Volume 1, no. 3 (2006)


Whose Perspective? Andrea del Castagno, Paolo Uccello and the Patron’s Point of View
Jim Harris

The manner in which mathematical perspective was deployed in Florentine painting during the second quarter of the quattrocento both clarifies and confuses our idea of how this innovation was viewed. Presented with a system in which the creation of convincing space was an attainable object, painters nevertheless continued to produce work in which perspective was not slavishly constructed but subtly skewed, manipulated and adjusted. Paolo Uccello’s panels of The Battle of San Romano and Andrea del Castagno’s Last Supper and Passion frescoes at Sant’ Apollonia exemplify this, sharing the quirk of serially exploiting and abandoning perspective and consequently of assembling worlds marked by deliberate spatial ambiguity. This article examines how these artists, celebrated for their skill as perspectivists, subordinated mathematical precision to other compositional and didactic ends, and discusses their patronally-driven reasons for doing so.

Illustrating Boccaccio. The Pico Master and the 1492 Decameron
Laura J. Blom

This article analyses the images for the first Italian illustrated printed edition of Giovanni Boccaccios Decameron, printed by the Gregori brothers in Venice, 1492. The strategies of the designer, the Master of Pico della Mirandolas Pliny, are considered in conjunction with his earlier work on the Malermi Bible, 1490, and on Dantes Commedia, 1491. The visualisation of the text in the Decameron novelle, giornate, and frontispiece woodcuts are examined. The novelle illustrations relationship to the narrative plot, climax, and the days theme are discussed, while the giornate and frontispiece woodcuts are further analysed with respect to their function within the burgeoning print tradition.

‘Somewhat like a three-legged table’. Christopher Wren’s Collegiate Architecture
Alastair Fair

Although Christopher Wren’s library at Trinity College, Cambridge, has attracted a good deal of attention from historians, the other buildings that he designed for the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge remain comparatively little-studied. Examining these projects as a group highlights a hitherto-unnoticed consistency of approach in that they abandon what had become the norm in collegiate planning – the regular, enclosed quadrangle – in favour of a more “open” arrangement, through the use of detached buildings, three-sided courts, or by permitting controlled vistas to the wider world. Various possible explanations for this approach are advanced, shedding light on Wren’s attitude to beauty in architecture and thus his wider method. In conclusion, a reading is suggested that sees these buildings as potentially-inspirational symbols of “new learning” in an environment that was often bound by conscious academic conservatism. 

Fighting Fascism in the Kitchen:
The Domestic Context in Visconti’s Ossessione and Guttuso’s Still Life Series
Lara Pucci

This article offers a close analysis of the domestic spaces explored in Luchino Visconti’s 1942 film Ossessione and a series of still-life paintings by Renato Guttuso of the early 1940s. It considers how the domestic environment is used, in both cases, as a setting for covert opposition to the Fascist situation. It looks at the ways in which Fascist values are constructed and contested within these spaces: through the politicisation of domestic relationships, and the domestication of political violence, respectively. The article situates these works within the broader context of cultural opposition to Fascism that underpins them. With reference to the exhibition of Ossessione and several of the still-lifes in the public spaces of Fascism, it considers the status of these works as statements of opposition from within the structures of the Regime.

Collecting with Light Luggage: A Conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist
Noah Horowitz

This article presents a discussion of contemporary art collecting with curator Hans Ulrich Obrist. Traced through the progression of Obrist’s professional career, it examines the economic parameters of today’s exhibition practice and focuses on the manners in which exhibitions are circulated and archived. It argues that the art industry’s professionalisation and, in particular, the intensification of art investment initiatives makes it relevant to test experimental models of art production, distribution and collecting. Topics covered include the stratification of art market circuits, the interrelationship of private, corporate and museum collections, and the logistics of project funding. The conversation concludes by examining the after-life of exhibitions and speculating upon how the conservation of such shows offers a potentially progressive model for exchanges, both real and hypothetical, in the greater art marketplace.