2022 Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, Dublin
IAS-Sponsored Session

Risky Business: Dangers Faced by Artists and Patrons

Wednesday, March 30, 2022. 9:00–10:30am
The Convention Centre, Dublin- Wicklow Hall 1-2

Organizer: Jonathan K. Nelson, Syracuse University, Florence

Chair: Diana Bullen Presciutti, University of Essex

Respondent: Christopher J. Nygren, University of Pittsburgh


Kelli Wood, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Digital Approaches to Early Modern Gambling
This paper will present the preliminary findings of the NEH-Mellon sponsored project Digitizing Early Modern Board Games. Building a virtual interface from engines and platforms currently used for web-based games and collections management will facilitate a heretofore unprecedented analysis of the complexity of sixteenth century gambling games and offer data of the risks, wins, and losses iterated over many instances of simulated play. Booming print production, alongside cultural and social developments, led to the production and proliferation of new styles of games that featured novel combinations of diagrammatic construction, imagery, literary quotations, and game mechanics based fully on chance. A digital platform that not only enables simulation, but also provides a scholarly apparatus, will shed light on the multiple meanings and narratives that unfold as players trace changing connections between text, image, and rules during various iterations of the game. Games functioned not as static likenesses, but rather as active systems that encouraged performative manipulation of signs in order to create meaning through play. The signs and symbols incorporated into gambling games created narratives about the risks and trials and tribulations of various aspects of life’s journey, be they amorous, commercial, or moral.
Kelley Helmstutler Di Dio, University of Vermont
Risk and Risk Aversion in Sculpture Shipments: The Case of Pompeo Leoni's Sculptures for the Escorial

Shipments of sculpture from Italy to Spain were not infrequent, but depending on the medium, size, and style, they presented a multitude of challenges. Sculptures could easily be damaged, stolen, sunk, and lost along the arduous journey overland, down rivers, and across seas. In addition to the dangers facing the sculptures themselves, the labor force required to manage the shipment was also at risk. Moreover, political negotiations were often necessary to ensure safe passage, and the entire enterprise was weather dependent. This paper explores the largest shipment of bronzes in early modern Europe: the Escorial retable sculptures that were sent from Milan to Madrid in the late 1500s-early 1600s. It discusses the many risks that had to be considered in this enormous undertaking, based on detailed records found in the archives in Simancas and Milan.

Sharifa Lookman, Princeton University
Assaying Risk in Metallic Reproduction: Error and Technical Fallibility in Giambologna’s Aftercasts

As Giambologna’s fame reached new heights in the mid-to-late sixteenth century, so did the extent of his material output. Alongside his more monumental commissions, smaller bronze statuettes regularly exited the artist’s studio, initially made by the artist himself but subsequently as workshop reproductions. The design of these replicas – so-called aftercasts – varied in origin, some as reductions of Giambologna’s large-scale sculptures, others miming the artist’s smaller preparatory models, and still others made using the original mold. All these aftercasts evince the labor, inconsistencies, and material risks implicated in alloyed reproduction, from replicating casting flaws to using compromised materials. Usually studied as decontextualized markers of the artist’s cross-continental reach, the aftercasts also real a wide constellation of risky endeavors involved in metallic replication. This paper explores how the aftercasts – in their varied materials, production, and authorship – modeled imperfections in multiplicity.

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