252 x 232 mm
252 x 232 mm
Indicating Heaven: Botticelli’s Coronation of the Virgin and Mediated Imagery (pp. 9–34)
Through the analysis of a major religious painting by Botticelli, this article builds on important recent work on Botticelli’s sacred art to explore apparent responses on the part of an especially sophisticated artist to the gathering atmosphere of crisis in the city’s political and religious life. The artist uses various devices of connection or separation between the viewer/worshiper and the holy image; these devices are not unique to the painting, but their combination is exceptional. First, Botticelli uses a hieratic gold ground to distinguish a scene set in heaven, the coronation of the Virgin, from a more earthly zone; here recent scruples about the representation of transcendence seem to be in play. Second, the figures beneath, four major saints, embody different ways of addressing the viewer and mediating between him/her and the heavenly event. Third, the latter appears to be treated as an apsidal image within an implied architectural setting, in other words, as a representation of a representation. By establishing modes of mediation, then, Botticelli confronts issues emerging as central to the representation of the sacred, in part on the basis of a critical understanding of Albertian picture theory.
Botticelli and the Golden Section in the Lehman Annunciation (pp. 35–52)
Botticelli’s Lehman Annunciation, a widely admired but seldom studied painting, is constructed in a unique fashion. The painter transferred the fully developed composition from paper onto his panel by means of inscribing the details of the architectural structure with a stylus into the soft gesso. Though he often used this technique to set the general framing or placement of figures he never previously drew the entire composition in detail on the panel. This decision suggests that he was intent on the precise placement of each line in the architectural frame. The golden section, an irrational proportional relationship between two unequal dimensions, may have been partly responsible for Botticelli’s method. The dimensions of the composition as well as the placement of other elements of the architecture reflect the mathematical proportions of 1:1.618, the numerical statement of the ratio. The golden section had been known in the Quattrocento as an incidental part of Euclid’s Elements but was not separately published until Luca Pacioli’s De divina proportione of 1509. Prior to Botticelli’s Annunciation it had not appeared in paintings, efforts to prove the contrary notwithstanding. Its use here was apparently the result of a connection between Botticelli and Pacioli in Florence in 1492, a firm date for the previously undated painting. Pacioli, a Franciscan monk, believed that the golden section was an expression of the ineffable nature of God, thus his name ‘divine proportion’. Botticelli, in the sway of the charismatic mathematician, seized on the proportion as a way of expressing visually the miracle of the creation of the Son of God.
Michelangelo’s Sistine Last Judgment and Buffalmacco’s Murals in the Campo Santo of Pisa (pp. 53–78)
Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, surely the most praised and criticized painting of the Cinquecento, emerged at the threshold of the Counter-Reformation. It offers a most original interpretation of the Last Judgment that is largely focused on the prospective terrifying fate of the damned. In this respect it recalls Buffalmacco’s Last Judgment and Inferno in the Campo Santo in Pisa whose particular emphasis on the damned and hell was without precedent in the history of medieval Last Judgments. Among the many detailed correspondences in their respective compositions some are both so unusual and close that a direct connection can be assumed to have existed. Given Pisa’s proximity to Florence Michelangelo would have known the city and its monuments.
Figura Serpentinata: Becoming over Being in Michelangelo’s Unfinished Works (pp. 79–96)
It is well known that Michelangelo completed few works. Of those he did finish, the David, takes its inspiration from the conventions of classical contrapposto, that is, from the interplay of binary oppositions. The works he left in a state of non-finito, however, often exhibit a different compositional strategy, one that opts for a more complex structure. Michelangelo’s Victory, for example, seems instead to turn in upon itself, unsettling the structuralist dualities set out in the David. Historically, this twisting mass, or figura serpentinata, may have first been developed by Leonardo da Vinci or, more likely, as Lomazzo suggests, codified and then expressed in its most difficult and sophisticated form by Michelangelo himself. Such a schema describes, nonetheless, a complex torsion that provides the figure with a sense of perpetual animation, an appearance of unending motion that ultimately calls to mind a post-structuralist aesthetic, particularly that of ‘the fold’ as it is described by Giles Deleuze. This epistemological paradigm has, of course, long been associated with the work of Leibniz, but again resurfaces, albeit redefined, at the turn of the twentieth century in the work of Aby Warburg, who was fascinated by the persistence of what he called Pathosformel, a formal and existential trope that he traced from antiquity to the Renaissance and on again to modern Native American culture. The serpentine forms that he studied and that are taken up again in late twentieth century critical discourse by Deleuze are implicitly prefigured by Michelangelo’s Victory; they ultimately point to the notion of an irreducible state of becoming and make clear that the idea of completion exists as unrealizable goal.
Michelangelo, Luigi del Riccio, and the Tomb of Cecchino Bracci (pp. 97–106)
In January 1544, Michelangelo’s closest friend, Luigi del Riccio, lost his young nephew, Cecchino Bracci, who died at the tender age of fifteen. Devastated, Del Riccio begged Michelangelo to design a tomb which was carved and installed in Santa Maria in Aracoeli in Rome. Considering the depth of the well documented friendship between Michelangelo and Del Riccio, the Bracci tomb deserves closer attention. Generally, it is considered little more than a marginal work in Michelangelo’s oeuvre. Although he designed the monument, Michelangelo’s authorship is barely acknowledged, and the actual execution of the tomb is assigned (on slim evidence) to his assistant, Francesco di Bernardino Amadori, known as Urbino. However, Michelangelo’s special relationship with Luigi del Riccio prompts two questions: How could the artist not have been deeply invested in the project? And, are preconceptions about Michelangelo standing in the way of more fully appreciating this work?
The tomb features a Medici Chapel-style sarcophagus above which is a square niche with Bracci’s life-size portrait bust, flanked by inscriptions and the family coat of arms. The tomb is decorous, not ostentatious. It is an appropriately modest memorial befitting a person barely on the verge of manhood and whose main accomplishment in life was his youth. Modest creations, however, are not what we expect from Michelangelo, and partly for that reason, the Bracci tomb is easily overlooked. On the other hand, it was no small matter to be honored with a tomb by Michelangelo and buried in Santa Maria in Aracoeli, one of the most venerable churches in all of Rome.
Michelangelo was an artist who always observed decorum; he was not always an artist of terribilità. If one considers the Bracci memorial within its genre and humble purpose, then we can better appreciate Michelangelo’s achievement. Within limited parameters and with a refined sense of decorum, Michelangelo has created an affecting memorial.
What Michelangelo Learned in Bologna (pp. 107–136)
This article focuses on the year that Michelangelo spent in Bologna when he was very young and on the quantity, weight, and depth of his response to the artistic world he discovered there in 1494 and 1495. It contends that the commission for figures for the Arca di San Domenico was of greater significance for the artist than is usually acknowledged and that he was strongly affected by the art and culture of the city. The impact of the sculpture of Jacopo della Quercia and of painters of the Ferrarese school is shown to be more profound than previously acknowledged. In addition, Michelangelo’s interest in Emilian terracotta Lamentation groups, particularly that of Niccolo dell’Arca, is discussed. The continuing importance of Bolognese sources is seen in the Madonna of the Steps, for which a later date is proposed than that traditionally ascribed to it. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Bolognese sources are presented as more logical sources for the St Peter’s Pietà than the Northern Andachtsbild groups that are usually cited. Re-capturing Michelangelo’s youthful receptivity to a new city changes our understanding of his early career.
Locus calvariae: Walking and Hanging with Christ and the Good Thief, c. 1350 – c. 1700 (pp. 137–162)
This essay examines the role of images in the public stage-management of capital punishment between c. 1350 and c. 1700. The argument revolves around two broad categories of images, that is, firstly, portable images such as the tavolette of the Italian Renaissance and the northern European crucifixes, and secondly, stationary images in the form of the German fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Armsünderkreuze (literally ‘poor sinner’s crosses’) and the Dysmas statues of the Austrian Baroque. While the former were carried before the condemned criminal on his or her way to the scaffold, the latter were permanent fixtures erected either en route or on the locus infamis outside the city walls. Often featuring Passion imagery, or, as in the statues of the Good Thief Dysmas, the idealized figure of a penitent mediator, the images here under consideration were essentially conceived as dying aids, providing a form of visual anaesthesia for the condemned, while at the same time coaxing him or her into accepting their terrible fate and dying a good death. More importantly, if used in an urban context, both the Italian tavolette and the Armsünderkreuze of the German-speaking lands had the capacity to produce a kind of double image, a flickering between the streets, walls, and execution sites of a contemporary city such as Bologna or Nuremberg, and the sacred topography of Christ’s Jerusalem. In this scenario, the procession to the scaffold was transformed into a real-life Passion play in which the condemned was encouraged to play the lead role and in which the images under investigation became all-important stage props.
Between Iconology and the Cassinese Theology. The Divine Light in Correggio’s Holy Night (pp. 163–172)
Antonio Allegri da Correggio’s altarpiece depicting the Adoration of the Shepherds (1527–1530), known since the seventeenth century as Holy Night, is an incunabulum showing for the first time in monumental format the artistic illusion of darkness lit up by the body of the Christ Child. Its convincing light effects, however, were not without precursors. This can be proven by two sketches: one made around 1520 for a tapestry by the school of Raphael, attributed to Giovanni Francesco Penni; and the preparatory drawing by Giulio Romano for an unfinished painting (c. 1525) commissioned by Isabella Boschetto, the daughter-in-law of Isabella d’Este from Mantua.
Considering this background, Correggio’s altarpiece seems to tackle an artistic problem which was, so to speak, ‘in the air’. But a closer look at the Parmesan painter’s cultural environment and especially at the writings of the Congregazione Cassinese, a holy order of which the painter was a lay member since 1521, reveals that the invention of the painting has to be connected to the religious thoughts of this order.
We find a very close parallel between the iconographic meaning of the painting and the prayer book Formula orationis et meditationis, written by the founder of the Congregazione Ludovico Barbo in the first half of the fifteenth century. Here, and also in other writings by two famous members of the order, Eusebio Valentino and Isidoro Clario, we find not only light playing the fundamental role in the faith of the monks but also a highly affective character of poetry pointing to the imaginative force of meditation in the cognitive capability of the religious events. The latter might also explain the unusual highly affective artistic expression of Correggio’s paintings.
The Theater at Lyon of 1548: A Reconstruction and Attribution (pp. 173–202)
Erected in 1548 in the palace of Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, Archbishop of Lyon, the temporary theater for the entry of Henry II and Catherine de’ Medici was the first Italianate theater in France as well as the site of the first production of a modern Italian comedy in that country.
By 1548 there was an established tradition of elaborate temporary theaters built at Italian courts for dynastic or other celebrations. Ippolito d’Este was heir to the oldest of these traditions, that of Ferrara. His grandfather, Duke Ercole d’Este, had produced the first securely dated performance of a Roman comedy since antiquity in 1486 in the courtyard of his Ferrarese palace.
Thanks to a detailed description of the Lyon theater published in 1549 by an Italian identified only as F. M., we have been able to produce an approximate visual reconstruction that allows an attribution of its design to a major figure in sixteenth-century architecture (Sebastiano Serlio). Also discussed are the parallels with theatrical projects connected to Florence and the apparent influence of the Lyon theater on the design of the Uffizi.
Signed, Sealed, and Delivered: Federico Barocci’s Indulgenced Print of the Perdono (pp. 203–212)
In 1581 Federico Barocci produced a print that he signed with letters formed in perspective to look as if carved in stone. The signature is accompanied by a ten year copyright granted by the then reigning pope, Gregory XIII. Neither of these facts is out of the ordinary in any way. However, the wording of the actual brief that supports the privilege reveals an extraordinary power granted to the artist, and a rare meaning thereby imbedded in the signature.
Painted Equestrian Portraits of Louis XIV: On the Criss-crossing of Genres (pp. 213–232)
During forty years in the second half of seventeenth century, Louis XIV transformed and appropriated a traditional pattern of a portrait of power. The equestrian portrait, celebrated in European court art since the middle of the sixteenth century, became one of the incarnations of the figure of the King of France, through three models of representation successively employed by artists: a canonical model of painted equestrian portrait, then a historical contextualisation of the portrait, and eventually an allegorical or mythical image. Within those three types, there is a real variety of production. Depicting this evolution enables to consider not only the transformation of an artistic model, but also of its political appropriation. With equestrian painted portraits, painters, emulating each other, participated also in a ‘fabrication’ of an image of absolute king, military chief and ruler of the state. Subtly, the equestrian image moves the image of Louis XIV toward a timeless dimension, where his actions are not related as factual data, but as symbol of his royal quality.
Salomé to Medusa by Way of Narcissus: Moreau and Typological Conflation (pp. 233–266)
Although interpretations of Salomé in nineteenth-century scholarship abound, typically such studies focus on sensational aspects of the theme’s popularity, and re-hash routine, if relevant, interpretations. This study synthesises existing research, by considering studies of Moreau’s work that have received little scholarly attention, which show iconographic and typological conflations of the subject matter that have not been explored. Avoiding the clichéd interpretations of Salomé, this article demonstrates that her import to nineteenth-century artists and writers centred on her significance as a symbol of artistic rivalry, which was primarily kicked off in Moreau’s famous versions. Drawing from Ovidian and art-historical precedents, Moreau orchestrated a new identity for Salomé, overcoming her mortal limitations by conflating her with Narcissus and Medusa. Considering a sample of artistic responses to his work, this article demonstrates why such a conflation was necessary to meet Moreau’s artistic objectives, and how Moreau’s followers responded to his super-human version of the Biblical temptress.
Restitution Policy in Europe since 1945: Tensions between National Constructions of Memory and Politics (pp. 267–274)
In the immediate aftermath of WWII, the Western Allies and the Soviet Union formulated divergent restitution policies for art and artefacts looted during the war. This first wave of restitutions, which lasted to the beginning of 1950, was dominated by the US policy based mainly on the 1907 Hague Convention of War. While the military governments in the western occupied zones of Germany and Austria mostly adhered to these regulations, the Soviet Union and its satellite states only chose to abide by them, when it was in their interest. Interestingly enough, Western European states in the case of the so-called inner restitution also selectively ignored these regulations.
During the Cold War the successful restitution became increasingly rare. The few spectacular cases in which such restitution occurred were mostly politically motivated.
The second wave of restitutions began soon after the fall of the Berlin wall and continues until today. It tends to be initiated at two different levels. On the one hand, it has occurred at the level of nation states and their respective governments. Based on the public international law, it (mostly) concerns the mutual return of looted and/or displaced artefacts. On the other hand, the second wave also concerns the restitution of art confiscated by the Nazi regime between 1933–1945 to their rightful owners and/or heirs. While there is usually no more enforceable legal claim to these restitutions – with some exceptions – many states have decided to honour these claims since 1998 as an ethical obligation (Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art; 2009 reinforced in the Teresin Declaration).
Drawing on selected examples an article examines how national and nationalistic constructions of memory have hampered transnational efforts at restitution. An author argues that the first wave already demonstrates the seemingly irreconcilable differences in how restitution was understood in national and international contexts, whereas the second wave illustrates the interaction of the official policy in different states and the opposing national narratives on World War II and the Holocaust.
Corporeal Furnishings in the Sixties: Furniture as Art and Its Intimacy with the Body (pp. 275–288)
Twentieth century artists have frequently turned to interior furnishings as familiar objects that possess multiple meanings and thus can be manipulated in such a way as to recall personal experience yet indicate broader cultural significance. The anthropomorphic nature of many furnishings makes the chair or the bed an appropriate location for discussions of the corporeal. Using Saussure’s theory of semiotic iconography, this article identifies the broader use of the chair in history as a signifier of the human body then analyzes the multiple meanings of the chair to mid-twentieth century artists. From autobiographical readings to socio-political ones, the artists of the 1960s adopted the form of the chair to replace the corporeal human body in a time when the human body was rife with political meaning.
The Posters of the Mao Era: A Perspective of Art and Society (pp. 289–304)
In 1942, Mao Zedong delivered a speech at the famous Literature and Art Forum of Yan-an, that afterwards was published as the official guidelines of the Party’s policy on art and literature. Like his many contemporary enlightened thinkers, Mao Zedong also regarded art and literature as a means to saving the country. Mao agreed with Lenin’s viewpoint that literature should be a part of the proletariats’ enterprise, that it should form “the gears and screws” of the huge social democracy machinery run by the vanguard of the proletariat. In Mao’s view, art and literature had to enlighten the masses. Mao, however, contrary to the eighteenth-century Enlightenment in France, wanted the enlightenment not of the middle classes, but of the people who formed more than ninety percent of the Chinese population, namely the workers, peasants and soldiers. In order to propagate the Party’s political aims and enhance the cultural level of the people, certain domains of art, especially the visual arts, were the best means to fulfil the task. The visual arts were supposed to infiltrate the masses with political content in images people liked to look at with easily understood message. Because many of them had little or no education at all and a great many were illiterate, the works of art that were to serve the Party’s purposes had to be popular, direct, easy to understand, with simple messages and easy to be copied in large numbers.
After 1949, when the new China was established, Mao’s speech at the Forum became the guide for the future development of art and literature all over the country, and posters, comic strips and woodcuts came to the front, with Socialist Realism, suitable for propaganda and popularization needs, as the official theory and method of artistic and literary composition. In the art history of China, Mao’s era is a typical period of duplicating and printing, so copying is the main method to spread the artist’s work. Although the art of Mao’s era is a kind of popular art, entangled in politics, there are still some artistic values in it which deserve to be remembered.
The Prophetic Shield of John III Sobieski and the Edict of Milan (pp. 305–326)
The subject of this article, the Prophetic Shield of John III Sobieski (1629–1696), in the Princes Czartoryski Collection in Cracow, is special not only because of its significance as regards the history of Poland (which is discussed in the paper), but it is also interesting in relation to its dual connection to the Edict of Milan, issued over 1700 years ago, in 313 AD. The shield displays an episode from ancient times known as the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, an event of crucial importance for the history of Christianity, which preceded the publication of the edict. Second, in Polish historiography, John III Sobieski, who defeated the Turks at the Battle of Vienna in 1683, and the circumstances of this battle, were likened to Emperor Constantine the Great who promulgated the Edict of Milan and his Battle of the Milvian Bridge. There is another interesting coincidence: the place of origin both of the edict and the shield, decorated using assorted techniques, was Milan.