Conférence en ligne : Ana Howie, “A Material World – ‘Women, Water, and Materiality in the Early Modern Genoese Garden”, Londres, The Warburg Institute, le 23 octobre 2023, 5:30 p.m.

Early Modern Genoa was renowned for its pleasure gardens, filled with fountains, scherzi d’acqua, artificial lakes, and grottoes, which celebrated the wonders of water. In the early seventeenth century, Flemish painters Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck sojourned in the wealthy port city and painted magnificent portraits of the city’s noblewomen embedded in garden settings. In these portraits, water splashes across the canvas and threatens to soak their sitters and beholders; this lifelike substance is at once erotic, affective, visionary, and poetic. This paper investigates the aesthetics of water in Rubens’ and van Dyck’s portraits to uncover the plurality of meanings that water, in all its forms, held for an elite Genoese audience.

Within Genoese gardens, water games shaped and participated in practices of leisure and sociality. These practices could assume a gendered dimension, however, as water games were typically operated by male hosts who targeted the female members of their party. Through a close reading of accounts of Genoese water-based practices in tandem with Rubens’ and van Dyck’s portraits, I examine how gendered power dynamics intersected with the uses and imaginations of water. Finally, water was particularly linked to notions of sight, creative inspiration, and imagination. Recalling classical motifs, artistic theories, and contemporaneous medical understandings of vision, Rubens’ and van Dyck’s pictorial explorations of water, water-like surfaces, and watery accoutrements are legible as celebrations of artful inspiration and virtuosic skill.  This paper thus argues that through the lively portrayal of water, Rubens and van Dyck manipulated the physical properties, cultural meanings, and emblematic resonances of water to proclaim their artistic skill, innovation, and genius.

This event is part of the series A Material World: Gender, which brings together academics and heritage professionals from a wide range of disciplines to discuss issues concerning historical objects, their materials, forms, and functions, as well as their conservation, presentation, display, and reconstruction.

Organisers: Rembrandt Duits (Deputy Curator, The Photographic Collection, The Warburg Institute) and Louisa McKenzie (The Warburg Institute).

All sessions during 2023-2024 will be delivered online.

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Fiammetta Campagnoli (2023, 22 octobre). Conférence en ligne : Ana Howie, “A Material World – ‘Women, Water, and Materiality in the Early Modern Genoese Garden”, Londres, The Warburg Institute, le 23 octobre 2023, 5:30 p.m. Centre d'Histoire de l'Art de la Renaissance. Consulté le 12 avril 2024, à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/mpba

Fiammetta Campagnoli

Fiammetta Campagnoli est doctorante en histoire de l'art moderne à l'Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Ses recherches se concentrent sur la perception et sur la réception de la spatialité de l’image mariale au XVe et au XVIe siècle.

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