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

The Italian peninsula of pre-Modern times was an area characterized by political fragmentation as much as intense cultural exchanges. Our understanding of the artistic geography of Italy has long been informed by the canonical view masterfully encapsulated in Vasari's Lives, which situated Florence, its 'Renaissance', and the Tuscan-Roman tradition at the center of the historical narrative on Italian art. A more complex and polycentric view of Italian artistic and cultural space emerged in subsequent art historiography (e.g. Dolce, Lomazzo, Malvasia, De Dominici), often imbued with a critique of the Vasarian model and a deep sense of regional pride. From Lanzi to 19th-century positivist archival researchers, from the rediscovery of the variety of Italian pictorial 'schools' (e.g. Toesca, Berenson, Longhi) to that of the multi-layered nature of the Italian cultural heritage and territory (e.g. Emilani, Toscano), the map of the artistic geography of pre-Modern Italy has seen its contours changing repeatedly.

The center/periphery model (e.g. Shils, Kubler, Castelnuovo-Ginzburg) has been instrumental in addressing the conflictual dimensions of the regional. However, the very notion of 'center' and 'periphery' has since been critically scrutinized, its multi-layered nature and blind-spots underscored (e.g. Bredekamp, DaCosta Kauffman, Bock, Campbell, Joyeux-Prunel). We need to think anew about the variety of spatial and cultural dynamics too often implicitly subsumed in the use of these two terms. How can the artistic geography of pre-Modern Italy be addressed today, in an epoch characterized by the 'myths' of free movement within the borders of the European Union, the stress on processes of (cultural) encounter and métissage, and by the importance acknowledged not only to anthropological but also environmental issues? How to address the dense network of cities and courts, of religious and secular settlements often scattered in rural areas all around the Italian peninsula? How should we explore the notion of place after the 'spatial turn', between micro-histories and trans-local webs and patterns, projecting it in a global context?

With the intention of promoting a lively methodological as well as historiographical discussion, the present sessions look for contributions dealing with some of the following themes:

  • theoretical and ideological premises of Italian artistic geographies, from Vasari to Longhi, and in the present;
  • the pre-Modern Italian peninsula as a multi-polar cultural space: theoretical models for interpreting the circulation of artists and artworks and the dynamics of artistic transfer and exchange;
  • the status of liminal and 'polyglot' regions: how to address in a transnational perspective the study of areas like the Duchy of Savoy, the County of Tyrol, or the Kingdom of Naples, overcoming borders (cultural, political, linguistic) and ideological biases that have often characterized their critical assessment in the past? How to address cosmopolitan cities like Genoa, Milan or Palermo?
  • toward a geohistory of the Italian peninsula: Should categories like 'Alpine art' be relevant for the study of pre-Modern artistic geography? How the notion of Kunstlandschaft can be reconsidered today, when, for example, cultural geography employs different terms to address cultural landscapes?
  • can digital humanities and cartography help in re-thinking the artistic geography of pre-Modern Italy?
  • is the term 'Renaissance' able to encapsulate the variety of experiences and cultural experiments taking place in the Italian peninsula between the 15th and the late 16th-century? How will the artistic geography of the Italian peninsula appear if we dismiss modernist paradigms such as innovation and progress? Is the pledge for an 'horizontal art history' (Piotrowski) of Western modernism meaningful also for the study of pre-Modern Italy?

Prospective presenters should send a 200-word proposal, keywords, and a short CV to Stephen J. Campbell ([email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>) and Stefano de Bosio ([email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>) by Sunday July 22, 2018.