Towards an Italian Renaissance Theory of Landscape

Goodchild, Karen Hope, Department of the History of Art, University of Virginia
Barolsky, Paul, Department of Art, University of Virginia

Towards an Italian Renaissance Theory of Landscape This dissertation reconstructs the sixteenth-century view of landscape painting by allowing authors of the period to describe for themselves what the genre signified. Ultimately, the thesis proposed is that there was always an "unspoken" theory of the genre that understood landscape as a feminine, non-rational subject to be both rendered and discussed as a lower mode of colorful details designed to engage only the senses. The dissertation is composed of four interconnected essays which progress from more general historical analyses of the literary and material factors that contributed to the rise of landscape painting and Academic landscape theory to an in-depth examination of Renaissance descriptions of landscape. Landscape differed from earlier genres in that it had no suasive content. This distinction set it at odds with the prevailing Horatian justification for art, that beauty and ornament existed to direct the soul towards a moral message. Thus, in Chapter One, "The Sensual Justification for Landscape," the concrete physical and psychological benefits thought to accrue from visual delight are explored in order to show that sensual pleasure had a vindication prior to the development of an autotelic aesthetic philosophy. Chapter Two, "The Feminine Language of Landscape," analyzes how landscape depictions were characterized as colorful, irrational embellishments the only end of which was pleasure. As a result, landscape's seductive charms were often addressed in the vocabulary of feminine beauty, a terminology gleaned from Petrarchan poetry and sixteenth-century treatises on beauty. Chapter Three, "Parerga and the Renaissance Theory of Landscape," furthers this investigation of detail and content versus form with a historical analysis of the word parerga. In the sixteenth century, parerga, a Greek word that can be literally translated as "beside the work," came to be used as a term for landscape, and this chapter traces the antique uses of the word, especially its link to mimesis, that conditioned the Renaissance definition of landscape. Finally, Chapter Four, "Vasari's Theory of Landscape," carefully glosses the most important and fully realized contemporary exegesis of Renaissance art, Vasari's Lives of the Artists. Vasari's attitudes towards landscape are assessed through a close reading of both his descriptions of landscapes and his more general statements of artistic theory.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Italian Renaissance, theory of landscape, sixteenth century, sixteenth century authors

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2015-11-16 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:38:08.

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: