Art, Dialogue, History:
Sources and Practice Discourses of Italian Art from a Historical Perspective
Understanding the complex objects of art history in their material and technical disposition and functionality requires deeper insight into the historical conditions of their production and reception. In novellas, chronicles, contracts and other writings we find traces of a lively art discourse that provides such insight. A terminology of making and appreciating artworks in various audiences compiled from source texts of different genres reflects not only the simultaneity of contrary concepts of artistic agency but also the dynamic fluctuations of knowledge of artistic materials and techniques. We can observe instances of a transmission, appropriation or transformation of antique topoi as well as innovative conceptions of artistry. In interdisciplinary dialogue, the diverse yet interconnected texts may refine the art historical instruments in order to reconsider effects, uses and readings of imagery and visual configurations in the social fabric. Linked to the roots of the kind of historiographical approach to art that became increasingly evident in Italy from the fourteenth century on, are also crucial narratives that, to this day, reverberate in the language of art scholarship. In this sense, clarifying a historical terminology also provides incentives for a methodical reflection on the current discourse of art history.