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Symposium: Petrarch and Portraiture

Ilaria Bernocchi (2015) and Nicolò Morelli (2014) are co-convening an interdisciplinary conference exploring the relationship between Petrarch and portraiture later this month.

The symposium draws together Petrarch – one of the most important Italian poets and intellectuals of the late-Middle Ages – and portraiture – a window into the conventions and complexities of depicting the individual. And such big ideas require a lot of space to discuss – centuries in fact.

“Petrarch’s intellectual activity was rich and all-encompassing, and so was his influence on the humanities and the arts, so we thought a symposium with an open call for papers would allow us to bring together as many diverse instances of this influence as possible. We were overwhelmed by the response! We have managed to put together a programme that deals with three centuries, different Italian cities, and a French case-study. The symposium is interdisciplinary at its core: roughly half of the speakers are from literature, the other half are historians of art and architecture, and even the curator of an important American collection.’

From the convenors to the speakers, every aspect of the symposium builds a bridge between words and images:

“The keynote speaker Dr Federica Pich is a young and brilliant scholar, who explored in her publications – alone and with leading Italianist Prof. Lina Bolzoni – the relationship between portraiture and poetry in the Renaissance. She was the perfect choice to synthesise the two fields, and an absolute delight to work with. Her lecture promises to offer new insights into portraits with inscriptions, we are really excited about it! We are lucky to have as respondent Dr Abigail Brundin, whose work has extensively dealt with art and literature in the early-modern period: she was one of the three Principal Investigators of an interdisciplinary project which gave rise to the recent major exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum Madonnas and Miracles: the Holy Home in Renaissance Italy.”

Portraits offer fertile ground for exploring how societies’ conceptions of the individual have changed through time, and how the work of leading intellectuals like Petrarch shaped the artistic and literary discourse.

“Understanding how people want to be portrayed means understanding how they want to be seen, and the artist – who interprets the cultural instances of his time – is key in this process.”

Petrarch and Portraiture Symposuium PosterThe symposium is taking place in the Old Library, Pembroke College, on the 8th June 2018.