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The "Object" in the Renaissance
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When: 15 February 2014
Where: Hilton Chicago
720 South Michigan Avenue
Grand Ballroom, 2nd Floor
Chicago, Illinois 
United States
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CAA Session on "The ‘Object’ in the Renaissance” – Chicago, 2014

Organizers & Chairs: Andrew Morrall, Bard Graduate Center and George Gorse, Pomona College

Sponsor: Renaissance Society of America

You Should’ve Been There: Locating the Renaissance Object in the Practices of Art History

Geraldine A. Johnson, University of Oxford

For many art historians working on the material culture of the Renaissance, a concern with "the object” goes hand-in-hand with a close consideration of the socio-historical contexts in which works were originally produced, displayed and deployed. This paper, however, will not try to position Renaissance objects within Renaissance contexts. Instead, it seeks to explore how Art History as a discipline has, at least since the nineteenth century, located Renaissance objects, both physically and metaphorically, in art historical places and practices often very far removed from those of the pre-Modern period. Specifically, it will use a group of carefully selected works produced in Italy from the early fifteenth to the early sixteenth century to consider how the "objecthood” (to use a term coined by Michael Fried) of Renaissance art has been redefined through its location in the museum, in the photograph, in the text, and "in situ.”

Devotional Portrait Diptych as Transitional Object: The Affective Pull of an Andachtsbild

Jessica Buskirk, Technical University Dresden

This paper will approach the devotional portrait diptych as a "transitional object” to shed light on a puzzling aspect of the format. These diptychs, produced primarily in the Burgundian Netherlands during the fifteenth century, feature a portrait of a contemporary man attached to an image of the Virgin and Child. According to existing provenances, the paintings remained in the possession of the men portrayed in them during their lifetimes. If we understand the diptychs as pure representation, the fact that the owner probably prayed in front of his own image points to a kind of narcissism. Following the psychoanalytic concept outlined by D.W. Winnicott, however, I will propose that the diptychs are not so much representations as "transitional objects,” and as such, an occasion for viewers/portrait subjects to explore the boundary between their "real,” internal selves and the externalized, ideal selves they see beside the Virgin and Child.

Objects at Stake: Lotteries of Art Works and Artifacts in Early Modern Europe

Sophie Raux, Université Lille 3 (France)

As early as the 15th century, lotteries were a common feature in the major European urban centers. From the 16th century onwards, their success led to a diversification of the objects put at stake, with images and luxury artifacts taking on an increasing importance. Indeed, lotteries constituted events per se, offering a public display of thousands of objects — be they luxurious or common, artworks or everyday items — that seemed accessible to everyone as long as luck was on their side. Drawing upon lotteries, I examine the increasing importance given to the perception of the object, not as a simple "thing” but an object of desire, an enjoyment source, the bearer of an economic, artistic and symbolic value. Through textual and visual sources, I address the political and social stakes that contributed to promoting the object in a popular way, built around the myth of "democratization.”

Collecting (Across) Cultures: Cartographic Naturalia in ‘Tabula Geographica Regni Chile’ (1646)

Catherine E. Burdick, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Alonso de Ovalle’s map ‘Tabula Geographica Regni Chile’ (Rome, 1646) served in part to engage the European impulse to gather up ‘New World’ nature in Chile. In exploring this pictorial map by a criollo Jesuit from Spain’s most remote colony in the Americas, this case study frames cartography within the context of the Spanish fascination for naturalia. It aligns the practice of procured novel botanies and beasts ‘across cultures’ with the colonial activity of collecting cultures themselves, and explores the potential for colonial cartographies to fuse these related practices. I propose that Ovalle’s map interfaced with collection practices across three distinct spheres: as an object of Spanish political interest, as a prospector’s view of colonial resources, and as a visual summation of a ‘collectible’ subject of the Crown.

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