The Early Modern Contract Drawing in Italy

Linda Mueller | Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Agreement between Bernardo de Lazara and Pietro Calzetta for the decoration of the Chapel of Corpus Christi in S. Antonio, Padua; witnessed, written and drawn by Bartolomeo Sanvito (as notary) after a drawing by painter Niccolò Pizzolo; 1466, brown ink on paper (recto), Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute, acc. no. 900255.

My dissertation studies contractual drawings in early modern Italy, only a few of which have survived in their original contexts in notarial archives, mostly in central and northern Italy, while others have been preserved in drawing collections detached from their written counterparts. My work reunites their visual and verbal components, situating the pairs within their proper artistic, social, and legal contexts. The investigation begins by illuminating the drawings' ties to the visual culture of medieval legal documents around 1400, and traces their shifting institutional and legal contexts by the late sixteenth century. In a series of essays that center around issues such as evidence, factuality, authenticity, license, and the relationship between word and image, the project examines the pairs through the lens of artistic practice and local workshop traditions. By juxtaposing notarial and artistic strategies, my project gives special weight to contract drawings' close dependence on the profession and method of the notary himself, who, in rare cases, adopted the role of the draftsman. Taking under consideration a set of commissioned presentation drawings, which were intended for contractual use but ultimately rejected, the dissertation studies the role such drawings could play in the polemics between design and execution in Renaissance Italy, as well as their impact on social processes of identity construction among the commissioning religious and civic cooperative bodies.


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