The art historical component of ECLA’s Academy Year core course on Renaissance Florence was inaugurated in style on the 9th of January with a pair of lectures by Lynn Catterson and Denise Budd, both scholars of Renaissance art visiting from the United States.
Professor Catterson, who teaches at Columbia University, has written on fifteenth-century Florentine sculptural practice and on Medici artistic patronage. Her most recent work focuses on the problem of Michelangelo’s training as a sculptor and his early career in Florence and Rome. Her lecture at ECLA, on Renaissance style in relation to the antique, captivated students and faculty alike with the breadth of its treatment and the incisiveness of its analysis. In the course of the hour, Prof. Catterson discussed changing artistic responses to ancient sculpture, the role of humanist patronage in the creation of major monuments, the revival of ancient ideas about proportion in architecture, and the integration of classical form and subject matter in the art of the later quattrocento. Her lecture addressed the notion of the Renaissance itself and the connections between artistic style and its humanist cultural context. Quoting Erwin Panofsky, Professor Catterson described how the Renaissance looked at the culture of classical Greece and Rome and attempted to “resurrect its soul.”
The second lecture was delivered by Deinse Budd of Rutgers University. Professor Budd has written on the work of Leonardo da Vinci and its documentary history as well as on issues of Renaissance artistic patronage. Most recently, she has published on ephemeral art in late fifteenth-century Florence. Professor Budd’s lecture was a thought-provoking analysis of the central role played by Medici patronage in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In the course of her talk, Professor Budd took us from the audacious marble tomb of John XXIII in the Baptistery of Florence Cathedral to the sophisticated iconography of the frescoes at Poggio a Caiano, painted a century later for the Medici Grand Duke Cosimo I. Whether describing the portraits of Medici patrons disguised as saints in a Fra Angelico altarpiece or interpreting the contrast between simple exterior and lavish, classicizing interior in the Medici’s Florentine residence, Professor Budd combined an engaging visual analysis of works of art with an illuminating discussion of their political and humanist context.
Both lectures were extremely well received, as indicated by the enthusiastic responses and lively question and answer sessions that followed. The morning was a perfect introduction to the art historical topics and to the art at which ECLA students will be looking throughout the term, culminating in a trip to Florence in the spring.
By Geoff Lehman (Faculty)