An examination of the cultural landscape preceding the official birth of iconology provides a rich and varied picture in which diverse critical tendencies merge and diverge. Even today, the exchange of ideas during this period can provide useful insights to help clarify the discussion of critical theory.
The work of Jan Białostocki, which reflects the Polish scholar’s open-mindedness, breadth of interests, and attention to the necessity of reconsidering perspectives in terms of contemporary art, offers an interpretation of iconology in which the contradictions between iconology and formalism, as developed by Panofsky, are absent. Moreover, Białostocki’s interpretation of iconology furnishes an opportunity to consider several themes of the iconographic method in relation to formal problems, without confusion and freed from extraneous polemics.
The Ouattrocento fresco series of uomini famosi in the Sala del Consiglio of the Palazzo del Comune in Lucignano shows that, although the frescoes were painted at different times during the century and commissioned by various patrons (whose names are recorded in the surviving inscriptions), Dante is consistently the source of their iconography. Among the biblical and Classical heroes depicted, the appearance of the Byzantine emperor Justinian, unique in Famous Men cycles, can be explained by Paradiso VI, where Dante describes him as having restored the glory and importance of Rome. Moreover, according to Dante, by promoting the coexistence of spiritual and temporal law under God, Justinian showed that the Romans were God’s chosen people. At Lucignano, the virtuous heroes of the ancient past and the Roman world melt into the Christian empire, forming an indissoluble unity.
Few legal chambers have survived relatively intact from the early Italian Renaissance. The decoration of the example in Lucignano reflects extraordinary ambition, presenting the only known surviving illustrated synthesis of Dante’s views. A small Tuscan commune thus put forward the poet’s conception of justice, as opposed to the narrower tradition of "buon governo" established in the neighboring Republic of Siena.
The conception of Leonardo da Vinci’s cartoon of Isabella d’Este in the Louvre is exam-ined, first by contrast to the artist’s psychological rendering of the Lady with the Ermine (Cecilia Gallerani) in Cracow, and then in light of Isabella’s cultural aspirations, which lent a classical aura to her portrait.
The article seeks to establish a close relationship between Michelangelo and Cardinal Francesco Alidosi, papal legate and governor of Bologna under Julius II, who was an impor-tant intermediary between the artist and the pope. Alidosi, Julius’s most trusted advisor, was murdered by none other than the pope’s nephew, Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke of Ur-bino. According to most contemporary reports, Alidosi was a thoroughly despicable character and his murder was met with relief by many.
Whatever weaknesses he exhibited in private life, Alidosi as a patron kept abreast of the newest directions in art. Michelangelo sought his intervention in the famous disagreement with Julius during which the artist left Rome in a huff, and there seems to have been a regular correspondence between the two men. Their most remarkable—and hitherto unnoticed—contact revolved around the commissioning of the Sistine Chapel ceiling decoration. By Michelangelo’s testimony, Alidosi actually wrote out the contract (now lost) in his own hand. This article proposes that Alidosi prepared the first comprehensive program for the ceiling, or at least collaborated on it with Michelangelo.
At Trinita dei Monti, Elena Orsini commissioned one of the most famous chapels in mid-sixteenth-century Rome from Daniele da Volterra—not only as an act of piety but also as a means of legitimization, for she was the illegitimate daughter of Archbishop Aldobrandini Orsini. She carefully orchestrated patronage, iconography, and the selection of early Church sources and Counter-Reformation ideas to establish her right to the Orsini name, and to reveal something about herself in the process.
It has usually been assumed that Caravaggio reworked his Martyrdom of St. Matthew in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome, because he was dissatisfied with the composition. In his second version, however, there is a significant change in the picture’s iconography, which departs from the more traditional aspects of the known biography of the apostle.
Three male nudes appear in the lower section of the redone painting. These have been variously labeled repoussoirs or neophytes seated in a baptismal pool, the water of which is no longer discernible. In support of a baptismal setting, this article reviews evidence derived from the contracts for the picture, as well as from an analysis of apostles’ vitae, rules for the design of baptismal chapels, and ritual practices prevalent in Caravaggio’s time. By conflating baptism and martyrdom in his composition, Caravaggio linked death with spiritual rebirth –an appropriate theme for the burial chapel in which the painting hangs.
Before the Second World War, Jan Steen’s painting The Drawing Lesson was understood somewhat naively as a straightforward documentary record of actual studio practice in seven-teenth-century Holland. During the last forty years, the picture has come increasingly to be interpreted as a noble allegory of painting and of art education. This article suggests that the picture is deeply ironic. Steen gently ridicules the foppish, overdressed painter who, like the purblind physician in Steen’s many versions of The Doctor’s Visit, remains unaware of his pupils’ emotions: the young boy falling in love with pretty lady at the very moment when she herself is jolted of her innocence by the revelation of uncensored masculinity in the statuette on the table. The painting depicts a rite of passage without ritual pomp, with all the surround-ing paraphernalia providing the requisite authenticity along with plentifuluf further ironies.
The theme of the sleeping woman in art is investigated from a perspective which reopens questions about how artists at different times have represented woman asleep, and what this depiction reveals about the relationship between women and men. The prehistoric image of woman is analyzed in the Sleeping Lady from the Hypogeum in Malta, and the image of an-tiquity in poems by Propertius and the Ariadne in the Vatican Museums. Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus in Dresden is related to the image from antiquity, but at the same time represents a newly defined ideal in terms of wedding symbolism. A separate theme, also originating in an-tiquity and appearing with many variations in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is the sleeping woman watched by men. The modern depiction of sleeping women takes on a more strongly yoyeuristic aspect in works by Gustave Courbet and Johann Baptist Reiter, and also in early photography; but in works by Redon and Brancusi the cosmic reverberations return. Since 1960, completely new perspectives have been opened in performance art, in which women dominate the scene and, for the first time since prehistory, give a female identity to the image of sleeping women. Works by Lygia Clark, Yayoi Kusama, Colette, Natalia Ll, Rimma Gerlovina, Valie Export, and Ulrike Rosenbach are examined in this article.
In this article in honor of the late Jan Białostocki, the author investigates the long-forgotten career of Alexandre Ubelesqui, a Parisian-born artist of Polish origin who was active in Rome from 1673 until his death in 1718. Although information on his family background appears to be all but nonexistent, it is possible to trace Ubelesqui’s artistic development from his training at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Paris and the French Academy in Rome, to his appointment as a professor at the Accademia di San Luca in 1695, and his participation in numerous exhibitions.
From the paintings and drawings which the author has rediscovered, Ubelesqui’s style can nów be defined. He is shown to have been a skillful draughtsman and deft narrator, highly versatile in his choice of subjects and techniques. A loyal collaborator of Charles Le Brun, after the master’s death in 1690, Ubelesqui assured himself a place among the painters of his time, in the shadow of La Fosse, Jouvenet, Boulogne, and Coypel.
The chalice-shaped font in St. Cassian’s church at Chaddesley Corbett, Worcestershire, serves as the departure point for a discussion of the sources of certain unusual features in Ro-manesque sculptural ornamentation. On this font, a work of the Herefordshire School from the second quarter of the twelfth century, the heads of the monsters have Italian counterparts, but the intertwining tails and the bands that loop round these tails, thereby strangling the beasts, are of ancient Germanic origin. The Saxon settlement brought the motif to England where it flourished, later influencing such continental works as the Tassilo Chalice, made for the abbey of Kremsmünster. Another, even more savage Germanic motif is the penetration of forms: animals pierced by their own tails, tongues, legs, or by interlacing bands of ornament are common in Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian art of the Romanesque period.