Donatello's Promiscuous Technique
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Zolli, Daniel Michael
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CitationZolli, Daniel Michael. 2017. Donatello's Promiscuous Technique. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation resurrects the controversial discourse surrounding material trickery in early Renaissance Italy, especially as it was negotiated in the work of that era’s foremost sculptor, Donatello (1383/6-1464). Throughout his career, Donatello used extraordinary technical processes to make his materials take on the perceptual properties of other substances entirely. To effect these changes he employed an unprecedented range of specialists, de-compartmentalizing their disciplinary territories in an effort to make bronze resemble flesh, limestone simulate porphyry, to give leather the look of mosaic. This project tracks that pursuit across Donatello’s oeuvre; its valorization within popular oral traditions (e.g., rumors, anecdotes, stories); and its uneasy relationship to the marketplace, where these same processes were used to defraud customers. In doing so, Donatello’s Promiscuous Technique offers an alternative to the dominant understanding of sculpture as a “liberal art,” grounded in disciplines like geometry, rhetoric, and ethics. Donatello took his models instead from cunning enterprises aimed at transforming or disguising matter (e.g., prestidigitation, cosmetics, alchemy, idolatry), staking his authority on an ability to deceive viewers with a near-elemental craftiness. To the discipline of art history, more broadly, the dissertation contributes a new way of conceptualizing the sculptural medium, looking beyond categories like medium-specificity and truth-to-materials in favor of others like dissimulation, hybridity, and adulteration.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41142057
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