Graduate Seminar: Botticelli: The Making of a Renaissance Artist
Monday | 9:00 - 12:00pm
This graduate seminar opens a wide historiographic panorama on Botticelli’s life and works from his time to the present day. Following the participants’ interests, we will focus with increasing intensity on the nineteenth-century making of Botticelli (Pater, Ruskin, the Pre-Raphaelites), on the early modern sources (from the first anonymous notes to Vasari), and their reading in the late nineteenth century (Aby Warburg’s 1893 dissertation, Sandro Botticellis “Geburt der Venus” und “Frühling”: Eine Untersuchung über die Vorstellungen von der Antike in der italienischen Frührenaissance) to the late twentieth century’s theoretical approaches to Botticelli’s intensely erotic, devastatingly beautiful, and at times likewise devastatingly violent imagery (Georges Didi-Huberman’s 1999 Ouvrir Vénus: Nudité, rêve, cruauté).
We will discuss themes of the body and nature, allegories, Antiquity, nudity, heroes, Madonne, Rome as commemorated in Botticelli’s Sistine Chapel frescoes, Dante as imagined in Botticelli’s illustrations for the Divine Comedy, the Medici and Savonarola as major factors in the social fabric around the artist, his graphic work, his mannerism, and the responses to Botticelli in the twentieth century (from the spheres of advertising to Andy Warhol). With the last chapter, we will enter the current discussions of the innovative exhibit “Botticelli Reimagined” (organised by the V&A and the Gemäldegalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, on view in London 5 March 2016 – 3 July 2016). This most recent exhibit on Botticelli involves Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, and Bill Viola as well as those earlier artistic responses to Botticelli by Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edgar Degas, and René Magritte.
While the course aims at increasing the awareness for the different historiographic lenses one is used to look at early modern artists in general, it is in constant dialogue with the works. Botticelli’s paintings will therefore appear in a likewise reflected sequence of different art historical approaches, from the material study of the conservator’s perspective to iconographical analysis with appropriate biblical and ancient sources, and approaches from theory. At the end of the course, we will have developed a more complex and more complete image of Botticelli’s works on the one hand, and of the long history of writings about these works on the other hand.
The course will be held in English; all required readings are in English. Additional readings in Italian, German, French, and Spanish will be discussed in class according to the participants’ individual levels of reading knowledge in these languages.