Colloque : (Im)material Michelangelo: Toward a Visual Historiography of Sculpture – Between Reproduction and Art-Historical Enquiry, Rome, Bibliotheca Hertziana, 25 mai 2021

Reproducing, representing, copying, or recording an artwork is the inevitable result of an interpretation, which can reveal some neglected aspects of the original model, as well as disguise or change many others. This is due both to the intentions of those involved in making or in requesting the copy or the reproduction and to the intrinsic difficulties of the ‘translation’ process from one medium to another.

These problems are shared by ‘artistic’ copies as much as by documentary or scientific reproductions. For these reasons, reproductions of an artwork (independently of the medium used) could become a useful source for reconstructing the historiographic path of the work itself, something we could define as ‘visual historiography’; they can document how a specific artwork has been observed and interpreted over time, sometimes in close connection with the textual sources of art literature and art criticism, while at other times actively influencing their very formation.

Considering these general and methodological premises, the conference will examine the reproductions and copies, through different media, of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s sculptural works, exploring and investigating them as evidence of the artist’s ‘visual historiography’, from the 16th century to today. If representing sculpture in another medium is often a great challenge, due to its three-dimensionality and its intrinsic relationship with space, in the case of Michelangelo’s works this has raised additional problems because of his particular way of dealing with the material, exposing overtly the traces of the working process, the uneven treatment of the surfaces and the use of fragmented or sketched elements, according to the well-known poetics of the non finito. The ‘translation’ of these aspects usually led to a necessary ‘remediation’ between original and copies. Thanks to Michelangelo’s uninterrupted legacy and the wide-range of visual documentation relating to his sculptures, now found all over the globe, the conference will consider the continuous mutations and transformations of the reception of Michelangelo’s plastic works over time: from 16th century graphic and pictorial copies by artists such as Tintoretto, to the diffusion of plasters in the ateliers at the time of Rodin; from the engravings published in 19th century journals to the ‘scientific’ photographic illustrations in books by Heinrich Wölfflin, Sigmund Freud and Erwin Panofsky; from video shootings in films by Luigi Moretti, Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti, and Michelangelo Antonioni to the worldwide exhibitions devoted to the Vatican Pietà. These, among others, will be the subjects of thirteen conference talks given by Valentina Balzarotti (Bibliotheca Hertziana, Roma); Tommaso Casini (Università IULM, Milano); Camilla Colzani (Fondazione 1563, Torino); Ilenia Falbo (Università della Calabria); Emily Fenichel (Florida Atlantic University); Joris van Gastel (Universität Zürich); Marc Michael Moser (Universität Wien); Rosalia Pagliarani (Musei Vaticani); Lucia Simonato (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa); Giovanna Targia (Kunsthistorisches Institut, Firenze); Joséphine Vandekerckhove (Universiteit Gent); Sara Vitacca (Université Paris 1 – Panthéon Sorbonne); Karolina Zgraja (Universität Zürich).

International conference organized by Giulia Daniele and Daniele Di Cola
In collaboration with the Bibliotheca Hertziana, promoted by the Rome Art History Network (https://www.romearthistorynetwork.com).

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