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Grant number like: FA-50029-04

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Anthony Colantuono
University of Maryland, College Park (College Park, MD 20742-5141)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2004 – 12/31/2004

The Culture of Prudence: Advice, Control, and Artistic Creativity in Early Modern Italy

I propose to write a book examining the activity of rhetoricians, poets, theologians and other men of letters who, in the service of Italian and other European art patrons, functioned as advisors to artists and inventors of pictorial imagery in the later Middle Ages and early modernity (ca. 1350-1715). The importance of the study for the humanities lies not only in its demonstration that Enlightenment, Romantic and Modernist assumptions about artistic "freedom" still obscure this aspect of Early Modern artistic culture, but also in its inquiry into the advisors' participation in larger technologies of political and cultural control--a topic closely akin to current issues in European History, Musicology, literary studies and other humanities disciplines. At Villa I Tatti this year (2002-2003), I am gathering primary and secondary sources, conducting archival and rare book research, and reading in the larger philosophical issues, but I require an additional year to complete a publishable text. The resulting study will document several hundred cases of "advising" (including several new examples), showing that artists of the period accepted such advice as a fact of their profession, normally functioning as collaborative co-interpreters rather than executants of the advisor's instructions. The study begins with an Introduction to the historiographical and methodological issues governing this topic. Part One is a study of the socio-cultural institutions structuring the advisors' interactions with artists, tracing the development of advising practices and identifying turning points (e.g., the Council of Trent) where new forms of advice or "control" arose. Part Two analyzes the advisors' written instructions as literary texts, and examines drawings and other evidence of the process by which these were transformed into visual images. The Conclusion explains how modern aesthetic theories and their socio-political preconditions have marginalized this culture of prudential control.