KHI 2021+ Lecture Series

Maria Loh: The Sky Is Falling (On Hubris, Self, and the Perils of the Early Modern Sky)

Dosso Dossi (Giovanni de' Luteri), Portrait of a Gentleman, oil on canvas, 1520, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Strange things were known to fall out of the skies. Hail storms, frogs, crucifixes, and sometimes even people, too. This paper will look at Dosso Dossi's peculiar Portrait of a Gentleman in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. A man. A labyrinth. An armillary sphere. A little pear. A donkey. A bolt of lightning. And a smouldering pair of wings. The cryptic portrait serves as a point of departure and return that will enable us to consider representations of the early modern sky as an ambivalent site of hope and anxiety. For unknowing young men such as Phaeton and Icarus, it would be the arena for their unbridled ambitions. For divine and mortal fathers such as Apollo and Daedalus, however, it became an empty container in which to pour their unending remorse and sorrow.

Maria H. Loh is Professor in Art History at Hunter College. She is the author of three books: Titian Remade. Repetition and the Transformation of Early Modern Italian Art (Getty Research Institute, 2007); Still Lives. Death, Desire, and the Portrait of the Old Master (Princeton, 2015); and Titian’s Touch. Art, Magic, & Philosophy (Reaktion, 2019). Her fourth book—Liquid Sky—will be on visual representations of the early modern sky. She lives and works in New York and London.

This talk is part of the KHI 2021+ Lecture Series, organized by the doctoral and postdoctoral fellows, in collaboration with scientific staff and senior scholars of the Institute. It is envisioned as a forum to reflect on the futures of Art History through conversations with innovative voices in the discipline, working in different areas but sharing methodological concerns.

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12 April 2021, 3:00pm

KHI 2021+ Lecture Series
The event takes place online.

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