2019 SCSC Annual Conference, St. Louis, MO
IAS-Sponsored Session

Why the Renaissance Matters: The Value of Renaissance Art History in the Modern and Contemporary World.

Sterling Studio 7
Saturday October 19, 2019, 3:30-5:00pm

Organizer: Anne H. Muraoka, Old Dominion University

Chair: Marcia B. Hall, Tyler School of Art, Temple University

This panel addresses the significance of the Renaissance beyond the Renaissance era. Papers address the seminal role of Renaissance narrative painting on modern art and film; how the pulsating rhythms of modern art draw from Renaissance experiments in addressing and engaging the viewer; how a case study on the visually impaired in Renaissance Venice helps us understand the parallels between the Renaissance world and our own; and finally, how Renaissance artists and viewers shared the values of the millennial generation that we see in the classroom – interaction, collaboration, and active engagement. An elucidation of the relationship between the Renaissance and the modern and contemporary world can provide a better understanding of the past, as well as the present.


Peter Weller, Independent Art Historian
“Padua, St. Francis, and the Moving Picture”

In novice days of art appreciation, while judging Kyoto’s International Film Festival, I asked Oscar-winning cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro, whom he favored as a painter. Storaro inquired if I had seen, what he deemed to be, the first film in early modern history, Giotto’s fresco cycle in Padua’s Capella Scrovegni. I had not, and Storaro whiffed, “then we cannot talk about art.” He elucidated that Rembrandt or Max Ernst, without Giotto, Leon Battista Alberti or the Franciscan inception of narrative, would leave no context for the entire pictorial continuum into the 20th century. As the crux of all art history is social evolution, this paper argues that Giotto’s Padua, having launched Alberti and the Western world’s seminal book on picture analysis, also gifted the Renaissance a visual compendium, without which we can only assess contemporary art and film, be it Rothko, Pollack, Friedkin or Kubrick, in modern myopia.

Javier Berzal de Dios, Western Washington University
“A Pulsating Rhythm: Learning from Modern Ruminations on Crivelli and Berruguete”

This presentation sets in motion recent approaches to creative anachronism, found in scholars like Didi-Huberman, and explores how poststructuralism and meta-modernism could be actively incorporated in our writing to supersede the 19th-century expectations retained by the discipline. Exploring interventions successfully received in my classroom, I focus on two artists that have stimulated protean artistic encounters: Carlo Crivelli and Alonso de Berruguete. Crivelli is here explored via Raqib Shaw and Gillian Ayres, artists who revive and reveal his pulsating intensity. Berruguete’s sculptures are approached through José Val del Omar’s Fuego en Castilla, a 1960 experimental film whose hypnotic effects expose a vigor otherwise concealed by the gallery’s quietude. Such engagements with the resonating pulse of early modern art (to borrow Benjamin’s concept) not only demonstrate the Renaissance’s relevance in the contemporary scene, but also foment innovative writing and pedagogical possibilities that embrace the trans-historical and experimental spirit that defined the Renaissance.

Julia A. DeLancey, University of Mary Washington
“The Visual Culture of the Confraternity of the Blind in Early Modern Venice”

Renaissance art history and studies have long helped us to understand our own worlds—yet new avenues of research reveal additional connections between our lives and those lived centuries ago. This paper presents a case and a paradox, exploring the visual culture of the Scuola dei Ciechi, or confraternity of the blind, founded in 1315 in early modern Venice. Based in archival research, the paper examines how members of this mendicant confraternity used material culture, including paintings, to navigate complex Venetian social worlds and thus illuminates the corporate experiences of those with visual impairments in the lagoon city. In focusing on disabilities, it explores an understudied aspect of Italian Renaissance culture. Finally, it informs our understanding of the consistency of activism—then and now—by individuals whose culture and time sees them as having disabilities and challenges modern assumptions about the absence of visual culture in those with visual impairments.

Sarah M. Cadagin, Savannah College of Art and Design
“From One Millennial to Another: Teaching the Renaissance in the 21st Century”

For a generation attuned to Instagram images, 140-character tweets, and multimedia art installations that defy or reject any notion of virtù, sanctity, or even simple mimesis, the Renaissance can seem like an impossibly hard sell to a college-age millennial. But as an older millennial myself, and as junior faculty at an arts school, I
have found surprising success in teaching and promoting the Renaissance by tailoring my pedagogical strategies towards the very values of interaction, collaboration, and active engagement that are so vital to the millennial generation – and which were equally vital in the Renaissance. This paper will highlight some of these strategies, namely the collaborative group exercises I have designed around the Italian courts, as well as sculpture commissions; the current-events articles I have incorporated into class discussions; materials and methods demonstrations; and the framing of topics like ut pictura poesis that have proved unexpectedly exciting for my students.

Back to Conference

Officers & Contacts