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The University of North Carolina Press
Inventions of the Studio, Renaissance to Romanticism / Edition 1

Inventions of the Studio, Renaissance to Romanticism / Edition 1

by Michael Cole, Mary Pardo


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807829035
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 01/24/2005
Series: Bettie Allison Rand Lectures in Art History
Edition description: 1
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Michael Cole is assistant professor of art history at the University of Pennsylvania.

Mary Pardo is associate professor of art history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Inventions of the Studio, Renaissance to Romanticism

The University of North Carolina Press

Copyright © 2005 The University of North Carolina Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8078-2903-X

Chapter One

Origins of the Studio Michael Cole and Mary Pardo

In Peter Paul Rubens's Four Philosophers (fig. 1.1), begun late in 1611 and completed soon after, the artist imagines himself into a room with three other men: his brother Philip (who had died in August of that year), the teacher of Philip and celebrated scholar Justus Lipsius (who had died five years earlier), and another pupil of Lipsius's, Jan Woverius. The ornamented space Rubens shows is, from a certain point of view, as fantastical as the gathering itself. Nothing here is accidental; virtually every detail of the picture, from the tulips (two open and two closed) to the bust of Seneca (whose writings Lipsius had translated) to the dog (Lipsius's pet, "Mopsus," who had accompanied his master to lectures), seems put here to deliver information about its characters. It is difficult to believe that these four men ever gathered in such a room as this. And yet there is, from another perspective, a surprising fittingness to the display. The central table, the stacked books, and the writing instruments, along with the depicted activities of reading and transcription, all tell us that, if this space is specific in kind, its kind is the study, the locus of scholarly work. And understood as such, the elements Rubens gives us have their own sort of logic. The pairing of tulip and marble bust recall the twin investments in artificio and naturalia, Kunst and Wunder, that guided the assemblages that constituted most European studioli in Rubens's day. The single window, opening onto an exterior view, reminds us that such an aperture had, since the Middle Ages, been the study's basic architectural feature. The landscape, vaguely Italianate and certainly not descriptive of any specific locale, evokes the landscape paintings that the patrons of studioli had begun to collect. The column, the drawn red drape, and the generally classicizing decor all lend the gathering an academic air.

Gerrit Dou's Man Writing by an Easel (plate 5), made almost exactly twenty years later, likewise includes, at left, a painter, and likewise outfits the space with collectibles. If the Rubens painting already raised the suspicion that the incidental objects might indicate something about their painter-we know, for example, that Rubens himself kept a bust of Seneca on display above the entrance to his atelier-here the visible paraphernalia relate even more obviously to the artist's workshop. The armor, drums, and violin all seem to be props; they are included in any number of Dutch genre pictures of the period. In Dou's picture, as in Rubens's, writing is the activity most on display: the fur collar on the man's robe suggests that he, like Lipsius, is a scholar by profession. Yet if, in the so-called Four Philosophers, the most curious presence in the painting is that of Rubens himself, this protagonist may be even stranger, for he sits not at a desk but before a painting. Rubens's suggestion, it would seem, was that the scholar's study was the sort of place that an artist would frequent; Dou's, by contrast, is that such a place has become the painter's own. Between these scenes, the distinction between the artist's abode and the scholar's has become all but indiscernible.

This book, for which the paintings just described could serve as emblems, is about an anachronism: our use of the term studio to refer to the place in which the early modern artist worked. Significantly, the word studio only came late to designate the artist's workplace, first entering the English language in the nineteenth century; until the late seventeenth century, Italians called the artist's shop a bottega, or simply a stanza, and used "studio" primarily to denote the room, or even the desk, where the scholar sat. Yet although it is valuable to underscore the fact that the habit of naming the Early Modern artist's space a "studio" is historically tenuous, the project of this book is to demonstrate that the eventual expansion of the term is, in important ways, also historically fitting. Already in pictures like Rubens's and Dou's, we have, for the modern term, an entire pictorial genre to which it might justly apply. The development of that genre, moreover, corresponded to a broad new conception of the artist's habitat, one for which there were already, well before that, clear documentary indications. Long before the word studio came to mean what it now does, the artist's space had been transformed into a space of study. The modern term studio may imply a conflation of architectures, occupants, and functions, but it also preserves the traces of an earlier historical scene, one that is fundamental for understanding both art and its literature in Europe.

The Artist as Student

Italian texts provide us with our earliest full-scale evidence for the emergence of the "studio" as a dimension of the artist's workshop. But even prior to their formulation, the emphasis in the Renaissance artist's work space was shifting from "production" to "study," a phenomenon that shadowed the prestigious legacy of the medieval institutions of higher learning. Since the Middle Ages, the Latin place noun studium designated a university-an imperially or papally chartered institution authorized to confer licenses and doctoral degrees valid throughout Christendom. Italian city-states in possession of a charter could claim oversight of a studium; this "paper university," though, was distinct from the less numerous actual teaching institutions, where a lay faculty held regular classes to fulfill the requirements of an advanced curriculum with special emphasis on medicine and jurisprudence. The Italian teaching studia were older than-and different from-those of northern Europe, where the faculty consisted largely of clerics, and the highest field of study was theology.

Without claiming that the Renaissance artist's work space gradually assumed the functions of a studium, we can still suppose that that space was permeable to the broad example of the Italian universities (strongly secular, and-especially when dominated by a medical faculty-increasingly practice-oriented). The best evidence for the early absorption of "scholarly" standards in the artist's training ground is the body of writings produced by Florentine artists and art theorists in the first decades of the fifteenth century, in particular those of Leon Battista Alberti, Cennino Cennini, and Lorenzo Ghiberti. The art treatise (and its complement, the artistic biography) emerged as a kind of alternate studio, in which the methods and aims of the more prestigious crafts were explored and debated alongside their practical application in the workshop proper.

Alberti's pioneering treatise On Painting (1435-36) clearly marks the point of overlap between the worlds of the manual craftsman and the scholar, revealing an unexpected willingness on the part of the latter to assume a subordinate position vis-a-vis the former. It also provides an alternative concept of studium, centered on the production of convincing bodily illusions-a concept destined to make headway in the art literature of the following decades. Expertise as a Latinist and student of ancient culture had earned Alberti his regular job, a position as secretary in the papal chancery; it also provided him with the intellectual tools for analyzing, and critiquing, the most recent artist innovations. As Michael Baxandall has shown, Alberti's epochal contribution lay in transforming the principles of Latin literary composition recovered by humanist scholarship into an unusually coherent (and enduring) approach to the structural analysis of the painter's, sculptor's, and architect's art.

Alberti dedicated On Painting to Filippo Brunelleschi, who was the most famous Florentine architect of his era, but also a practicing sculptor credited by his biographer Antonio Manetti with having invented linear perspective. And it is in connection with the mastery of perspective as a geometrical construct that Alberti emphasizes the Latin term studium and its cognates:

But some will say: "What benefits the painter all this inquiry?" Every painter judges himself an excellent master who fully understands the proportions and joinings of surfaces-a thing that very few know, and if you ask them what they aim to do upon that which they take to be a surface, they will give you anything but an answer relevant to your question. So I beg studious painters to not be ashamed to listen to me.... They should know that when with their lines they encircle a surface and fill with color the enclosed places, nothing else is sought but that on this surface the forms of things seen be represented not otherwise than if it were made of transparent glass, such that the visual pyramid passed through it, as if set at a given distance, with a certain lighting and a certain placement of the centric ray.

"Studious" in this case means more than hardworking or even learned: when Alberti directs the painter to concern himself with the "visual pyramid" passing through the surface of the painting, the allusion is to the optical science that provides the basis for the entire first book of the treatise.

Alberti's use of the language of studium is properly classical. This is not to say that the sense he gives the term was lacking in medieval Latin, but rather that a scholar with his background would necessarily have used it with an extra dose of self-consciousness, informed by the authority of the ancient sources. Cicero, for example, writing on invention, gives the following definition: "Studium [application, zeal] is unremitting mental activity ardently devoted to some subject and accompanied by intense pleasure, for example, interest in philosophy, poetry, geometry, literature." The fields of amateur "study" cited here by Cicero sound rather like Alberti's ideal curriculum for the modern painter (a curriculum that itself had a long afterlife). And if we compare the other Florentine treatise on painting nearly contemporaneous with Alberti's, Cennino Cennini's vernacular Craftsman's Handbook, we find in it, too, a quasi-Ciceronian emphasis on diligence and pleasure, one connected expressly with the learning of painting: "Not without being prompted by a gentle spirit are some moved to approach this art, since it pleases them through a natural love. The mind delights in drawing all by itself, since nature draws them to this of themselves, without a master's guidance, through their gentle spirit; and on account of this pleasure, they go on to seek a master, with whom they settle with love of obedience, enduring servitude in order to achieve perfection in [this art]." Although the word "study" is virtually absent from the thirty-odd chapters that constitute the "apprenticeship" portion of Cennini's text, his aspiring painter answers to an aristocratic learning ideal, far removed from the commercial realities that fueled early quattrocento artistic production. It is noteworthy that by the end of the seventeenth century-in Baldinucci's academically sponsored Tuscan Dictionary of the Arts of Design-the word studiare, now listed as part of the technical terminology of the fine arts, preserves a Ciceronian connotation: "Studiare: to undertake anything with industriousness, diligence, and pleasure; more properly said of attending to and laboring in this manner on matters concerning the Sciences and the Liberal Arts."

Manual Study and the Book

Cennini was a professional painter born at least a generation prior to Alberti, and his own treatise on painting has more in common with its medieval predecessors than Alberti's would. Where it departs from these, however, is in the emphasis it places on drawing as a tool not merely for the production of images but for learning the craft of painting. In contrast to On Painting, the Handbook considers the formation of the apprentice's personal style and gives attention to the relative part that his innate faculties (his fantasia) and his discipline in copying (Cennini calls it ritrarre, "portraying") authoritative models played in this. Unlike Alberti, Cennini places drawing after natural objects second to the imitation of works by famous artists; paradoxically, though, it is this that aligns the Handbook with mainstream humanist literary training, about which Cennini could have learned during a stint as court artist in Padua, in the 1390s. The site of northern Italy's greatest "scientific" university and a city where Tuscan art and literature were eagerly sponsored by the ruling dynasty, Padua offered Cennini (as it would Alberti) a thriving model of institutional learning at the highest level. One of the clearest references to "studying" in the Handbook, in fact, powerfully evokes a university setting: "Your life must always be ordered as though you had to study [studiare] philosophy or theology or other sciences, that is to say, you should eat and drink temperately at least twice a day, consuming light and nutritious foods, and mild wines, [and] preserving and maintaining your hand, protecting it from coarse activity, such as pitching stones...." Cennini's "science" is unapologetically manual, yet his painter's hand is anything but menial. The mano, which is to be protected as if it belonged to a philosophy student, is the conduit for the artist's ineffable maniera, the personal style that arises in the encounter between the apprentice's fantasia and the famous works he is accustomed to copying.

Later writers make clear what Cennini had strongly implied, that, as a matter of practice, it was drawing (and its sculptural analogues) that made the artist into a student. The most obvious evidence of this is the eventual broadening of the term studio itself, so that it could actually mean "drawing." And if, as seems to be the case, it was not until the seventeenth century that this particular lexical transformation happened, it was anticipated by other usages. A familiar example is Vasari's commentary on the word disegno, which, he explained, referred not only to a "design" or "drawing"-that is, to a picture made on paper-but also, and even primarily, to what he called a "universal judgment," the "form or idea" of the thing from which the disegno was taken. Abstractions like this were possible with much of the related vocabulary. In the days of Alberti, for example, it was common to refer to a working drawing as a concepto, an esemplo, or a modello.


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From the Publisher

Inventions of the Studio opens entirely new prospects on a traditional theme in Western art. In these innovative studies the artist's studio emerges as a significantly more complex phenomenon, a site not only of artistic production and training but of creative introspection and anxiety as well.—David Rosand, Columbia University

This is a smart book that rethinks the studio both as a site of production and a conceptual nexus of ideas about the interrelation of making and knowing in early modern Europe. A welcome supplement to familiar narratives of the changing status of art and artist, these thoughtful essays reveal in distinctive ways how pictorial practices and imagery can testify to discursive formations not yet or not fully articulated textually.—Celeste Brusati, University of Michigan

Thought-provoking. . . . Engaging. . . . The artist's 'studio' that emerges from this book is a site of contestation and exchange between public and private, theory and practice, art and nature, real and virtual, self and ego.—University of Toronto Quarterly

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