accademia del Disegno became characterized almost immediately by animosity and dissension.

Jesse Locker, Portland State University
"Exchange between Roman Academies: The Case of the Cavaliere d’Arpino"

Today the word “academy” is generally taken to refer to an elite formal institution dedicated to the pursuit of higher knowledge and reinforcement of an official culture. In early modern Italy, however, the term accademia could refer to almost any regular, informal gathering dedicated to collective pursuit of knowledge—whether informal life-drawing, scholarly debate, convivial conversation, literary recitation, poetic improvisation, or musical or theatrical performance. As estimated, there were as many as 132 such academies in early seventeenth-century Rome alone. What was the nature of these academies? How did they relate to one another? And how did they contribute to artists’ educations?

This paper focuses on one of the leading painters in Rome around 1600: Giuseppe Cesari, known as the Cavaliere d’Arpino. Contemporary sources indicate that Arpino was involved in several academies, including the official artistic academy, the Accademia di San Luca, and the Accademia degli Umoristi, a prominent literary academy. Arpino also founded an academy that met in his own home, called the Accademia degli Uniti and dedicated to theatrical performance. Given that Arpino himself had very little formal education (by some accounts he was virtually illiterate), the exchange between these institutions demonstrates one means by which he and other artists in his orbit were exposed to ideas about literature, poetry, theater, and art theory. Because many of Rome’s leading artists—including Caravaggio and Guido Reni—trained in Arpino’s workshop, this case gives us broader insight into the artistic and intellectual exchange between early modern academies as a whole.

Rachel George, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes
"The Drawing Practices at the Accademia di San Luca in Rome: Fundamental Precepts of the Didactic"

This paper focuses on the question of workshop practices at the Accademia di San Luca from the election of Federico Zuccari in 1593 to the second princedom of Carlo Maratti, at the threshold of the 18th century. Drawing, which was at the heart of the precepts of the didactic program established by Zuccari, was the backdrop of academic teaching. The learning and the mastering of drawing, a study particular to painters, sculptors and architects, also allowed artists to distinguish themselves from craftsmen practicing professions related to art, like gilders, embroiderers or painting dealers. The definition of the drawing practices is possible with a gradual analysis, from the texts to the more concrete evidence of archival documents. Through the analysis of the statutes of the institution, the profile of the protagonists of the artistic formation and the pedagogic orientation of the academy are clarified. The data collected on the nature of theoretical lessons confirms the academy’s intention to transmit a complete teaching to young artists. This in-depth study of documentary sources indicates the importance of academic collections, and provides evidence of the exercise of copy making and reveals the great academic models. Lastly, the identification of some artistic practices is possible thanks to the partial reconstruction of the workshop environment, didactic material and its functioning. The totality of the data related to teaching highlights an institution with complex internal dynamics, supported by a workshop where artistic practices were mid-way between Renaissance traditions and innovation.

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