Nicola Suthor: Dislodging the Renaissance: On Henri Focillon's Life of Forms

organized by Villa I Tatti – The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies and the research group Rinascimento conteso of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max Planck Institut

Henri Focillon's Life of Forms (1934) challenges the central role of the Renaissance within the history of art in several different ways. Firstly, he questions the normative value of the concept of classicism and foregrounds what comes chronologically before and after in order to redefine classicism's universality, which he distinguishes from normativity. Secondly, he shatters the historical systematic development of art by comparing the flow of time to a whirlpool, an image that permits us to conceive of the associations between different forms, in terms of resonances or anticipations, within a single immanent form. In this lecture, Dr. Suthor will investigate how Focillon's vitalist assertions are grounded in his strong emphasis on technique, opening up a conceptual pathway by which we can reconsider the pathos of the form beyond its formula.


Nicola Suthor is Professor of the History of Art in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures of Yale University, where she teaches Northern and Southern Baroque art. Before arriving at Yale in 2015, she taught art history at the universities of Berlin (2012-14), Bern (2007-09), Hamburg (2011), Heidelberg (2009-11), and Stanford (2006). In 2011, she was a visiting member of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton. In 2012, she was awarded the Jacob Burckhardt Prize by the Max Planck Institut in Florence.


In cooperation with

08 June 2017, 6:00pm

Villa I Tatti – The Harvard University
Center for Italian Renaissance Studies

Gould Hall
Via di Vincigliata 26
50135 Firenze


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