2015 Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, Berlin
IAS-Sponsored Session

Italians Look at Germans

Hegelplatz, Dorotheenstrasse 24/1, 1.103
Thursday, March 26, 2015, 10:15-11:45am

Organizers and Chairs: Kathleen Giles Arthur, James Madison University, and Martha Dunkelman, Canisius College

Respondent: Sean Roberts, Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies

The impact of Italian art on Germany during the Renaissance is a familiar topic. Writers note Venetian color in Durer, ancient sculpture in Jan Gossaert, and Roman Mannerism in Jan van Scorel. If German artists visited Italy, special attention is given to what they took to the north when they left. Less consideration has been given to exploring ideas introduced into Italy by German artists. The few exceptions to this center on prints, such as the story of Michelangelo copying Schongauer’s St. Anthony, or the interest of Raphael in Durer. There were certainly other ways, however, that German images, ideas, and techniques evoked responses in the Italian artistic community. This session welcomes papers that present new research on how German art, artists, and patrons who were present in Italy were influential on Italian artists during the Renaissance. Essays may consider specific borrowings, theoretical concepts, material practices, or any other aspect of the influence of Germans on Italians.


Kay Arthur, James Madison University
"The Reception and Influence of German Single-Sheet Woodcuts in Ferrara"

This paper investigates the collection and influence of German fifteenth-century single-sheet woodcuts in Northern Italy, especially Ferrara. These ephemera were diffuse in this area before c.1450-80.  In Bologna, German playing cards were first mentioned in 1395; in 1425 Bernardino da Siena complained about their pernicious influence on the populace. In Venice, by 1412, prints circulated to stimulate the cult of Catherine of Siena. In Parma, merchant laymen like Jacopo Rubieri collected devotional woodcuts in albums, but what about the many monks and nuns? In Ferrara, “formae,” or printing blocks, were documented in the 1440s. This paper argues that a German woodcut provided the model for a Man of Sorrows drawing by the artist nun Caterina Vigri c. 1450 and another woodcut, gifted to her convent by an Observant preacher in 1463, exhibited miraculous powers and became the nuns’ treasured relic.

Bryony Bartlett-Rawlings, Courtauld Institute
“Beware, you envious thieves of the work and invention of others, keep your thoughtless hands from these works of ours”

The case of Marcantonio Raimondi copying Dürer’s Life of the Virgin woodcuts in the early 1500s is frequently cited as an example of Italians looking to German art. Marcantonio was just one of many artists copying engravings by German printmakers including Dürer and Schongauer at this time. This paper will investigate copies of German prints by two little studied printmakers, Nicoletto da Modena and Giovanni Antonio da Brescia. These prints document the impact of German art in Italy at the turn of the sixteenth century. This paper will consider what Northern prints were being copied and why. Close comparison of the Italian copies with the German originals will investigate how these prints were made. Contemporary writings and inventories of collections will place both German originals and Italian counterfeits within the context of early sixteenth-century Italy to consider how these works were regarded and used, both by collectors and artists.

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