Colloque international : « Material world : The Intersection of Art, Science, and Nature, in Ancient Literature and its Renaissance Reception », NIKI, Florence, 20-21 avril 2018
On 20-21 April the NIKI (Nederlands Interuniversitair Kunsthistorisch Instituut) hosts an international conference organized by our scholar-in-residence Guy Hedreen (Amos Lawrence Professor of Art, Williams College) and Michael W. Kwakkelstein : « Material world: The intersection of art, science, and nature, in ancient literature and its Renaissance reception ».
The interplay between art, science, and nature in several influential ancient texts, in antiquity as well as in the early modern period, is surprisingly different from our own late modern expectations. The most extensive surviving ancient account of the visual arts, the Naturalis Historia of Pliny, contextualizes art within a comprehensive, descriptive analysis of the natural world as a whole. The De Architectura of Vitruvius is characterized by a tension between architecture as an imitation of nature, originating in the observation of the nests of birds or bees, and architectural beauty as a function of abstract mathematical or geometric proportions. The De Rerum Natura of Lucretius describes the natural world according to a rigorous, seemingly modern, atomic theory of reality, but does so in hexameter verse and in close intertextual relation to earlier works of poetic art including Empedocles and Homer. All of those texts were or became available in Italy during the fifteenth century, and there is an extensive record of literary and artistic response to them during the Renaissance. In these and related texts, fields of inquiry or cultural production that became in recent times, for the most part, separate and distinct come together in ways that are not only surprising but also potentially useful today, as we reevaluate our relationships to the natural world. By taking a multi-disciplinary approach, the papers in this conference attempt to recover something of the dynamic discursive relationships between art, science, and nature that animate the ancient texts as well as their Renaissance reception. In our choice of texts, we hope to make a useful contribution to the present interest in materialistic theories of art and knowledge. This conference also aims to generate significant insights across chronological and disciplinary boundaries by bringing together scholars of the early-modern literary and pictorial reception of classical texts and scholars of ancient art and literature.