Pastoral Fellowship and the Performance of Virtuosity in Titian’s Concert Champêtre

Speaker: Chriscinda Henry, Associate Professor of Art History, McGill University

This talk places Titian’s Concert Champêtre (ca. 1509–11) within the context of elite domestic leisure in early sixteenth-century Venice. In particular, it explores the combined role of sociable gathering, theatrical performance, music making, and art collection in the establishment of a new mode of self-fashioning and generational distinction on the part of young Venetian patricians and the virtuosi they patronized. In his book on the young Titian, Paul Joannides sensibly hypothesized that Titian’s painting registers the allusive portrait likenesses of its patron, to date unidentified, in the figure of the seated lutenist, while Jaynie Anderson and others have observed that this young man wears the uniform of one of the Compagnie della calza (Companies of the Hose), the hyper-elite fraternal youth societies that distinguished Venetian festive culture during the Renaissance. Through identification of the specific company, this talk more precisely considers the implications of this act of pictorial self-insertion. Following from Jonathan Unglaub’s sensitive delineation of the values and ideals demonstrated by elite patrician youths during the critical early years of the War of Cambrai (1509–1511), I examine the cultural pursuits of the Compagnie della calza and their social engagement with virtuosi through the pastoral mode, including visual artists, musicians, and courtesans. The shepherd maschera adopted by elites and virtuosi alike provided the ideal vehicle for a liberating, poetic form of self-expression steeped in classical culture, which was enacted at banquets, feste, theatrical performances, and likely also in the more intimate context of the ridotto (an informal salon-like gathering in the home). Illustrated books and artworks in a variety of media in turn visualized and preserved this pastoral fantasy world and its homosocial bonds within the homes of collectors.

Chriscinda Henry is Associate Professor of Art History at McGill University. Her research focuses on the relationship between art, recreation, and festivity in Renaissance Italy. Before joining the faculty at McGill, she was ACLS/Mellon Postdoctoral fellow at Yale University and Visiting Assistant Professor of Renaissance and Baroque Art History at Oberlin College. Her recent work has been supported by Villa I Tatti / The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies (Hanna Kiel fellow, 2016-2017), the Fonds de Recherche du Québec, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. 

Organised by Dr Irene Brooke (The Courtauld) 

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3 Feb 2022

Thursday 3rd February 2022, 5.30pm - 6.30pm

Free, booking essential


Registration closes 30 minutes before the event start time. If you do not receive log in details on the day of the event, please contact  


Painting depicting figures sitting on grace, surrounded by trees, playing instruments
Titian, Pastoral Concert, c. 1509-1510, Paris, Musée du Louvre