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Agenda
NIKI-conference: Material world: The intersection of art, science, and nature, in ancient literature and its Renaissance reception (Florence)
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Date:
April 20 and 21, 2018

Material World: 

The Intersection of Art, Science, and Nature

in Ancient Literature and its Renaissance Reception

 

International conference

organized by

Guy Hedreen and Michael W. Kwakkelstein

 

Florence, 20-21 April 2018

 

Istituto Universitario Olandese di Storia dell’Arte

Viale Torricelli 5 – 50125 Firenze

Tel. 055 221612

Website: www.niki-florence.org

 

The interplay between art, science, and nature in several influential ancient texts, in antiquity as well as in the early modern period, is surprisingly different from our own late modern expectations.  The most extensive surviving ancient account of the visual arts, the Naturalis Historia of Pliny, contextualizes art within a comprehensive, descriptive analysis of the natural world as a whole. The De Architectura of Vitruvius is characterized by a tension between architecture as an imitation of nature, originating in the observation of the nests of birds or bees, and architectural beauty as a function of abstract mathematical or geometric proportions. The De Rerum Natura of Lucretius describes the natural world according to a rigorous, seemingly modern, atomic theory of reality, but does so in hexameter verse and in close intertextual relation to earlier works of poetic art including Empedocles and Homer.  All of those texts were or became available in Italy during the fifteenth century, and there is an extensive record of literary and artistic response to them during the Renaissance.  In these and related texts, fields of inquiry or cultural production that became in recent times, for the most part, separate and distinct come together in ways that are not only surprising but also potentially useful today, as we reevaluate our relationships to the natural world. By taking a multi-disciplinary approach, the papers in this conference attempt to recover something of the dynamic discursive relationships between art, science, and nature that animate the ancient texts as well as their Renaissance reception. In our choice of texts, we hope to make a useful contribution to the present interest in materialistic theories of art and knowledge. This conference also aims to generate significant insights across chronological and disciplinary boundaries by bringing together scholars of the early-modern literary and pictorial reception of classical texts and scholars of ancient art and literature.

 

Come attestano vari importanti testi antichi, il modo in cui la cultura classica e la prima età moderna hanno inteso il rapporto che intercorre fra arte, scienza e natura risulta sorprendentemente diverso rispetto alle aspettative dell’epoca in cui viviamo. Il più ampio resoconto antico sulle arti visive giunto sino a noi, la “Naturalis Historia” di Plinio il Vecchio, contestualizza l’arte all’interno di un’analisi (tanto vasta quanto descrittiva) dell’intero mondo naturale. Il “De architectura” di Vitruvio è caratterizzato dalla tensione fra l’architettura come imitazione della natura (sorta dall’osservazione dei nidi d’uccelli e degli alveari) e la bellezza architettonica intesa come funzione di astratte proporzioni matematiche o geometriche. Il “De rerum natura” di Lucrezio descrive il mondo naturale secondo una rigorosa (e apparentemente moderna) teoria della realtà come insieme di atomi, ma lo fa in versi esametri nonché in stretto rapporto intertestuale con precedenti opere poetiche, fra cui quelle di Empedocle e Omero. Tutti questi scritti erano già a disposizione (o lo divennero) nell’Italia del Quattrocento; risultano infatti numerosi esempi di come letterati e artisti reagirono a tali fonti nel corso del Rinascimento. Si tratta di opere (così come altre a queste connesse) in cui ambiti di ricerca e produzione culturale perlopiù divenuti, in tempi recenti, separati e distinti si trovano riuniti, secondo modalità che appaiono oggi non solo sorprendenti ma – probabilmente – utili, nel momento in cui il nostro rapporto con il mondo naturale è fatto oggetto di un profondo riesame. Partendo da una prospettiva multidisciplinare, gli interventi che si susseguiranno in questo convegno mirano a riscoprire, almeno in parte, quell’insieme di relazioni – dinamico e dialettico – fra arte, scienza e natura che anima sia i testi antichi sia la loro ricezione nel Rinascimento. Ci auguriamo che la nostra scelta di opere letterarie possa costituire un utile contributo agli attuali interessi rivolti alle teorie materialistiche dell’arte e del sapere. Il convegno mira anche a stimolare nuove, valide prospettive che superino le tradizionali divisioni di ordine cronologico e disciplinare, riunendo studiosi che si sono dedicati – da un lato – alla fortuna (in ambito letterario e pittorico) di testi classici e – dall’altro – all’arte e alla letteratura antiche.

 

 

 

  

Friday, April 20

 

9:00   Coffee/tea


9:30   Michael W. KwakkelsteinDirector’s Welcome

 

Session 1 (Chair: Gert Jan van der Sman, Istituto Universitario Olandese di Storia dell’Arte)

 

9:45   Guy Hedreen (Williams College) Introduction and “Fantasia and Speciation: Traces of Empedocles in Ancient Poetry and Renaissance Painting”

10:30 Courtney Roby (Cornell University) “Moving Wood, Man Immobile: Hero of Alexandria’s Automata from Antiquity to the Renaissance”

11:10-11:30  Coffee/tea

11:30 Mark Bradley (University of Nottingham) “The Art and Science of Counting Colors: The Classical Rainbow from Antiquity to Modernity”

12:10 Carolyn Yerkes (Princeton University) “The Architecture of Echoes”

12:50-14:00  Lunch

 

Session 2 (chair: Stefano Baldassarri, International Studies Institute Florence)

 

14:00 Sarah McHam (Rutgers University) “‘We Penetrate [Earth’s] Innards and Search for Riches’: Pliny’s Hierarchy of Materials and its Influence in the Renaissance”

14:40 Morgan Ng (Harvard University) “Gunpowder Grottoes: Ancient Seismology and Subterranean Fortifications in the Italian Renaissance”

15:20-15:40 Coffee/tea

15:40 Dennis Geronimus (New York University) “Into the Wild: Living Landscape and Wonderment in Renaissance Art”

16:20 Domenico Laurenza (Museo Galileo) “Changing Landscapes: Strabo and Leonardo’s Geology”

 

17:00-17:15 General discussion


17:30 Reception

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