2015 Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, Berlin
IAS-Sponsored Session

Vittoria Colonna and Michelangelo: A Broader Vision

Hauptgebäude, Unter den Linden 6, Audimax
Thursday, March 26, 2015, 8:30-10:00am

Organizer: Tiffany Lynn Hunt, Temple University

Chair: Bernadine Barnes,Wake Forrest University

Research about Vittoria Colonna’s interest in the visual arts is centered on her relationship with Michelangelo, especially around the 1540s, when the two exchanged ideas about reformed spirituality. But Colonna’s influence on Michelangelo lasted longer—even beyond her death in 1547—and may be seen in works other than the presentation drawings he did explicitly for her. Colonna was part of a large network of aristocrats, religious leaders, relatives and friends who also had an interest in art and who sometimes requested copies of the works that Michelangelo made for her.For this session we seek papers that consider how images were commissioned, copied, used and shared within this network. Did the works of art made for this circle of friends play a role in spreading ideas about reform? We welcome contributions dealing with works Vittoria Colonna did for Michelangelo, works she requested from other artists, as well as examples of her influence in Michelangelo’s late oeuvre. We are also interested in the distribution and reuse of these works, and shared themes in pieces commissioned by her friends and correspondents, such as Cardinals Reginald Pole and Ercole Gonzaga.


Emily Fenichel, Florida Atlantic University
"Beyond the Spirituali: Vittoria Colonna, Michelangelo, and Meditation

When considering the friendship of Vittoria Colonna and Michelangelo, scholars have emphasized their involvement with the radical religious group, the Spirituali. The problem with the focus on Vittoria Colonna’s and Michelangelo’s “reformist” theologies is that it has been entirely too narrow — ignoring their engagement with orthodox theology and personal devotion, particularly meditation. Examining Colonna’s poetry and prose, principally the Pianto Sopra la Passione di Cristo, this paper will argue for the critical importance of meditation in Colonna’s devotional practice. Moreover, I will consider how Michelangelo’s late work – including his drawings for Colonna – bears witness to the artist’s understanding of meditation. The Florentine Pietà, in particular, is a testimony to the lasting influence of Colonna’s meditation on the artist, even after her death. Far from being a failure, the Florentine Pietà demonstrates the artist’s innovative combination of creation and meditation following the example of his spiritual guide and friend.

Anne Dillon, Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge
"The Influence of Vittoria Colonna on Michelangelo’s Frescoes for the Capella Paolina"

Michelangelo frescoes in the Cappella Paolina, the pope’s private chapel in the Vatican, were planned and painted by him during the 1540s. This was a time when the intellectual, theological and emotional relationship between the artist and Vittoria Colonna were critically important influences. Michelangelo shared with Vittoria the beliefs of the group of influential churchmen and academics, the Spirituali, who gathered around Cardinal Reginald Pole, Vittoria’s close friend and mentor. The frescoes of the Cappella Paolina: The Conversion of St Paul and The Crucifixion of St Peter, are suffused with the influences of the Spirituali. This paper will demonstrate that the relationship between Michelangelo and Vittoria Colonna had a profound influence upon the creation, narrative and theological intentions of Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Cappella Paolina.

Marjorie Och, University of Mary Washington
"Colonna and Michelangelo on the Quirinal"

Scholarship on Francisco de Hollanda’s Four Dialogues on Painting has concentrated on Michelangelo’s comparison of poetry and painting and his observations on Flemish painting. But Vittoria Colonna initiates this conversation by sharing with Michelangelo that she wished to build a convent on Colonna property on the Quirinal Hill, “… where stands the broken portico from which Nero is said to have watched Rome burning….” My paper will argue that this comment is significant because Colonna’s proposal offered Michelangelo his first opportunity to incorporate ancient Roman structures into a new edifice for Christian worship, an idea that was at the heart of his work at St. Peter’s and his project to convert the Baths of Diocletian into the church of Sta. Maria degli Angeli. Vittoria Colonna was thus instrumental in Michelangelo’s creation of monumental architecture that directly references the struggle and faith of the early Christian Church in Rome.

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