Artibus et Historiae no. 63 (XXXII), 2011

252 x 232 mm
ISSN 0391-9064

Add to cart
JOSEPH POLZER - Reflections on Leonardo’s Last Supper (pp. 9–38)

Leonardo’ Last Supper, in the refectory of the Dominican priory of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, an icon of High Renaissance Italian art, has been universally acclaimed for its realism and dramatic power from the very time of its creation. It remains so even now, although but little of its original condition is left. It has been painstakingly cleared of dirt and repainting during the mural’s most recent restoration completed about ten years past, enabling us to investigate Leonardo’s creative process and the mural’s meaning with greater assurance. What emerges are complex layers of meaning reaching beyond the mural’s obvious focus on the moment when Christ states to the Apostles that one of them will betray him.
Analysis of the painting confirms his quest for originality as he departs from the preferred emphasis in contemporary Last Suppers, especially Florentine, on Judas’ extreme evil. Instead, Leonardo underscores the spiritual remoteness of Christ. His treatment of the Apostles reaches from momentary dramatic narrative response to reference to different moments of Scripture narrative, thus introducing a flexible notion of time. And a closer reading of the composition yields calculated actions and gestures that cannot be accounted for according to how humans usually interact.
The very crowded spacing of the Apostles at one side of the table, including Judas who is usually placed in front, is excessive. Last but not least, here Leonardo also connects Christ and some Apostles to his last sermon in the Gospel of John, which stresses the notion of universal love.

LIANA DE GIROLAMI CHENEY - Leonardo da Vinci’s Uffizi Annunciation: The Holy Spirit (pp. 39–54)

In his Notebooks, Leonardo da Vinci explains how our knowledge has its formation in our perceptions. “The eyes, which are called the windows of the soul, are the chief mean whereby the understanding may most full and abundantly appreciate the infinite works of nature”. Leonardo continues: “all true sciences are the result of experiences which has passed through our senses”. He invites the observer to first experience nature and then with reason investigates the causes and effects of the experience. The presentation focuses on an aspect of creativity, the similarity between artistic and scientific creativity as espoused in Leonardo’s Notebooks and, in particular, visualized in his Annunciation of 1472 at the Galleria degli Uffizi.
In analyzing Leonardo’s Annunciation, one is able to reflect on Leonardo’s concept of creativity as well as on his theory on painting. This earlier painting in Leonardo’s artistic career is fundamental and serves as a fulcrum in the history of art and science in Italian Renaissance art. In the Annunciation, the young Leonardo begins to conceptualize his theories on optics and perception, fusing natural phenomena with spiritual signification.
For all that Leonardo wrote it is to his visual explorations that he entrusts the primary task of representing nature. Because for Leonardo art is an instrument of discovery, a form of knowing and not merely an illustration of what is already known, the application of color and tone reveal a process of visual reasoning, a science of painting.

R. WARD BISSELL - Simon Vouet, Raphael, and the Accademia di San Luca in Rome (pp. 55–72)

In October of 1624 the French master Simon Vouet became Principe of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, his ascendency ordained by the Cardinal Protector, Francesco Maria del Monte, who ordered the abolition of the old Academy, the rewriting of its statutes, and ultimately the elimination of the ruling clique. With the reform of the institution foreign artists and young members gained decision-making participation.
Vouet set the Accademia on firmer organizational and financial footing, for which upon his resignation in June of 1627 he received the gratitude of the membership. However, it is highly probable that the actions decreed by Del Monte were not initially greeted with applause by the ingrained power structure, which might also have resented the loss of autonomy under the Cardinal’s iron fist.
Internal controversies having arisen, Del Monte certainly had contemplated commanding change for some time. This study argues that he and Vouet launched a joint campaign to help persuade the Accademia membership that the French painter, in particular, would best serve in the leadership position and, further, that the Marescotti Chapel in San Francesco a Ripa, with Vouet’s canvas of the Birth of the Virgin as its star attraction, figured in this offensive.
The Birth of the Virgin presents such a forceful combination of Caravaggesque realism and High Renaissance monumentality as to make it exceptional in Vouet’s career, and as part of the aforementioned lobbying effort was calculated to demonstrate the non-Italian’s command of early Cinquecento art as well as that of his own time. Given contemporary discussions in the Accademia precisely of Raphael, the picture’s obvious dependency (hitherto unobserved) upon Raphael’s frescoed Sibyls in Santa Maria della Pace is not coincidental. Thus the article proposes to account for the stylistic uniqueness of the Birth of the Virgin, to suggest the circumstances under which it was painted, and to establish a new date for it and potentially for other undocumented works by the master.

LEW ANDREWS - Botticelli’s Primavera, Angelo Poliziano, and Ovid’s Fasti (pp. 73–84)

Scholars have long recognized that Ovid’s Fasti was one of the sources for Botticelli’s Primavera. But in most cases, Ovid is treated as one source among many, used primarily to explain what is happening on the right side of the picture. In this article, I argue that Ovid’s Fasti – or more specifically, Books IV and V, the sections that cover the spring months of April and May – represent a key not only to the activity on the right, but to the painting as a whole. The importance of Ovid’s text in turn clarifies the role of Angelo Poliziano in the process, in the creation of the Primavera. In the 1480s, Poliziano devoted a series of lectures to Ovid’s Fasti, which nourished a growing interest in Ovid’s text; Poliziano introduced his course with an extended poem – now lost – in the manner of the Fasti, which may well have been the painter’s immediate source. Ovid’s Fasti was Botticelli’s original point of departure, but Poliziano clearly guided the way.

WILLIAM E. WALLACE - La bella mano: Michelangelo the Craftsman (pp. 85–100)

At various times in his life, Michelangelo Buonarroti purposefully displayed his craftsman’s skill to astonish contemporaries, as he did in carving the Rome Pieta and David. The author draws attention to details which, because they were exceptionally difficult to carve (difficulta), demanded superior craftsmanship, such as the extended arm and separated, curling fingers of the Virgin’s left hand in the Pieta. Author further argues that Michelangelo took up the Medici Chapel commission with energy and something to prove following a long fallow period of little marble carving. The four allegories were a purposeful demonstration of his prodigious skill, most notably in the entirely unnecessary but astonishing cutting through of blocks to free dangerously extended and barely supported limbs. Many other details of the tombs are purposeful demonstrations of the artist’s invention and skill, emphatic assertions of originality, and a form of artistic signature, all serving to reaffirm his reputation as a creator of marvels.

MARCEL ROETHLISBERGER - Claude Lorrain Revisited (pp. 101–118)

The article sums up the continuous, impressive amount of literature and the many major exhibitions dedicated internationally to Claude’s paintings and drawings within the last fifty years. It lists the discoveries of previously unknown works (c. 55 paintings and 70 drawings), deals with the lasting impact of his art, discusses the gradual shifts of approach, the style of today’s scholarship, the investigation of his beginnings in Rome, patronage, economics, the relationship with fellow artists, and points out desiderata.

LIVIO PESTILLI - On Bernini’s Reputed Unpopularity in Late Baroque Rome (pp. 119–142)

A well-rooted tradition, that claims Bernini’s unpopularity was well established by the beginning of the eighteenth century when the sculptural project for the twelve apostles in the nave of St. John Lateran was being finalized, is contradicted by a number of factors.  By analyzing some literary sources (Charles Poerson, Charles De Brosses, Winckelmann) and visual evidence from a conservative artistic milieu (Accademia di San Luca), the article suggests that, contrary to common belief, Bernini cast a “long shadow” well beyond the beginning of the eighteenth century. Indeed, it was only in the 1770s that his fame was finally obfuscated by the growing appreciation for the “noble simplicity and quiet grandeur” of Neoclassical art represented by works such as Canova’s first Roman commission, the tomb of Clement XIV (1787).

STEFANO PIERGUIDI - Gian Lorenzo Bernini tra teoria e prassi artistica: la speaking likeness, il “bel composto”, e il “paragone” (pp. 143–164)

Gian Lorenzo Bernini: Between Artistic Theory and Practice – the “speaking likeness”, the bel composto and the paragone

According to Irving Lavin, the renowned scholar of Bernini, the artist “was not a theoretician”. Still recently the sculptor has been confronted with such artists of clearly articulated intellectual ambitions as Domenichino, Pietro Testa and Nicolas Poussin. Even though this statement in principle is correct, it is also true that the rigours and significance of the theoretical foundations of the artistic practice of Domenichino and Poussin, just like those of Bernini, can be inferred, above all, from their ouvre. What can be verified is whether, and how clearly and coherently those theoretical foundations became verbally formalized by the artists themselves. The paramount importance of such principles of Bernini’s art as the “speaking likeness”, and above all, the bel composto, which had many precedents in the history of art but have never been dealt with in Renaissance art theory, has not been sufficiently emphasized from the viewpoint of theoretical originality which can be inferred from the artist’s biography and Chantelou’s diary. Even more remarkable are Bernini’s thoughts on the theme of the paragone between the “sister arts”, an accomplished theory of exceptional coherence, built upon the first-hand experience of the sculptor’s craft, of which it is impossible to find a lucid formulation in the previously cited sources.

DAMIAN DOMBROWSKI - Apotheosis and Mediality in Bernini’s Later Portrait Busts (pp. 165–200)

Early in his career, Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini started to convey a sense of grandeur in his sculptural portraits, experimenting with various formal solutions. With his work progressing, this tendency toward an “apotheotic” image of the sitter is corroborated by an increasing awareness and display of the very objectness of the portrait bust, eventually becoming part of the artistic concept. The problem of the “sliced figure” is not felt anymore; rather, the long standing, fundamental self-contradiction of portrait sculpture – of informing the bust with vivacity and at the same time revealing its character as an artefact – is resolved and reintegrated in terms of the Baroque aesthetics of mediacy. Therefore, the term “mediality” seems a valid descriptive category for the propensity to elucidate both the artificial and the mediating status of the artwork, in other words: of its being a medium in the fullest sense.

STEVEN F. OSTROW - (Re)presenting Francesco I d’Este: An Allegorical Still Life in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (pp. 201–216)

A large and enigmatic still life in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts presents Bernini’s Bust of Francesco I d’Este surrounded by an array of objects, including flora, fauna, and astronomical instruments. Since it entered the scholarly literature in 1902, this oil on canvas has confounded scholarly efforts to identify its author, determine the circumstances of its production, and decipher its iconography. After arguing for an attribution to the Modenese court painter Francesco Stringa, this essay contends that the painting, rather than communicating a vanitas theme – as it has been traditionally interpreted – is a highly charged political image, one that celebrates the virtuous rule of Francesco I and the continuity of that rule under his son and successor, Alfonso IV, who likely commissioned the painting in 1660.

PHILIPPE JUNOD - Retour sur l’Europe chinoise (pp. 217–258)

A Return to Europe chinoise

While the different forms of chinoiserie in the eighteenth century and of japanism in thenineteenth century have been the subjects of innumerable publications, the contribution of the Orient to the preceding periods has generally been obscured by historians of Western art. Is this real blind spot the fruit of ignorance, or is it the sign of an anachronistic and Eurocentric chauvinism?
This paper first recalls the importance and frequency of secular contactsalong the Silk Route travelled by missionaries and merchants. The two subsequent casehistory studies illustrate the phenomena both ofhybridisation and of crossbreeding which result in formal borrowings. In the first, thepresence of clouds or Chinese mountains in landscape paintings in Europefrom the fifteenth century onward testifies to the migrations from East to West. The second concerns the architectural motif of the door in the shape of amonster’s mouth in the garden of Bomarzo and in the Palazzo Zuccari in Rome, and argues that this too seems to come from an exotic iconographic source, in this case, that ofthe Indonesian kala.

LARS BLUNCK - “Purely Optical Things”? On Marcel Duchamp’s Precision Optics (pp. 259–274)

While Rosalind Krauss has argued that Marcel Duchamp’s so-called Precision Optics is concerned with what she called an “erotic theatre”, this paper attempts to demonstrate that it was primarily artistic questions, or rather art historical ones, which were the motivation behind Duchamp’s series of works collated by the term Optique de précision. The argument is that in the title, Precision Optics, which was to be understood as ironic, Duchamp was seeking to address the theoretical foundations of one of the history of painting’s most fundamental means of representation, so-called linear perspective. The question that concerned Duchamp may well have been something like this: how is an actual impression of spatial depth achievable by means of a blocked, monocular gaze? Or, in other words: how is the ‘promise of linear perspective’, that is the creation of ‘illusionary’ spatial depth frontal, perceived with a blocked, monocular viewpoint, to be resolved in the form of a sketch drawn in linear perspective? It is an ‘illogical’ basis for enquiry, since it is based on a-rational premises and yet it is an original, artistic one. This paper shows that in his precision optical works Duchamp was involved with playing with the cardinal problems of the history of painting.

RINA ARYA - The Primal Cry of Horror: The a-theology of Francis Bacon (pp. 275–284)

In statements about his work Bacon makes many anti-religious, and more specifically, anti-Christian statements. However, what is paradoxical is that although these statements are unequivocally disparaging about the Christian faith, in his art work he is not only drawn to but is utterly preoccupied with the symbols of Christianity, in particular those of the Crucifixion and the Pope. I want to account for his prolific and indeed obsessive use of the symbol of the Crucifixion in his work. Was he employing the Crucifixion in a conventional way to support the Christian narrative, or was he subverting or inverting its meaning?
I am positing two traditions, a ‘Christian’ tradition (as denoted by the phrase ‘right-way up’), which is predetermined by the narrative of resolution and salvation, as typified by the Resurrection and is represented here by Grünewald’s Crucifixion panel from the Isenheim Altarpiece (in Colmar, c. 1515–1516, see Fig. 2) and the other tradition, which is represented by Bacon’s seminal work, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944), which I will describe as an ‘inversion’, where the (bodily)fragments of the Crucifixion do not partake in a salvation in the sense of being made whole, but remain as fragments.
It is too simplistic to regard Bacon’s continual employment of religious symbols solely from the perspective of (expressing his) unbelief. A more radical interpretation would suggest that Bacon is employing these symbols to further his alternative spiritual message. Bacon’s redeployment of the symbol to communicate to a twentieth century audience constitutes what I have identified as a ‘partial reversion’. In other words, Bacon is using the symbol of the Crucifixion not to uphold the Christian narrative, nor to express his atheism but to convey spiritual truths about the human condition that are pertinent to his day. In his ‘partial reversion’, what I have referred to as his ‘a-theology’, Bacon takes the viewer to arguably the holiest moment in the Christian narrative, the desertion of Christ at the foot of the Cross. However, it is only a ‘partial’ and not a full reversion because we are left contemplating the pain and suffering of humankind without the promise of redemption through salvation.

ZDZISŁAW ŻYGULSKI JR. - The Szczerbiec. The Polish Coronation Sword (pp. 285–310)

The Szczerbiec (literally the “Jagged Sword” or “Notched Sword”) is the coronation sword that was used in crowning ceremonies of most kings of Poland from 1320 to 1764, and the only preserved piece of Polish Crown Jewels, kept at the treasure vault of Wawel Royal Castle in Cracow.
The enormous literature on the Szczerbiec, that has come into existence since the 1870s, can roughly be divided into two camps: the works of authors who have accepted the authenticity of the Szczerbiec kept at Wawel Royal Castle and the publications of those who have doubts or are decidedly in favour of its inauthenticity.
Building on the connection between the symbols on the Szczerbiec and the emblems used by the Knights Templar and the Rosicrucians, proved by R. T. Prinke, the present paper suggests that the sword could have originated with the Knights Templar, thus returning to the opinion of Jean Tastou, the archaeologist working in the service of Anatole Demidov, one of the nineteenth-century owners of the Szczerbiec. In the thirteenth century, besides the Teutonic Knights, the Knights Templar also had their holdings of land in Poland, and it was they who defended their new country against attack by the Mongols in 1241. They had close relations to the Piast dukes and it is highly probable that, after being put down in dramatic fashion, as a result of interference on the part of King Philip the Fair, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, they handed over their ceremonial sword to one of the Piast dukes.