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 usually meet in Faculty House at 5:30 pm on the second Tuesday of each academic month (except January).  Since April 2020, during the pandemic, we have been meeting earlier via Zoom, and we will now be meeting at 4 pm, allowing until 6:15 for the talk and ample discussion of the talk, followed by a brief virtual toast and conversation.  We have found that this allows colleagues from other parts of the globe to join the talk and discussion, to our great mutual profit.  This will continue for the duration of the health crisis, at the end of which we may adopt a hybrid format.


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

Professor Alan Stewart
ags2105@columbia.edu

Rapporteur
Matt Mazewski
matthew.mazewski@columbia.edu


All seminars will continue to meet virtually through Fall 2021. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change.

Meeting Schedule

09/14/2021 Online Meeting
4:00 PM
Defining Florence Musically: The Early-Modern Era
Anthony Cummings, Lafayette College
Abstract

Abstract

Florentine musical traditions exemplify change throughout the centuries. Individual moments in their history acquire a logic when re-situated in the context of what came before and after. My paper reports on several findings that emerge from the larger narrative that illustrate determinative influences on Florentine musical culture writ large.

In music, Florentines seem to have expended their creative energies on the initial ideation. Thereafter, they cede primacy to other centers of musical activity, where the original development is perfected. Later innovations in the madrigal typically occurred elsewhere. And although the earliest operas were the creation of Florentines active around 1600, “the definitive eclipse of Florentine operatic supremacy” had occurred by 1637.
After those initial developments, Florentines often surrender to “Florentinism,” a “satisfied contemplation of their own past,” which is one of the explanations for the academic movement of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that generated the theorizing resulting in the birth of both the madrigal and opera.

Quintessentially Florentine genres are refashioned in response to changes in political tradition, such refashionings reflected in other expressions of Florentine experience: architecture; the constitution. Carnival song originally celebrated the trades, which suggests the importance of the mercantile guilds in medieval Florence. With the ennoblement of the Medici, songs became politicized, instruments for effecting the transition from republic to aristocratic state. And with the emergence of a courtly culture, the carnival song is again refashioned as a vehicle for the expression of courtly values.





10/12/2021 Online Meeting
4:00 PM
Petrarchan Poetry and the European Borderlands
Ivan Lupić, Stanford University
Abstract

Abstract

Tottel’s Miscellany (1557) is one of the most important publications in the history of English Renaissance literature. With it, Petrarchism became an essential element in the development of English poetry while the Italian verse forms it imported provided influential models for the succeeding generations of English poets. However, Tottel’s Miscellany was itself modeled on a particular kind of Italian book, a poetic miscellany featuring work by various hands and thus capturing the best and most recent poetry produced in the Italian language. Such miscellanies became especially numerous toward the middle of the sixteenth century. This presentation focuses on Dinko Ranjina (1536-1607), a Ragusan poet whose Italian poetry was included in one of these miscellanies, but who in 1563 also published an impressive book of Croatian verse. The book was published in Florence by the sons of Lorenzo Torrentino, the official ducal printer, in a beautifully produced edition that features some interesting visual material, including the poet’s portrait. My aim is to reconstruct the multilingual literary network within which Ranjina operated and to investigate the role played by Ranjina’s Ragusan predecessors who, in the European borderlands, fashioned an important but still largely disregarded vernacular poetic tradition inspired by Petrarch’s works.





11/09/2021 Online Meeting
4:00 PM
Francesco Patrizi’s contribution to the emergence of modern science
Luka Boršić, Institute of Philosophy, Zagreb (Croatia)
Abstract

Abstract

The contribution of Francesco Patrizi’s Nova de universis philosophia (1591) to the emergence of modern science has received some scholarly attention so far. However, his “negative” contribution has been largely neglected. In his Discussiones peripateticae (1581) Patrizi subjects what he considers the totality of Aristotelian philosophy to sharp criticism. Questioning the Aristotelian philosophical edifice, ex post facto, appears to have been a crucial step in “clearing the ground” for the emergence of a new concept of science, something we call “modern science”: though there have always been attacks on Aristotle’s philosophy and its derivations, it was Patrizi’s lengthy and systematic destruction of the Aristotelian edifice that presented a turning point. In my talk Patrizi’s criticism of apodictic (demonstrative) science, of first principle of natural things and of substance is of special interest. I will show that some parts of Patrizi’s position were influenced by Mario Nizolio’s De veris principiis (1553). On the other hand, Patrizi’s criticism of Aristotle’s philosophical doctrines had a direct influence on his follower at La Sapienza, Jacopo Mazzoni, which can be shown by a closer analysis of his In universam Platonis et Aristotelis philosophiam praeludia (1597).





12/14/2021 Online Meeting
4:00 PM
The Liber de natura rerum after Thomas de Cantimpré: Users, Clusters and Textual Typologies of a Naturalistic Encyclopedia between the 14th and 16th Centuries
Mattia Cipriani, Freie Universität Berlin (Germany)
Abstract

Abstract

Between 1230 and 1255/1260, the Dominican Friar Thomas de Cantimpré (1201-1270/71) wrote and modified one of the most influential encyclopedias of the Middle Ages, the Liber de natura rerum. Its main goal was to provide updated naturalistic material to Thomas’ Brothers – and, through a correct comprehension of the world, an understanding and demonstration of God’s will and goodness. As a result of its vast, complete, well-organized and scientifically updated catalogs, Thomas’ work had a huge impact on contemporary and later culture. The purpose of this paper is to understand its use in that period by observing its later readers, copyists, production areas, clusters and most widespread textual typologies.





02/08/2022 Location TBD
4:00 PM
Considering Privacy
Marian Rothstein, Carthage College
Abstract

Abstract

Privacy in this context means being able to control access to one's person, having the right to be alone, to choose not to be seen. Expectations of privacy tend to be taken as self-evident; rarely is or was it felt they needed to be rendered explicit; this silence merits revisiting. The evidence needs to be coaxed out of the cracks in the past. My paper examines a broad range of sources to show that, taken in our modern sense, broadly speaking, privacy did not exist in sixteenth-century France. With minor variations, this can be projected across Western Europe. Examining these assumptions offers modern historians a different understanding of the reality-on-the-ground of the objects of our study. Written evidence can be found in correspondence – assumptions expressed in personal letters and in the manner of transmitting diplomatic dispatches.

Contemporary memoirs reveal that the memorialist interacted with numbers of others in potentially intimate settings. Contemporary advice concerning the layout of a manor house so the master might see all—and be seen by all, insights garnered from by realistic fiction, and architectural choices visible in floorplans, all lead to the conclusion that being alone in early modern Europe was rare, rarely desired, and might be dangerous.

The sources of my work include the correspondence of Catherine de' Medici, Henri II of France, François I of France, Marguerite de Navarre; the literary works of Marguerite de Navarre and Michel de Montaigne, the memoires of Marguerite de Valois, and the works of Olivier de Serres, Philibert de Lorme as well as modern historians' accounts.





03/08/2022 Location TBD
4:00 PM
Cinquecento Façade Frescoes in Venice and descriptions of ancient painted exteriors
Diana Gisolfi, Pratt Institute, Venice (Italy)
Abstract

Abstract

The Renaissance vogue of frescoing facades of palaces was not limited to Venice and the Veneto, but façade frescoes in Renaissance Venice proliferated after the decision of the Senate in 1505 that statuary and encrustations of marbles on facades would be reserved for buildings of church and state. The painted palaces of patricians and wealthy merchants along the Grand Canal and in major campi are described as splendid in Cinquecento and early Seicento sources.

While the façade frescoes of the city of Venice can now be studied only via descriptions, drawings, prints, and a few salvaged fragments, in the Venetian Stato di Terra (Verona, Treviso, Bassano) many are quite well preserved.

Were there other reasons for this vogue, which seems unwise for a city in the sea where the salt air “eats” the paintings (Vasari 1568)?

This paper will explore the possible relation of the short-lived painted splendor of Renaissance Venice’s facades to written descriptions of ancient cities that were being published apace by Venetian printing presses (Herodotus 1502, Vitruvius 1511, Strabo 1516 and many more), and will consider if any city of the ancient world stands out as a model for emulation.





04/12/2022 Location TBD
4:00 PM
Text and image in Altichiero’s Infancy Cycle in the Oratory of Saint George in Padua (1377- 1384)4
Mary D. Edwards, Pratt Institute
Abstract

Abstract

Raimondino de’ Lupi was a condottiere and diplomat who served the House of Carrara which ruled Padua throughout most of the 14th century. In about 1377, Raimondino commissioned the Oratory of Saint George as his funerary Chapel. It stands just beyond the facade of the basilica where the remains of Saint Anthony of Padua are enshrined. The walls of the chapel were frescoed by Altichiero and his workshop who completed twenty-two, mostly narrative panels in 1384. This paper focuses on the Infancy Cycle shown in five panels on the entry wall. I will explore the iconographical references, the manner by which the artist expressed the passage of time pictorially, and the symbolic relationship between the paintings and the architectural container, in particular, the oculus above and the entry door below. My interpretations are supported largely by Scripture, the biblical Apocrypha, the Golden Legend, French poetry, the Divine Comedy and other texts. Altichiero’s work in the oratory was the subject of my dissertation, and I have published previously on his handling of pictorial narrative in the cycles of Saint Catherine and Saint Lucy, also in Raimondino’s funerary chapel.





05/10/2022 Location TBD
4:00 PM
Naudé and Allacci: a most profitable friendship
Thomas Cerbu, University of Georgia
Abstract

Abstract

Gabriel Naudé is remembered today primarily for two reasons. As a consummate bookman, he considered how libraries should be organized, he arranged for the printing of works he had collected during his long Italian years, including Cardano and Campanella, and he oversaw the formation of Mazarin’s collection of books and manuscripts. Moreover, he is seen as representative of that eclectic learning famously called “libertinage érudit” by Pintard. These two strands of his activity were weighed in an article Kristeller devoted to Naudé’s editorial activity, “Between the Italian Renaissance and the French Enlightenment.”

Another measure of his importance is the attention he received after his death, in 1653. Perhaps most telling in this respect is that his papers were rapidly dispersed. Very few of the letters he received have surfaced, if they still exist, while those he wrote have been much prized by autograph collectors.

One such correspondence, which survives in only one direction, is that with Leone Allacci, the early Byzantinist attached his whole career to the Vatican Library. Altogether 28 letters survive, some in Rome, with many others scattered afield, including in Paris, St. Petersburg, and Uppsala. They illuminate crucial aspects of the reciprocal services the two friends extended each other. For instance, Allacci signed approbations for three works by Naudé, while Naudé laid the foundations for Allacci’s fruitful collaboration with the Amsterdam printer Joan Blaeu. More broadly, these letters help to identify the complex network of Naudé’s relations with the Barberini circle, while they mark, on the other hand, several steps in the 17th-century transfer of learning from Rome to Paris.