Robert Klein, Art Historian and Philosopher

organized by Jérémie Koering (Centre André Chastel), Aline Payne (I Tatti – The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies) and Alessandro Nova

Robert Klein, photographie anonyme. Paris, Bibliothèque de l'Institut national d'histoire de l'art, collection Jacques-Doucet, fonds Chastel
© Institut national d'histoire de l'art

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Robert Klein (1918-2018), this conference will bring together scholars to reconsider the published and unpublished works of one of the most erudite and inventive art historians of the twentieth century. At stake is the question of defining Klein's historiographical, critical, and theoretical positioning, as well as his contribution to the history of art and philosophy.

To date, no sustained study has yet been dedicated to Klein and his work, in part due to his tragic death in Florence in 1967, and the subsequent disappearance of a large part of his manuscripts (including his work on ars and techné from Plato to Giordano Bruno, his thesis on the aesthetics of techné in the sixteenth century, his study of the so-called Mantegna Tarocchi, and an essay on responsibility). The rediscovery of Klein's unpublished papers, donated to the library of the Institut national d'histoire de l'art (INHA) in 2013, document his contribution to the redefinition of the discipline of art history and invite a reconsideration of his work. As the recent publication of his thesis L'esthétique de la technè (INHA, 2017) has shown, Klein undertook in particular to rethink Renaissance art and its history, bringing to bear the Aristotelian notion of techné and offering a vision of Renaissance artistic production quite different from the Neoplatonic ideals to which it is often linked. This conference will shed more light on these investigations as well as on the intellectual journey of an important art historian and philosopher of the past century.


Rinascimenti: Colloquia on the Historiography of Early Modern Art

This series of lectures and seminars jointly 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 aims to reassess the Renaissance as a historiographic paradigm. Against the background of the traditional research interests that guided the founding of both institutions, the project's goal is to put such a paradigm to the test, debating its impact and status in the discipline by bringing together a polyphony of critical voices from the international scholarly community.

The events will focus on key texts that successfully and meaningfully engaged with the defining issues of the Renaissance from both a formal and a more broadly cultural point of view. Returning to those canonical texts of the art historical discipline that, from the late nineteenth into the twentieth century, contributed to crystallize and define the concept in academic circles, each event will respond to the evolving history of the field and to the various critical turns that it has undergone in more recent times.

The aim of the series is to determine whether such a category—often replete with elitist and Eurocentric connotations—can still be useful as an interpretive tool to see and read the past, one that can not only advance knowledge specific to studies of the premodern West, but also offer more far-reaching methodological lessons.


in cooperation with

08 November 2018

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

Via di Vincigliata 26
50135 Firenze

09 November 2018

Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut

Palazzo Grifoni Budini Gattai
Via dei Servi 51
50122 Firenze


This event will be documented photographically and/or recorded on video. Please let us know if you do not agree with the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz using images in which you might be recognizable for event documentation and public relation purposes (e.g. social media).


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