Review, David R. Smith (éd.), Parody and festivity, in Early Modern Art, Essays on Comedy as Social Vision (Burlington and Farnham: Ashgate, 2012).

Review, David R. Smith (éd.), Parody and festivity, in Early Modern Art, Essays on Comedy as Social Vision (Burlington and Farnham: Ashgate, 2012).

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  18/1/2015» David R. Smith (ed.), Parody and Festivity in Early Modern Art, Essays on Comedy as Social Vision (Ashgate, 2012)  | ISSN: 1759-3085Published under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported CreativeCommons License. You are free to share, copy and transmit this work under the following conditions: Attribution — You must attribute the work to the author, and you must at all timesacknowledge the Journal of the Northern Renaissance as the srcinal place of publication (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).Noncommercial — You may not use this work for commercial purposes.No Derivative Works — You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.  18/1/2015» David R. Smith (ed.), Parody and Festivity in Early Modern Art, Essays on Comedy as Social Vision (Ashgate, 2012) David R. Smith (ed.),  Parody and Festivity in Early Modern Art, Essays on Comedy as Social Vision  (Burlington and Farnham: Ashgate, 2012). ISBN: 978-1-4094-3030-8, 220 pp., £56.70.Reviewed by Francesca Alberti [1] This book follows a renewed interest in carnival culture and itssocial functions. Through a series of art historical essays, it showshow parody and festivity are closely linked and deeply rooted inRenaissance and Baroque minds and sensibilities. Whereaslaughter in early modern literature, society and culture has beenthe subject of several in-depth studies, it has received littleconsideration from a visual perspective. Crossing art historical,historical and literary concerns, the essays reveal how artworksand visual material demonstrate different means of collectiveparticipation in laughter and the comic in public spaces.Throughout the book, the reader learns how parody has been ahighly stimulating and creative mode which privileged ambiguity,irony and fun, rather than mockery or satire, in order to confrontand loosen fixed norms, hierarchies and social authority. Parody and festivity seem to have served the same purpose; they worked as agencies of socialcohesion and tolerance. Laughter’s social function and its link to carnivalesque culture arethe common themes of the book’s various contributions which, in fact, exceed thechronological limits announced by the title: two essays deal with 20th century art.[2] The sequence starts with Paul Barolsky’s stimulating and entertaining contribution, which reaffirms the playful foundations of Renaissance art. The author recalls theetymology of the verb illudere  (to deceive), which comes form ludere  (to play), and pointsout the comic use of deception in many Renaissance works. He invites art historians to takepart in this game by adopting a more imaginative attitude to their writing. Imagination isthe capacity to imagine, to believe and to be fooled. No wonder the artist, who has thisfaculty, is often portrayed not only as a prestidigitator, but also as simpleton who believes inhis own fictions   . As he shows, this is the case for a Sienese artist named Mino, theprotagonist of one of Franco Sacchetti’s fourteenth-century comic novels, in which thepower of art and the theology of Incarnation are at the heart of an amusing farce. Hung inthe bedroom of King Philip IV of Spain, Velasquez’s  Los Borrachos  is the subject of anerudite article by Aneta Georgievska-Shine. Recalling all the previous interpretations of thepainting, the author claims its irreducibility to an unequivocal meaning. The picture’ssubject stands beyond the boundary of genre, it recasts classical mythology in a vernacularsetting with a parodic if not burlesque effect: a young and tender Bacchus sits among agroup of drunken peasants and places a crown on one of them; his earthy and “virginal” beauty are in great contrast with the rusticity of his companions. To understand better itsmultifaceted character, the author draws a comparison between the painting and thenotions of ‘disillusionment’ and paradox ( coincidentia oppositorum ), which were pervasivein the literary and philosophical cultures of the Spanish golden age. Through its many contradictions, the painting embraces a tragi-comic mode, the most self-conscious andmeta-theatrical of genres.[3] Diane Scillia’s paper underscores the importance of analyzing images in their specificcontext, even when dealing with carnival. She concentrates on the famous topsy-turvy theme of the ‘hunter rabbit/hare’, usually studied as a  marginalia  motif. After 1500, many links can be traced between this theme and carnival processions in Germany. Images such  18/1/2015» David R. Smith (ed.), Parody and Festivity in Early Modern Art, Essays on Comedy as Social Vision (Ashgate, 2012) as George Pencz’s woodcut, the  Broadsheet of the Rabbit’s/Hare’s Revenge  (1534-35),accompanied by Hans Sachs’ text, may have lead to political and social readings, referring toincreased taxation and the suppression of the rights of south German peasants after thePeasants’ War of 1525. Moving on to the Netherlands, Jane Kromm’s contributionfamiliarizes the reader with the public festivities that took place during charity lotteries inthe seventeenth century. These episodes are attested to by a rich iconography encompassingdifferent visual material such as posters, engravings and pictures, which show the lotteriesthat took place in The Hague (1617) and in Amsterdam (1592). The author analyzes thesophisticated strategies, activities and objects of these public and festive events.[4] Three essays, dedicated to Pieter Bruegel, prove how important this artist has been forthe visual tradition of parody and festivity in the sixteenth-century Netherlands. CatherineLevesque’s paper delves deeply into Bruegel’s neo-stoic stance as a humanist and anintellectual. Her study focuses on the paradoxes within the  Landscape with the Magpie onthe Gallows , between the exceptionally beautiful landscape and the amusing figures of peasants who dance freely, enjoy themselves and are even shown defecating. With its ironictone, the picture invites the viewer to grasp the world from many different perspectives inorder to retain a deeper philosophical meaning. The same idea is put forward by YemiOnafuwa’s study of   The Thin Kitchen  and The Fat Kitchen  compositions, dating from 1563.These prints demonstrate Bruegel’s interest in the ‘world upside down’, which finds acontemporary literary equivalent in the work of the German scholar, Friedrich Dedekind, who published the Grobianus: de morum simplicitate  in 1549: a parodic reversal of medieval conduct texts, which was repeatedly re-published. According to Onafuwa, thepicture’s footnote should be: ‘excess makes man forget God and himself’. Bruegel’s eruditionis also put forward by David Lavin’s new perspective on the painter’s paradoxical, parodicand ironic use of Italian models. By taking into account the disguised quotation of Michelangelo’s frescoes for the Sistine Chapel, Bruegel’s painted proverbs benefit from anew and deeper significance, which echoes the philosophy of knowledge advocated by Erasmus and the reformers of the sixteenth century. According to this doctrine, knowledgeis of value only when at the service of wisdom and wisdom can only be achieved throughfaith.[5] Parodies of social conventions, public festivities, professions and court spectacles are thetopic of Baccio del Bianco’s comic drawings of dwarfs, studied by Sandra Cheng. The authorillustrates how this theme has several antecedents and finds correspondence in theFlorentine visual and literary tradition of the caramogi  ‘s representations (images of grotesque, hunchbacked dwarfs). What makes Baccio del Bianco’s images so interesting istheir precious execution that, in contrast with the subject, was perceived as highly entertaining and much appreciated by the  Seicento  public. With his dwarves performingrituals of everyday life in narrative scenes, Baccio del Bianco opens a new season of caricature differing from Carracci’s ritratto carico . The sixteenth-century taste for subtleirony is illustrated by David Smith’s contribution on Jan van der Heyden’s  Feast of Purim .The  Feast of Purim  is a Jewish version of carnival that finds its srcins in the Bible’s  Book of  Esther . Smith recalls this tradition and explores the implications and reasons for the artist’sunusual choice of subject and its setting in a contemporary urban space.[6] The book’s chronology broadens with two more articles: one, by Soo Y. Kang, on imagesof clowns painted by Rouault at the start of the 20th century, the other, by Rosemary O’Neill, on the experiences of George Brecht and Robert Filliou – two members of theFluxus group – in the fishing town of Villefranche-sur-Mer in the 1960s. While Kang’sarticle concentrates on the circus as a new space for the development of parody andfestivity, O’Neill’s contribution on Brecht and Filliou’s playful actions considers parody atthe heart of the artistic practice. The two Fluxus artists play with everyday life; humordirects their actions and finds an embodiment with the opening of  La Cédille qui Sourit  , the  18/1/2015» David R. Smith (ed.), Parody and Festivity in Early Modern Art, Essays on Comedy as Social Vision (Ashgate, 2012) art store, studio and exhibition space, whose title is a pun. The cedilla is both a smile and ahook, the emblem of Villefranche-sur-Mer’s fishing heritage. Both papers invite the readerto consider how parody and festivity have changed since the early modern period: how they have adapted to an age that has become too secular to keep many religious feasts on thecalendar.[7] The bibliography on parody listed at the end of the volume will be helpful to futurestudies on the topic although it is largely Anglo-centric. Visual parody and irony in the early modern period still demand a theoretical definition in order to better understand thesephenomena from a historical perspective. In order to do so, studies such as those of GérardGenette (  Palimpseste. La littérature au Second Degré , Paris, 1982), Margaret Rose(  Parody: Ancient, Modern, and Post-modern , Cambridge, 1993) and Patricia Eichel-Lojkine (  Excentricité et Humanisme, Parodie, Dérision et Détournement des Codes à la Renaissance , Genève, 2002), may be of great use. Nevertheless, with its discerning and in-depth essays, the book contributes significantly to the study of festive culture and attests tothe importance and the need of analyzing carefully all its manifestations.  Académie de France à Rome, January 2015 
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