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

New Perspectives in Italian Art II – Iconography

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

Respondent: Bruce Edelstein, New York University, Florence


Speakers/Papers

Amanda Hilliam, Independent Scholar
“Against Naturalism: Carlo Crivelli’s Artifice”

A central goal in the art of Carlo Crivelli was to inform the viewer of painting’s crafted nature. Naturalism, which attempts to minimize evidence of fabrication by holding a mirror up to nature, has no place in his work. Rather, I argue that Crivelli deliberately avoided devices such as perspective and oil that attempt to mimic the optical effects of reality, employing instead hatched tempera, a stylized line, gold leaf, and clashing systems of representation. His works demonstrate an equal emphasis on surface and depth; they incorporate both painted fictions and objects in relief; and they position emblems at the threshold between art and reality, such as the flies, cucumbers, and cracks that penetrate Crivelli’s otherwise immaculate depictions of the sacred. What were Crivelli’s intentions? How might his mendicant patrons have responded to such heightened artifice? And what role did the artist’s own persona play?

Bar Leshem, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
“‘Warning’ Imagery on Sixteenth-Century Italian Cassoni”

The aim of this paper is to examine ‘warning’ imagery on sixteenth-century Italian cassoni which served the purpose of portraying messages of morality. These representations, mostly from Greco-Roman mythology, presented protagonists who acted against the ancient morality, and whose behavior was translated into the moral codes of Renaissance Christianity. Protagonists who acted, for example, in hybris were later allegorized into sinners of pride, as in the Niobid cassoni from the Robert Lehman Collection. This allegorization process, along with the introduction of such “warning” imagery into the domestic realm, combine to form a unique and intriguing case-study. Sixteenth-century carved cassoni were often overlooked in the field of research, as opposed to their fifteenth-century counterparts. Through these chests, this paper aims to present and explore an image of the cinquecento Italian society, that used this kind of art form and negative messages as a way to educate its civilians.

Clarisse Evrard, University of Lille, IRHiS
“A Semiological Approach to the Domestic Universe of Renaissance Italy: Maiolica Services”

In recent years, art historians, particularly medievalists, have placed domestic images at the heart of their research to determine how the inhabitants construct a space of their own and thus represent their values. Painted ceilings, devotional objects, small paintings, chests or ceramics, the so-called “images-objects” multiply to adorn the entire casa. The case of historiated majolica is particularly relevant to this issue because, as functional and ornamental objects, they convey images that are part of the decor and reflect the values and tastes of their purchasers. Through the example of the services of Xanto Avelli and Nicola da Urbino, we thus propose to combine art history, material culture and a semiological approach in order to analyze this decorative art as a “painting-object” entering into a series of interactions, as a combination of an image and a support and in its relationship to the whole to which it belongs and to the space in which it takes place.

Massimiliano Simone, École Pratique des Hautes Études, EPHE, Sorbonne, Paris
“Vulcan’s Polymorphism: The Cases of Villa Farnesina and Furioso”

Universally known as a lame and deformed god, Vulcan makes up for its physical deficit with technical skill and talent. In archaic civilizations, being a blacksmith allowed that person to acquire an important status in the community: the art of forging weapons was its main trait, as well as making jewels and amulets, useful also in the practice of necromancy. These peculiarities certainly left an impression on a personality like that of the important banker Agostino Chigi: Vulcan appears several times in transtiberina villula frescoes, taking on different complexions. My proposal wants to investigate the links between Vulcan and Chigi, providing new interpretations to understand the pictorial cycle of Chigi’s villa. Moreover, a comparison will be made with the meanings that the figure of Vulcan assumes in the Court of Ferrara, and in its identification with Alfonso d’Este. Behind the image of the blacksmith god lies not only the celebration of the duke, but also his mockery. The mythological triad of Mars, Venus and Vulcan returns in filigree in the 8th, 10th and 11th canto of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, uncovering interesting developments in figurative arts.

Caroline Koncz, Ohio State University
“The Price of Preserving Chastity and Paralyzing Masculinity in Jacopo Bassano’s Diana and Actaeon”

One of the final works that Jacopo Bassano painted features a rather curious representation of the ancient mythological tale of Diana and Actaeon. Besides including the nude goddess and her nymphs along with the fully metamorphosed hunter, the painting also depicts Actaeon’s hounds and fellow huntsmen, all of whom wear contemporary clothing and appear to be set in a locale recalling the Venetian terraferma. By taking into account these striking visual details along with the myth’s moralizing message, this presentation proposes that Jacopo Bassano’s Diana and Actaeon was created both to plausibly titillate its beholders as well as caution them against the perilous pleasures of the flesh. More specifically, I suggest that Bassano’s composition aptly renders post-Tridentine Venetian men’s urges to control women’s chastity all the while making sure that they were not cuckolded from sexual intercourse themselves.

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