One of the main reasons I wanted to come to Florence was the novel, A Room with a View. The name of my blog actually is a chapter title from the book, and refers to the fact that my university is in the Santa Croce area.
I love that I feel like Lucy Honeychurch when I am here. I am seeing the art that Forster saw and wrote about.
I am planning on writing my English Literature senior seminar on voyeurism as a mechanism of transcending binaries in the novel.
But much more pertinent in my research aspirations in Florence is the Italian art. Ever since my first Art History survey course, I’ve had an affinity for Italian art over German or French. I love looking and studying all of it. And my favorite research subjects only really occur in Italian art.
The big problem with this is that intersections of my research interests happen anywhere between 1250-1700 in Italy. What I love researching are Catholic-motivated, biographical cycles. So cycles of Christ’s life, a saint’s life, or a pope/cardinal’s life. They aren’t excessively available just because a cycle requires a larger commitment than a single scene, both by patron and artist. But the cycles also aren’t limited by a certain style, artist or time period.
So far, I’ve studied two cycles in depth, in two very different classes. My first experience with them was the tapestry cycle of The Life of Pope Urban VIII, as designed by Pietro da Cortona and executed by the Barberini arrazeria. I looked at the cycle within its situational and political context. The second was the cycle of the Life of Christ (including the Life of the Virgin), on the walls of the Arena Chapel by Giotto di Bondone. In that research, I studied what I called the “explicit” and “implicit” narratives of the scenes, or those narratives readily available to viewer when looking at a scene versus those that contextual information is required. Specifically I looked at how Giotto’s architecture played out these varying types of narratives.
So I am looking at nearly 500 years of Italian art for a biographical cycle that both speaks to me and that I have something to say about. Enough to say for a whole senior thesis.
Ideally, I want a High Renaissance cycle. But I am just not seeing them. Where are you, Quattrocento cycles? I’ve done research on an Early Renaissance and a Baroque cycle. But my cozy Art History spot is the High Renaissance. Still, I like transitional periods, so give me some Giotto and Michelangelo to test my limits! But if I can’t find one satisfying in the High Renaissance, I have a few options that I am looking to on either end of the spectrum (another conundrum! that I am so interested in these transitional periods, but that no potential doctoral adviser is going to study both Late Medieval and Baroque. so I feel pressure to make a decision on where I land right now. Ultimately the decision is one of whether or not I am ready to forsake my beloved papacy for more mercantile patrons).
One option that I am looking at: the French Gothic’s influence on Giotto, specifically in his architecture across all his works, including two cycles (The Arena Chapel, as discussed before, and the Bardi Chapel’s cycle of St. Francis). This could also look at precedents in the Byzantine/Siense style of cycles of both the biographies of Christ and St. Francis (on movable pictures, like altarpieces), as well as the St. Francis cycle in Assisi by an unknown master in Giotto’s style.