Feminine, Masculine, Grazia, non so che!

Feminine, Masculine, Grazia, non so che!

Christina will be our guide on this article. What an interesting way to end the semester! What follows are a few of my queries:

1. What is the paregone as you understand it?
2. What were Titian and Michelangelo “jousting” about during the period this article covers?
3. What did Castiglione mean by “a certain circumspect dissimulation” and how does this concept come into play in the visual arts?
4. What was the hierarchy of the senses during this period?
5. Can you think of art works in which the viewer is knowingly deceived by the artist? When paintings simulate sculpture, for example?
6. Many contemporary male artists seem to have intuited the content of Bronzino’s “Del pennello.” What is the general theme of his burlesque poem?
7. Discuss the idea of artifice itself as a vehicle for the erotic.
8. How would you define non so che?
9. How was mimesis viewed during the cinquecento?
10. Do you think the gender bending/blending of these works of art stem from Plato’s Symposium?
11. To seem rather than to be. Dangerous Beauty. The artifice of representation! Discuss

Michelangelo’s Laocoon?

Or should we say Jessica’s Laocoon? Following are questions Jessica has culled from the article for Monday’s reading. Blog away!

1)Catterson states that the Laocoön was instantly recognized as the work described in Pliny’s account being “preferable to any other production of the art of painting or of statuary,” even though the sculpture contrasts Pliny’s account (made of 7 pieces instead of 1). Do you think Renaissance audiences were oblivious to this fundamental difference, or were they willing to disregard it for the sake of the discovery?
2)On page 35, Catterson presents a rather provocative theory concerning Michelangelo’s rapid disappearance from Rome only 3 weeks after the discovery. Were you convinced by this, or did you think it was a bit of a stretch?
3)Catterson suggests the difficulties of recognizing forgeries is attributable to the “stylistically anti-personal” nature of the works. In light of this, what do you think the theoretical process was for identifying forgeries during the Italian Renaissance? To what extant did the paranoia for forgeries exist during the period?
4)Hypothetically speaking, what do you think Michelangelo and other Renaissance artists would have gained from engaging with forgery? Was this a serious crime?
5)Overall, did you find Catterson’s argument to be a convincing one, why or why not?


This is one of my very favorite articles. I will lead the discussion of this article on Thursday. Here are some questions to ponder:
1. This article reinforces many of the themes that we have discussed so far in this course, particularly the lack of neutrality of the gaze. Through what methodological lenses does Simons view the issue of gender in profile portraits created in the Renaissance?
2. The portraits in this article are seen in the context of the display culture of Quattrocento Florence. Discuss.
3. In the discussion of woman as an object of exchange, her appearance was carefully calculated to foster her transfer at the time of marriage; I found the comparison of the profile portrait to a still life positively chilling because it was so apt!
4. Wives and nuns, the only two Quattrocento options for women, both defined women in relationship to a male. How do these portraits perpetuate this system or contradict it?
5. What led to the eventual demise of the profile portrait?
6. On p. 15 Simons states: “Visual art…both shared and shaped social language and need not be seen as a passive reflection of pre-determining reality. For the representation of women, the profile form, and its particulars were well suited to the construction, rather than reflection, of an invisible ‘reality’.” In what other art historical cases has this been demonstrated?
7. It strikes me as ironic that the origins of the profile portrait are traced to dead men and male rulers. What has the female appropriation done to the prototype.
8. Are all portraits “anatomizing” in the end?
9. There is so much in this article to discuss!!! The optic fear of the woman’s gaze, the Medusa syndrome, the forced passivity of these portraits, and then calling Dr. Freud!
10. Do you see any danger in discussing these portraits in light of scopophilia, castration anxieties, fetishisation, or the proto-panopticon?

Alberti: Is a picture worth a 1000 words?

Alberti: Is a picture worth a 1000 words?

Shan Shan will be our leader for this article however, I don’t seem to be able to stay out of the water! Here are a few queries:

1. Alberti’s treatise On Painting was one of the most influential works of the Renaissance. He imbues the art of painting with amazing powers of persuasion….but can the rhetoric of painting hold its own against that of speech?
2. Why does Alberti use descriptions of ancient paintings to describe the power of art and particularly the historia? Just because this is the Renaissance…..
3. Does it necessarily follow that if words are the domain of the invisible, that painting is the realm of the visible? In other words, do you agree with the author’s position regarding Alberti’s “protesting too much” about the exclusivity of these two worlds?
4. What are Alberti’s expectations of his audience? Do you feel that he requires too much of the viewer?
5. Apelles’ Calumny intersected with both his and Alberti’s personal history. Do you think this influenced Alberti’s use of this work as a vehicle to explain the principles of painting in his treatise?
6. What does Marin wish to underscore in suggesting that historical painting erases the deictic circumstances of discourse—or the distinction between the painter and the beholder? What is Alberti’s position as the voice behind the curtain?
7. Is the intervention of words always necessary to save images from themselves?

The Nuns of S. Apollonia and Castagno’s Last Supper!

The Nuns of S. Apollonia and that Virile Castagno!

Camille will be our leader for this article on audience reception, the role of gender in patronage in the Quattrocento, and how style intersects with these two issues in the Last Supper fresco in the fresco of the Refectory of S. Apollonia in Florence. Naturally, I have some questions!

1. Do you agree with the author in assigning the choice of the artist of this fresco to the abbess of A. Apollonia? Is the evidence compelling in your opinion?
2. What were the other functions of the refectory and how did the iconography of the frescoes intersect with the uses of this space?
3. The profusion of females in the Passion scenes above the Last Supper is singled out as having special relevance for the nuns in the convent. Do you think this is true?
4. What is the relationship between women, food, the Eucharist, and Castagno’s rendering of the Last Supper?
5. Do you agree that Castagno’s hard-edged, “virile” style is in a sense a fulfillment of the patron’s wishes for this refectory Last Supper? Why or why not?
6. Why was virility a virtue, as it were, for the nuns of S. Apollonia?
7. In what way did the tenor of Castagno’s fresco correspond to the punishments sometimes endured by the nuns who failed to follow the Benedictine rules?
8. In what way is Mary “present” in the Last Supper according to the author?
9. Do you agree with the author’s reading of the marble panels in the fresco of the Last Supper?
10. Have women always sought a “place setting” at the Last Supper in both art and life? Discuss!

Manipulating the Sacred …..again!

Manipulating the Sacred…..again!

Merry will be our guide through this article on the recurrent outbreak of the Bubonic plague and the saints invoked to save the day. Be ready to identify your favorite plague saint!

1. What relationship did Millard Meiss suggest existed between the Black Death and the art that it engendered?
2. In what ways are Trexler, Johnson, and this author alike in their views about images and how they operate? How do they differ?
3. Why does Sebastian’s status as a “two-time loser” qualify him as the plague saint “extraordinaire!” ?
4. Why is the manner in which Sebastian portrayed a “supernatural contradiction” and why did this offer such hope to plague sufferers?
5. What did St. Roch have going for him as a plague saint? The Madonna della Misericordia?
6. Did Christ/God’s vindictiveness surprise you?
7. When did the Virgin become a Feminist and what was the source of her transformation? What is the source of her power?
8. Unpack the fresco painted by Benozzo Gozzoli in 1464 for the Augustinians of San Gimignano (p. 527). Why is this such an extraordinary image?
9. How did images function in the Renaissance during the intermittent outbreaks of the plague?

Activating the Effigy!

Here are Hannah’s Questions:

1) Why do you think Johnson chose this particular work (Donatello’s Floor Tomb of Bishop Giovanni Pecci) to illustrate her argument?

2) How might this work interact with Duccio’s Maesta? How do they influence each other’s meaning?

3) Would the holiness of the tomb and the “perpetual mass” (455) lose their effectiveness or be somehow diminished if members of the general public viewed the tomb on a regular basis? Why or why not?

4) Do you think Donatello’s main focus in this work (Pecci tomb) was facilitating an ongoing mass for the bishop’s soul? Or, do you think this was one of several factors he took into consideration? Why or why not?

5) Would Masses said for Pecci be more significant if they did not occur automatically and one had to make an explicit effort to conduct them?

6) How would one’s interpretation of this work be different if it were in a different environment, like another part of the cathedral or in a different kind of building?

7) Feel free to leave a comment about anything else that confused or surprised you. I’ll try to work these into our in-class discussion.

The Guilds of Florence & Activating the Effigy!

Remember that Monday Dr. Manes will lead us in a discussion of the Guild system in Florence; the reading is posted on Moodle. On Weds. Hannah will lead us in a discussion of Donatello’s Pecci tomb effigy. Below are just a few questions to start the discussion.
1. Like Trexler’s article, Johnson posits an active role for the audience in the reception of the Pecci tomb. How do these authors differ in their approach to the public, as it were?
2. In what ways, if at all, does Donatello’s tomb effigy complement the funeral rituals performed at Pecci’s death?
3. Does Donatello make time stand still, as it were, in this monument? Had this ever been achieved in art before?
4. How is the viewer implicated in this tomb monument? Isn’t the viewer implicated in all sculpture, if it is effective?
5. What was considered prime real estate in the church as far as burial sites were concerned?
6. What were some of the strategies employed to garner salvation during the Renaissance?

The Sacred Image and Florentine Religious Experience…..

Here are Sally’s Questions:
1) Why does Trexler value the study of religious behavior? How can this emphasis on the anthropology of religious art and the psychology of art audiences in the religious world help our understanding of the Renaissance?

2) How does Trexler write about assumption limiting our understanding of the religious image-faithful in the periods discussed? What assumptions should be avoided? What assumptions does Trexler make himself about the Italian religious population?

3) Discuss the way the Nostra Dama of Impruneta is used as an example to show the interaction between image and supplicant. How does the manipulation or altering of legal codes reflect the changing value of the religious image? Does the value of the religious image change at all over time based on the change in legal language?

4) Of the effects of the appearance of the Nostra Dama of Impruneta, why does Trexler discuss psychological positivity? How was she used or could she be used in that way? What was the benefit of her presence in that respect? Why is this even important as it pertains to holy/sacred/important art in Florence.

The Sacred Image and Florentine Religious Experience….

Sally will be our guide for this article, however, here are just a few queries to begin the discussion…
1. How was the Madonna employed by the Florentines and what does that tell us about their conception of the agency of sacred power? In other words, how did the image of the Virgin wield power?
2. To worship an image without virtu was idol worship. Discuss.
3. What do Our Lady of Impruneta and Tinkerbell have in common?
4. What is the paradigm shift that occurs between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance? Why does the focus shift to the patron of the holy?
5. Whether saint or hero, the image has a tremendous effect on the formation of consciousness. Is this still true? Does art deepen our communion with the world?