Same Old Things? Re-Telling the Italian Renaissance - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Same Old Things? Re-Telling the Italian Renaissance

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Renaissance Postgraduate Symposium, Research Forum
Renaissance Postgraduate Symposium

Same Old Things? Re-Telling the Italian Renaissance

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Vernon Square, Penton Rise, Kings Cross, London

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Marcello Maloberti, Trionfo dell’Aurora (2018), courtesy of the artist and Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan

Organised by

  • Giulio Dalvit - The Courtauld Institute of Art
  • Adriana Concin - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Even today, the history of art is largely dominated by narratives that are for the most part style-based. They tell a story that is teleological, ever-progressive, and structured around influential artistic centres. Within this framework, the role of individual objects shifts depending on how they fit into the broader narrative that they articulate visually. By focusing on the objects and their potential to fashion and dictate stories, a different narrative is likely to emerge.

This conference seeks to identify individual objects, or small sets of objects, which have the potential to destabilise canonical art-historical narratives of Italian art. We are not looking for an alternative Renaissance — instead, we want to ask whether a different story can be told for the same, old things. In the last few decades, art historians have reevaluated  the position of understudied works of art in an increasingly de-centred, non-linear history of art. Certain interpretative frameworks, such as queer or feminist approaches, that laudably seek to interrupt conventional readings of objects, have had modest consequences for their placement within a historical narrative, often because they seek to disrupt that narrative in the first place. Sometimes objects themselves show the insufficiency of traditional critical tools to do them justice. But seldom have newly-developed critical tools been used to renegotiate the historical framing of those objects that have long stood at the core of the Western canon.

Having long questioned the exceptionality granted Italian Renaissance art by the founding fathers of art history, academia has not yet modified radically the way we tell the story of the cornerstones of any Western museum. As a consequence, academic discourse has grown increasingly distant from museum spaces. On the whole, museums have not rejected the comforting principles of order inherent in traditional narratives, of which they are sometimes the unyielding outposts. Arguably, they also struggle to balance object-based displays with the disruption of narrative frameworks typical of recent academic discourse. As a result, celebratory, unwavering views of the Italian Renaissance have proved remarkably resilient among the general public.

Further information, programme and booking details will be soon available.

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