Battle and Representation in Cinquecento Art and Theory
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CitationBorgo, Francesca. 2017. Battle and Representation in Cinquecento Art and Theory. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the emergence of an art-critical discourse surrounding the representation of war during the Cinquecento. It situates battle scenes within the context of contemporary artistic, rhetorical, scientific, and literary theories, and turns to the major figurative episodes of the period – for example, the battles by Leonardo and Michelangelo – to reinsert them into a history of the genre. By doing so, it argues that sixteenth-century depictions of war are defined by an inherent conflict between legibility and pathos: between the need to impose the order that makes war narratable, and to convey the chaos that secures its emotional impact. Framed as the most difficult and lofty subject an artist could engage with, war offered a rhetorical register that justified the recourse to powerful artistic means, attracting painters as a field of competition: against other artists, media, or the subject matter itself. These images have long been marginalized in the art historical narrative as evidentiary illustrations of military events, or means of political propaganda. Little attention has been paid to how they look, and how they were looked at by Renaissance viewers. Yet “How to Represent a Battle” is a recurrent chapter in the artistic literature of the period. This dissertation turns to artistic treatises rather than military ones, to painters’ writings rather than battlefield chronicles. The resulting account elucidates how battle scenes were conceptualized and received, and restores them to their privileged position in the history of painting as formulated by early writers on art.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41140208
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