Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

The Vividness of Italian Baroque Sculpture between Literary Convention and Response

Subproject of "Art, Agency, and Living Presence in Early Modern Italy".

2006 - 2010
Caroline van Eck
NWO Vici NWO Vici

As we may gather from contemporary accounts people in seventeenth century Italy often spoke of sculpture as if it were alive: works of art are said to breath, move, speak, and even have feelings. Moreover, in some cases people actually were said to interact with these works of art in a way that suggests they were perceived as living beings rather than cleverly modelled lumps of marble or bronze. At a first instance responses like these, here grouped under the label of ‘living presence response’, seem rather inconsistent; even though spectators must have been very well aware (and indeed, in some cases did not fail to point out) that these works of art were essentially lifeless, they spoke of them and treated them as being alive nonetheless. 

In my research I will try to understand this phenomenon by looking at the way such responses functioned in their historical context, looking at religion, literature, natural sciences and, obviously, the visual arts. Furthermore, I will apply modern-day insights from psychology of perception and response to come to a further understanding of this phenomenon.

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