2018 Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, New Orleans
IAS-Sponsored Session

New Directions in Representation of the Italian Landscape I: The Functions of Landscape

Hilton New Orleans Riverside, 3, 3rd Floor - Magazine Room
Friday, March 23, 2018,11:00 am-12:30 pm

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

Chair: Sarah B. Cantor, University of Maryland, University College

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.

This was the first of 3 linked sessions (only the first of which was able to be sponsored by IAS due to limitations):

I: The Functions of Landscape

II: Landscapes, Architecture, and Antiquity

III: Displaying and Viewing the Landscape


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.

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