2012 Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, Washington D.C.
IAS-Sponsored Session

Public Art and Contested Spaces in Early Modern Italy II: Princely and Papal Power: Genoa, Lombardy, and Rome

Grand Hyatt, 5B - Independence Level, Independence D
Friday, March 23, 2013, 10:30am-12:00pm

Organizer and Chair: Felicia M. Else, Gettysburg College

Abstract for the three linked sessions:
These linked sessions addressed the rich and varied role of art and architecture in creating, transforming, appropriating or reinventing public spaces and public life in Early Modern Italy.  Whether religious, civic or mercantile, the public spaces of Italy have long been acknowledged as important but contested sites of power and authority.  This topic encompasses a broad range of approaches, and these sessions seek to cover a diverse range of material and modes of inquiry, including but not limited to: familiar monuments in a new light; the role of the ephemeral or works or aspects of works no longer visible; the influence of various socio-cultural factors on the interactions between space, art and viewers, such as rituals, urban legislation, celebratory processions, criminal punishments, merchant activity; the application of methodologies relating to gender, race and social class, interdisciplinary work, or studies relating to visual culture; theoretical discussions of what “public” might mean in this period or problematic aspects of such a term.


Madeline Rislow, University of Kansas, Lawrence
"Framing Family Power in Public Space: Doria’s Appropriation of Portal Sculptures in Their Genoese Neighborhood"

The prominent Doria first established their albergo, or neighborhood group, in Genoa in the twelfth century and subsequently built the family’s church of San Matteo with a facing piazza and surrounding palaces.  In the fifteenth century the Doria further asserted their presence within the urban center by adorning their palaces with at least ten soprapporte, or lintel reliefs, a particular Ligurian sculptural type.  Religious narratives are sculpted at the center of most of these soprapporte and these scenes are marked by the Doria coats of arms.  Situated in close proximity to both the cathedral and ducal palace, the Doria albergo was frequently the site of processions and celebrations.  The soprapporte within this space clearly designated the public streets and piazza they faced as Doria territory.  This paper considers how the Doria soprapporte served a vital function in advertising the family while simultaneously promoting a unified Genoese identity.

Constance Joan Moffatt, Pierce College
"The People vs. Lodovico Sforza: A Bishop, a Rectangle, and a Tower"

What is better evidence of contested space than a piazza laid out against the will of the people? Without consent of the townspeople of the Milanese satellite capital of Vigevano, Lodovico Sforza transformed the main square from communal to ducal space and intended to expand his already firm grip on the city by placing a bishop in its midst. However, the recalcitrant citizens refused to enlarge the church at the piazza’s edge for that purpose. The primary mercantile use of the piazza was subsumed by the more flamboyant state events staged by Sforza. Although the enlargement of the area into a forum-shaped piazza makes it one of the first Renaissance squares and among the most beautiful arcaded spaces in Italy, this urban restructuring also represents the obliteration of communal status through legislative means. What had been more public, closed space became the open private space of the Duke of Milan.

Luke Nicholson, University of British Columbia
“The Universal City: Roman Landmarks and the Interspatial Visions of Nicolas Poussin”

Landmarks making up Rome’s public and visual profile appear in several paintings by Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665). The French painter, living in Rome for most of his working life, used the profile of his adopted city to depict far flung places that he could only imagine, including Athens and Egypt. The Castel Sant’Angelo, Torre delle Milizie, and Cortile della Pigna – unmistakable as themselves – are all depicted as displaced to these imaginary places. Concentrating on four major examples, Holy Family in Egypt (1655 to1657), Landscape with Diogenes (1647), The Funeral of Phocion and Landscape with the Ashes of Phocion (both 1648), my paper will explore how Poussin used pictorial appropriation to envision a kind of destabilized ‘interspace,’ a delocalization which I link with the experience of expatriation and exile. Poussin is well known as a contemplative and intellectual painter; his pictorial strategy here contests these Roman spaces in a highly original way.

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