Wit and Materiality: meaning in the making of Renaissance art

Professor Patricia Simons, History of Art, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Co-presented with the Power Institute

13 August

Much of art history is rightly concerned with analysing meaning at the level of representation and fiction, treating actual materials as almost incidental to meaning. In contrast, this lecture will focus on how Renaissance artists took advantage of their raw materials in order to foreground their skill and wit as well as physically accentuate the meaning of their crafted objects. From techniques of marble carving to clever signatures, from raised areas of paint and gesso to jokes played with the shape of jugs, meaning often resulted from the witty as well as literal manipulation of material substance.

Professor Patricia Simons

Patricia Simons taught at University of Sydney’s Power Institute before going on to become Professor at the History of Art, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her scholarly interests include the art of Renaissance Europe (primarily Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands) with a special focus on the representation of gender and sexuality and interdisciplinary research on the construction of authority and identity.

Her work has been published in anthologies and peer-review journals like Art History, Renaissance Quarterly and Renaissance Studies. Her most recent publication is The Sex of Men in Premodern Europe: A Cultural History (2011).