Seminars

  • Founded
    1945
  • Seminar Number
    407

The Seminar in the Renaissance, founded in 1945 by Paul Oskar Kristeller and John Herman Randall, hosts presentations of about 45-50 minutes on various aspects of Renaissance thought (including Renaissance humanism) and its ramifications in the arts (painting, sculpture, architecture, music, literature) and the sciences (physical, natural, historical and philological), as well as history and philosophy.  The Renaissance is taken to include the period from about 1350 to about 1650.  We meet on the second Tuesday of each month in Faculty House from September through December and from February through May at 5:30 pm.  Participants may choose to join the speaker for a buffet dinner from 7 pm.


Co-Chairs
Professor Cynthia M. Pyle
c.m.pyle@nyu.edu

Professor Alan Stewart
ags2105@columbia.edu

Rapporteur
Cristina Perez
cp2689@columbia.edu


Meeting dates and locations are subject to change. Please confirm details with the seminar rapporteur.


Meeting Schedule

09/10/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:30 PM
Leonardo da Vinci’s St. Jerome: Thoughts on the Unfinished
Carmen Bambach, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Abstract

Abstract

To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death, I have been fortunate to organize a display of Leonardo’s unfinished painting of St. Jerome Praying in the Wilderness at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (July 15 to October 6, 2019). The painting is a special loan from the Vatican Museums. This is Leonardo’s most intensely spiritual painting and was probably intended for private devotion, though never delivered to the patron and kept by the artist until his late years. It is a fitting painting to commemorate the artist’s death in view of its subject. My talk will examine the context of the painting within Leonardo’s larger oeuvre and anatomical research, and will also contextualize its unfinished state. This talk grows out of research for my book, entitled Leonardo da Vinci Rediscovered, 4 vols., Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2019, just released. The book discusses Leonardo’s life and career within a chronological framework.





10/10/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:30 PM
Nicholas of Cusa and the Ottoman Threat to Christendom
Thomas Izbicki, Rutgers University
Abstract

Abstract

How Nicholas of Cusa moved from advocating dialogue with Muslims in his 1453 On the Peace of Faith (De pace fidei) to supporting a crusade in the 1460s long has puzzled students of his life and work. This paper will help bridge that gap. It examines two sermons delivered during the pontificate of Callixtus III (1455-1458). These sermons were delivered for processions ordered by the pope in opposition to the Ottoman advance in the Balkans. One also celebrates the defeat of the Ottoman forces at Belgrade in 1456. Nicholas’ critique of the Turks in that year helps explain why his Sifting the Qur’an (Cribratio Alkorani) is more polemical than De pace fidei. In addition, Cusanus showed greater support for a crusade at Pius II’s Congress of Mantua (1459), warmly welcoming Albert Achilles of Brandenburg to the pope’s crusade meeting. This was the last step to Cusanus’ support of a campaign against the Ottomans. The German cardinal died in Todi in 1464 while trying to join Pope Pius in Ancona for the latter’s failed effort to launch an armed expedition against the Turks.





11/12/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:30 PM
The Missing Names: Links between Jewish Intellectuals and the ‘Accademia Pontaniana’ in Naples during the Renaissance
Shulamit Furstenberg-Levi, International Studies Institute of Florence
Abstract

Abstract

In my recent study titled The Accademia Pontaniana: A Model of a Humanist Network (Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History, 2016), I reconstruct the humanist academy which developed around the fifteenth century humanist Pontano in Naples and investigate the networks of intellectuals linked to this humanist circle. Given that the humanists’ networks are often documented in the form of lists, one of the central sources of this study were lists of humanists found in various forms. A perusal of these lists will show that they do not include any Jewish intellectuals, as Fabrizio Lelli has pointed out in his article, in which he responds to both Brian Ogren’s and my recent books (“Intellettuali ebrei e Accademia Pontaniana: alcune considerazioni alla luce di due recenti pubblicazioni”, Sefer yuhasin 5, 2017:159-169). This finding is not at all obvious if we take into consideration the presence of prominent Jewish intellectuals in Naples, during the same years in which the Accademia Pontaniana was active, such as Judah Messer Leon, Isaac Abravanel and Leone Ebreo, as well as signs of reciprocal cultural connections that have been detected in Christian and Jewish texts produced in Italy during that period. (See, for example a collection of such cases in: Hebraic Aspects of the Renaissance: Sources and Encounters, eds. I. Zinguer, A. Melamed & Z. Shalev).

How should the absence of Jewish names on the lists be interpreted? Does their absence reflect an actual disconnectedness of the Jewish intellectuals from the humanist circles, or should it be interpreted as an expression of their being viewed as “others” and therefore not being included on these lists, such as in the case of the lists of names in the Bible in which women, who definitely belong on a list, are not named? In fact, we find that women intellectuals in Naples who were certainly in close connection with the Accademia Pontaniana members are also missing from these lists. (See my forthcoming article on Vittoria Colonna: “The D’Avalos-Colonna Literary Circle: A Renewed Parnassus”, in: Vittoria Colonna: Poetry, Religion, Art, Impact, eds. Virginia Cox & Shannon McHugh, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2019).





12/10/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:30 PM
VERROCCHIO
Andrew Butterfield, Andrew Butterfield Fine Arts
Abstract

Abstract

Andrew Butterfield: Verrocchio as Draftsman, Sculptor and Painter
While Verrocchio's work as a painter remains difficult to reconstruct, his innovations as a draftsman and sculptor are clear. Based on close looking and new photography, this paper investigates some of his advances in these fields and reflects on what they may suggest about his activity as a painter.


Laurence Kanter: How Little Do We Know about Andrea del Verrocchio as a Painter?
In the absence of firm documentation beyond the testimony of Giorgio Vasari, which is itself only reasonably trustworthy, numerous assumptions about Verrocchio’s stature and accomplishments as a painter have become axiomatic for historians of fifteenth-century Florentine art. This paper examines the biases and suppositions upon which these assumptions rest, interrogates the visual and written evidence in search of confirmation or logical alternatives, and critiques the possible impact of alternatives on the presumed early careers of Verrocchio’s chief pupils: Leonardo da Vinci and Lorenzo di Credi.


Laurence Kanter, Yale University
Abstract

Abstract

Andrew Butterfield: Verrocchio as Draftsman, Sculptor and Painter
While Verrocchio's work as a painter remains difficult to reconstruct, his innovations as a draftsman and sculptor are clear. Based on close looking and new photography, this paper investigates some of his advances in these fields and reflects on what they may suggest about his activity as a painter.


Laurence Kanter: How Little Do We Know about Andrea del Verrocchio as a Painter?
In the absence of firm documentation beyond the testimony of Giorgio Vasari, which is itself only reasonably trustworthy, numerous assumptions about Verrocchio’s stature and accomplishments as a painter have become axiomatic for historians of fifteenth-century Florentine art. This paper examines the biases and suppositions upon which these assumptions rest, interrogates the visual and written evidence in search of confirmation or logical alternatives, and critiques the possible impact of alternatives on the presumed early careers of Verrocchio’s chief pupils: Leonardo da Vinci and Lorenzo di Credi.




02/11/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:30 PM
The Place of Astrology in the History of Science: A Reappraisal
Sheila Rabin, St. Peter’s University
Abstract

Abstract

This paper will look at reactions by both Renaissance contemporaries and modern historians to Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s Disputations against Judicial Astrology as a means of re-evaluating the importance of astrology in the development of early modern astronomy and physics.





03/10/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:30 PM
“Perchance his boast of Lucrece’sov’reignty”: The Rape of Lucrece and the Political Subject
Lauren Silberman, Baruch College, CUNY
Abstract

Abstract

In The Rape of Lucrece Shakespeare self-consciously makes a place for himself as a politically engaged and politically potent writer through critical engagement with the complexities of the Lucretia tradition. Although republican politics represent an important element of that tradition, I do not particularly want to argue that Shakespeare advocates a programmatic republican political position in his poem. Rather, The Rape of Lucrece puts in play concepts, images, and discursive constructs that will prove crucial to republican politics for the English-speaking world in the centuries after Shakespeare. Previous versions of the Lucretia myth tend to show characters struggling to assert power or to resist that assertion. Shakespeare’s poem stages conflicts among political formations and presents the concept of the sovereign subject as an embattled paradigm. In general, Shakespeare draws on Ovid for the erotic aspects of the Lucretia story and on Livy for the element of political struggle. Nevertheless, in channeling his sources, Shakespeare turns in significant ways to two of his contemporaries: Christopher Marlowe and Edmund Spenser. Shakespeare plays Marlovian erotic narrative as exemplified by Hero and Leander against Spenserian allegory, particularly the allegory of the body-castle in the House of Alma, as he explores divergent and competing representations of the political subject.





04/14/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:30 PM
Filarete's "Odysseus and Iros:" Its Meaning and Albertian Source
Thomas Martin, Independent Scholar
Abstract

Abstract

My current project concerns a bronze relief in Vienna, by the sculptor and architect Filarete (c. 1400-c. 1466), that depicts an extremely rare subject in Western art: Odysseus’ fight with the beggar Iros from Book 18 of the Odyssey. During the 1400s, Homeric subjects of any kind were almost unknown in the visual arts, and that a bronze relief should show an episode from Homer, let alone a minor episode, is unique. The choice of subject matter can, however, be explained by its mention and significance in a text by Filarete’s friend, Leon Battista Alberti. The connection with Alberti also allows the Stoic content of Filarete’s relief to be recognized. My paper thus explains the meaning of an important yet overlooked Renaissance artwork, it surveys an unexplored aspect of the reception of Homer in the Renaissance, plus it sheds new light on Alberti’s influence on contemporary artworks.





05/12/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:30 PM
The Conversational Garden
David Randall, National Association of Scholars
Abstract

Abstract

The image of the garden was useful for Renaissance writers--the garden of Paradise, the lover's garden, the philosopher's garden, and more. The philosopher's garden incl uded an interesting variant--the garden of conversation, the site of discourse that sought out truth. Renaissance writers rehearsed a number of ideas by way of the garden image that would bear fruit in later centuries, in the gardens of (among others) Moderata Fonte, John Milton, Thomas More, and William Shakespeare. This talk will survey the range of this garden imagery, and explore some of its more important implications for later intellectual history.