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The Artist as Visionary and the Legend of St. Luke Painting the Virgin

Thu, March 22, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Hilton Riverside, 1st Level - Grand Salon Breakout 13

Abstract

The Early Modern period saw the rise of a growing anxiety over the imagination of the artist and his problematic status as a mediator of the divine. This is nowhere more evident than in works made for the newly-established artists’ academies of Florence and Rome. The works of Giorgio Vasari, Il Passignano, and Federico Zuccaro picture the well-known legend of St. Luke Painting the Virgin; yet neither the significance of their new formulation of the legend – portrayed as the artist’s vision, rather than a portrait sitting – nor the historical circumstances that would account for its collective emergence among painters belonging to Italy’s art theoretical milieu has been examined. This paper argues that these works constitute a reflection on the medial nature of the artist’s imaginative vision at a moment when Catholic reformers sought control over this threatening side of art-making, deemed too important to be entrusted to the artist’s fantasia.

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