ANN: Donata Levi – Reflecting on the gaze of the connoisseur (The Hugo Helbing Lecture, Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte Munich & online, 24 April 2024, 18:15 CET)

Sketch by G. B. Cavalcaselle of a portrait in Munich (Alte Pinakothek), now attributed to an unknown Umbrian painter c. 1505, Venice, Marciana National Library, Cavalcaselle Collection, Cod. It. IV 2033 (=12274), II, 28v/29r

In the last decades of the 20th century, art history has been subject to a deep process of rethinking. In particular, the practice of connoisseurship, which had played an important role at the dawn of the discipline in the second half of the 19th century, has been labelled as a pseudo-positivist approach, subject both to the capitalist exploitation of art and to the strategies of museums. The recent revival of interest in connoisseurship, as a historical phenomenon, induces new reflections, especially on the mechanisms of attribution as such and on the possibility of filling the gap between the connoisseurs’ gaze (that is, his immediate response to an artwork) and the subsequent attempt to transform their operations into words. Starting from the archival materials of two 19th century art historians, Joseph Archer Crowe and G.B. Cavalcaselle, which both allow an ‘anatomical’ study of the gaze, and offer an insight into the circulation of artworks, the lecture will explore how the practice of connoisseurship was practically performed in art historical research and in art writing and how it was shaped in relation with the art market, private collecting and museum policies.

Donata Levi is professor of history of art criticism and museology and responsible for the Laboratory of ICT applied to Art Historical Sources (LIDA) of the Department of Humanities and Cultural Heritage of the University of Udine. She is President of the Fondazione Memofonte (Florence), member of the Scientific Committee of the Gallerie degli Uffizi and co-editor of Brepols series “Materiality”. Her main fields of research are art criticism and museology from the 18th to the 20th century as well as the history of the protection of art heritage. As PI for Italy in the HERA project Transfer of Cultural Objects in the Alpe Adria Region in the 20th Century, she has edited with Michael Wedekind the volume «Contested Space – Contested Heritage. Sources on the Displacement of Cultural Objects in the 20th Century Alpine-Adriatic Region» (2021). Among her books: «Cavalcaselle. Il pioniere della conservazione dell’arte italiana» (1988), «Il discorso sull’arte. Dalla tarda antichità a Ghiberti» (2010) and, as co-editor, «Fototeche e archivi fotografici nelle università italiane» (2023). She is currently working on a national project entitled The forms of the museum: pilot project for a digital atlas of Italian museums.

PARTICIPATION: The lecture will take place in a hybrid format. You can either attend in-person or virtually via Zoom. Registration is not required.

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