Session at Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting, Toronto, March 17 - 19, 2019

This panel seeks to address how movement and verisimilitude enlivened objects and their histories for early modern viewers. From antiquity, the European Renaissance inherited various stories of artworks brought to life. Hephaestus vivified his sculptures by endowing them with motion and Pygmalion's desire transformed inert marble into living flesh. The statues of Daedalus were so lifelike that they were said to move. Medieval animistic beliefs held that matter was alive. Holy objects had the potential to bleed, lactate, and even traverse distances of their own volition. Such ideas persisted in early modern practices and worldviews. As global trade intensified, foreign articles carried traces of the Other, reifying movement and rendering distant cultures tangible.

Attending to questions of mimesis and animation, this panel interrogates the literal, metaphorical, and ontological significances of movement. We invite papers focused on particular objects that question the boundaries among the moving, the supernatural, the mechanical, and the culturally mobile. We welcome contributions that address thinking and making beyond Europe, especially in Islamic and Asian traditions. Questions might include: How were liveliness and verisimilitude positioned in relation to motion? Did travel entail radical transformations in substance or meaning? When did identity of origin persist and when did it become illegible? How did distrust of occult, pagan, and infidel knowledge influence reception, valuation, and perception of objects or their component parts? How did some objects declare their status as things that had been moved? How did such works register their provenance or the genealogy of their making?

Subjects of particular interest:

  • Artist as imitatio Dei—divine creator
  • Automata, clockworks, and instruments with moving parts
  • Conceptions of the human body or world as an intricate machine
  • Motion as a characteristic of life
  • Visual perceptions of liveliness and movement
  • Intermediality and multisensory stimulation
  • Wondrous and numinous substances
  • Monstrosity and movement
  • Architectural forms and motifs that signal movement and origins elsewhere
  • Uses of spolia
  • Time travel and the enmeshment of past and future in the properties of things
  • Resurrection and rebirth

Please send abstracts (150-word length) with title (15-word maximum), keywords, and a brief curriculum vitae by July 25, 2018 to Jessica Stewart at jsart@stanford.eduand <mailto:jsart@stanford.eduand> Letha Ch'ien at chienl@sonoma.edu <mailto:chienl@sonoma.edu>