2021 Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, Virtual
IAS-Sponsored Session

New Perspectives in Italian Art I — Sculpture

RSA virtual meeting room 28; Tuesday, April 13, 2021; 10:00AM–11:30AM EDT

Organizers: Kelley Helmstutler Di Dio, University of Vermont, and Ilaria Andreoli, Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Paris

Respondent: Sarah Blake McHam, Rutgers University

These sessions create a space for emerging scholars (recent Ph.D.s or Ph.D. candidates) to present their work on any area of early modern Italian art (1300-1600) in a seminar setting. These scholars work with new methodologies, new areas of study, or innovative approaches to more traditional areas of Renaissance studies. The sessions provide new scholars a forum to present their ideas and methods and an opportunity to receive constructive feedback from senior scholars who will serve as respondents. The scholars will circulate their work beforehand, and the session will mostly consist of a discussion of their new scholarship.

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Elena Cera, Università di Padova
“The Putti of the Thrones. A Classical Model for the Renaissance spiritello

The Thrones are a series of twelve incomplete Roman reliefs, dating to the first century AD, each representing the empty throne of a god, sided by two putti holding the emblems of the missing god, with some architectural elements in the background. My proposal means to investigate the extraordinary success of the Thrones under literary, collecting, and especially figurative respects and to establish their role in defining the iconographic model of the winged putto (or “spiritello”) in Renaissance art. Our attention will particularly focus on the documents, guides, and diaries mentioning the Thrones. This detailed study of the success of the series of Thrones as a figurative model will enable us to discuss how a classical source plays a role in defining a new artistic language: indeed our Thrones were a starting point for the creation of the “spiritello” during the Renaissance.

Vincenzo Sorrrentino, University of Pisa
“Seeking a Roman Identity: the del Riccio and Michelangelo”

Luigi del Riccio, a Florentine wool merchant, arrived in Rome around 1538. Soon after, because of his relationship with the fuoriusciti, Florentine aristocrats exiled by Cosimo I, Luigi met Michelangelo Buonarroti and began a friendship that lasted until Luigi’s death in 1546. Thanks to this close friendship, Michelangelo provided Luigi with a design for the tomb of his nephew, Cecchino Bracci, in the Roman church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. The choice of such church, together with some other elements made me think Luigi was trying to settle a branch of his family in Rome. Although his project will not continue, a sort of ‘secular cult’ of Michelangelo will be nurtured inside of the del Riccio clan until the end of the 16th century. In fact, three different chapels, in Florence and in Naples, will be decorated with copies after originals by Michelangelo, as proud demonstrations of a link with the most eminent artist who ever lived.

Louisa McKenzie, The Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Study, University of London
“Mapping Production: Wax Workshops in Renaissance Florence”

This paper presents a digital humanities project which addresses issues surrounding the production, purchase, and use of wax ex-votos in Florence in the period 1300-1500: an interactive digital map of the locations of Florentine wax workshops during this period. By providing the first systematic geographical survey of wax workers and their workshops in Florence, this map tells us more about geographical patterns of production and purchase, about the influence of social and neighborhood dynamics on these practices and about the economic sustainability (or not) of workshop groupings. It can also add a new dimension to studies of the evolving popularity of Florentine shrines and miraculous images. After outlining key research questions, this paper will focus on the practical details involved in creating the interactive digital map, particularly in terms of methodology, data sources, software and best practice.

Lindsay Sheedy, Washington University in St. Louis
“A Feast for Worms: The Rise and Fall of the Presepe in Early Modern Naples”

As an art form that celebrates Christ’s earthly presence, the history of the early modern Neapolitan presepe is now one of absence. This type of sculptural nativity scene dominated altars throughout Naples in the early Cinquecento, when presepi boasted dozens of life-size polychrome statues set into stage-like niches. Today, no early modern Neapolitan presepe remains in its entirety, with most having been dismantled, destroyed, or abandoned to rot. This paper recovers the presepe’s place in the religious and artistic landscape of early modern Naples. It does so by stitching together archival documentation, historical descriptions, and extant sculptures by artists such as the Alemanni and Giovanni da Nola. Despite many presepi now being ghosts of their former glory, the paper demonstrates that this art form was not always considered peripheral but was privileged as both a vehicle for worship and a site of artistic innovation and exchange in early modern Naples.

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