Category Archives: Fine Arts

Assessing creativity

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Andrea del Sarto: Portrait of a Young Man (c.1517-1518)

From the transcript of an early research assessment exercise in the field of art history: ‘Professor Vasari, would you like to lead off for the panel on the work of Andrea del Sarto? I see he is currently exhibiting those odd drawings of his in New York.’ ‘Thank you, Chair, yes, at the Frick. Ah, the divine Andrea! Not the truly divine, I should say at once …. a certain timidity of spirit … a lack of elaboration perhaps, even of grandeur … a rare spirit of course ..’ ‘Yes, yes, Professor, fewer words and more numbers, please: what would you give him – 4* world-leading quality or is he just an ordinary 2* internationally-recognised chappie?’ ‘Difficult, Chair, such an odd fellow, prefers Florence to Paris, but certainly a scholar, a master of sfumato too. Perhaps the panel might consider a 3*?’. ‘Thank you, Professor. Our consultant, Professor Rowland, has been rather more generous about his work. Sublime, she says, exhilarating too…’

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Venetian Old Master Drawings, and a Contemporary Response, at the Ashmolean, Oxford

Sally Grant   New York

Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (1682-1754), Head of a Youth, Ashmolean Museum

Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (1682-1754), Head of a Youth © Ashmolean Museum

A major early-modern Venetian drawing exhibition has opened at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Focusing on works from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, Titian to Canaletto: Drawing in Venice should be a visual delight. Considering other recent exhibitions on this subject in Venice, LA, and New York (both in 2012 and 2013-14, as reviewed here), however, the museum’s emphasis on its “ground breaking” attention to the role drawing played for Venetian artists is perhaps a tad overstated. Nevertheless, when it comes to the art of Venice, the more shows the merrier.

This is particularly the case when exhibitions bring to view drawings that are often sequestered in archives away from the public’s gaze. Each opportunity to look closely at such works brings with it the chance of new understanding of aspects of art and humanity. And unlike the previously mentioned exhibitions, where the works were all drawn from US collections, the Ashmolean is displaying its own drawings alongside loans from the Uffizi in Florence and Oxford’s Christ Church. This will create the UK’s first prominent exhibition devoted to the drawings of the Venetian Old Masters.

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Site of Resistance: The Popular Piety of Santa Maria delle Carceri in Prato

 Shannon Gilmore   University of California, Santa Barbara

260px-Prato,_Santa_Maria_delle_CarceriThis summer I enjoyed a month-long sojourn in Florence to expand my dissertation project on Central Italian miraculous image cults established in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, specifically the cult of Santa Maria delle Carceri in Prato. My trip got off to a promising start: I had the good fortune to attend the special mass marking the anniversary of Santa Maria delle Carceri’s first miracle. I was immediately grateful that I had arrived early to snag a seat, as the interior of Giuliano da Sangallo’s church was bursting at the seams with the faithful whose eyes were fixed on the miraculous image of the Virgin and Child with Saints Leonard and Stephen (c. 1350) above the high altar. The cult’s continuing significance to the diocese of Prato was immediately evident as a television cameraman ducked in and out of the tightly packed crowd to capture a perfect shot of the bishop who proudly wore a vestment bearing a screen-printed copy of the Marian image.

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Jo-Anne Duggan Essay Prize 2015

Jo-Anne Duggan Essay Prize PosterWe are delighted to announce the outcome of the inaugural Jo-Anne Duggan Essay Prize sponsored by ACIS. The winner is Sally Grant, ECR (PhD, University of Sydney, 2013) for her essay on ‘The Eighteenth-Century Experience of the Veneto Country House: Andrea Urbani’s Decoration of Villa Vendramin Calergi’s Room of the Gardens’. Two entrants were highly commended: Crystal Filep (PhD candidate, University of Otago) for her creative work and exegesis ‘Intersection Unbounded’ and Kyra Giorgi, ECR (PhD, La Trobe University, 2013) for her essay ‘La speranza: Spaces of hoping, waiting and dreaming in Italian migration’.  The Panel for the Prize has provided the following summaries of the three entries …. Continue reading

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William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain (under Italian influence)

Sally Grant   New York

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Chiswick House with statue of Palladio © Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth

Anyone heading to London in the next couple of months or so may want to check out the current exhibition being held at the V&A, William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain. While the title itself doesn’t convey any obvious Italian links, like so many others who made the Grand Tour during the eighteenth century, Kent was very much influenced by the art and culture of Italy. This is especially thought-provoking here as the organisers present Kent, who was a painter, designer, and architect, as integral to the development of a style of art that reflected the ideals of a new, Georgian, British nation. (The exhibition is one of a number of events this year that celebrate the 300th year anniversary of the Hanoverian accession to the throne in 1714.)

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Riflessi di immagini: Magico 2014

Edda Orlandi   Università degli Studi di Milano

Le lettrici e i lettori affezionati ricorderanno che già lo scorso anno si parlò di Magico e di San Felice sul Panaro in questo blog. L’edizione di quest’anno si è svolta la scorsa domenica 23 marzo e io c’ero per raccontarvela, accompagnata anche da un volenteroso fotografo e una gioiosa assistente fotografa che hanno immortalato per noi gli straordinari personaggi arrivati dalla Parigi e dalla Provenza fine ottocentesche a San Felice, per portarne le strade e le piazzette dentro dei quadri impressionisti.Locandina orizzontale 400px

Su di loro lascio parlare i “riflessi di immagini” e le didascalie che trovate qui sotto. Quello che non c’è nelle fotografie sono invece gli ottimi gnocchi fritti e frittelle salate serviti dall’efficientissimo gruppo scout locale (mai ristoro di fiera fu meglio organizzato), le gentili signore del banchetto con le cartoline e l’annullo postale, le simpaticissime bariste del caffè dietro la Rocca, i negozietti tenacemente mandati avanti nei container post-terremoto, i fiori di carta color lavanda a decorare il grazioso paesuzzo, la drogheria-latteria di via Mazzini, la nuvola di pioggia arrivata a mezzora dall’inizio della manifestazione a rovinar quasi la festa (ma poi l’è scappata subito, veh!). Insomma, come non accorrere ancora più numerosi il prossimo anno?

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Eighteenth-Century Venetian Drawings in New York

Sally Grant   New York

tiepolo_1997_27_2The recent post on Angelo Cattaneo’s upcoming paper got me thinking about Venice. Having recently completed my PhD at the University of Sydney on eighteenth-century Venetian gardens and villa culture, the city and its territory are never far from my thoughts. Recently, however, I was lucky enough to see a wonderful exhibition, ‘Tiepolo, Guardi, and Their World: Eighteenth-Century Venetian Drawings’, at the Pierpont Morgan Library in NYC, where I now live.

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‘Gabriele D’Annunzio never met an adverb he didn’t like’

TLS_Beard_396117kThat’s the opening sentence of a review by Joseph Luzzi of a recent translation of D’Annunzio’s Pleasure in this week’s Times Literary Supplement (3 Jan 2014). Apart from this review which chimes in with the recent post on D’Annunzio by Stefano Bragato, the issue has other pieces of interest to Italianists. Focusing on the relation between art and power, Mary Beard compares the celebrations of the 2000th anniversary of the birth (63 BC) of Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, by Mussolini in 1937 (the Mostra Augustea della Romanità) with the current exhibition in Rome to celebrate the 2000th anniversary of his death (14 AD), more soberly entitled Augusto. Then Joe Farrell reviews a translation of The Childhood Memories and Other Stories by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (the author said that no one would ever read those memories, sharing the misplaced confidence of many writers that their juvenilia, private correspondence and laundry lists will never be made public). And, for comparative literature specialists, there is also an extended review of Franco Moretti’s two recent books, Distant Reading and The Bourgeois.

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ACIS Cassamarca scholarship awards for 2014

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ACIS congratulates Stefano Bona (Flinders University) and Esther Theiler (La Trobe University) on the award of ACIS Cassamarca scholarships for research in Italy in 2014. Stefano’s PhD research topic is the representation of China in Italian film since 1949 and its cultural, economic and ideological implications. Esther’s work, also for a PhD, concerns the analysis of portrait painting in Italy in the 17th century, using paleographic and linguistic skills to interpret archival materials. The competition for the awards was particularly strong this year, and the ACIS Scholarships Committee wishes to put on record the very high quality of all the applications and its regret that it could make only two awards.

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Of Coffee, Cakes, and an Obligatory Saint

Catherine Kovesi  University of Melbourne

Bassrelief of San Martino on the Oratory of the Scuola of San Martino

Bassrelief of San Martino on the Oratory of the Scuola of San Martino

Throughout most of the westernised world we have just celebrated the festival of Halloween. Each year many protest the intrusion of what they see as an Americanised festival into their indigenous traditions, and it did look a little anachronistic here in Venice to see Halloween paraphernalia in many shop windows. But now, barely a fortnight later, the windows are full of paraphernalia for a different and delightful festival here in the city, one with many similarities to Halloween in the ways in which it is celebrated by the children of Venice, but which is completely enmeshed in Venetian tradition. This is the Feast of San Martino, celebrated on 11 November for at least three centuries now.

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