Philip Sohm: Histories of palettes, mostly Italian, 1500-1700


Palettes have many interdependent histories: linguistic and narrative, material and morphological, functional and symbolic. No diachronic history of these topics exists and, at this point, can only be sketched in a preliminary way. This will serve as background for a case study: the coded languages of palettes. How were pigments represented on palettes? How were they displayed to the viewer? What did they say about the painter (and to whom)? By signaling the means of production, the identity of the artist and the myths of artistic creation, palettes promised access to revelatory truths while also withholding full access. As a form of shoptalk and professional jargon, they spoke most clearly to fellow painters at a time when many collectors sought insider's knowledge and experience, seeking entry into studios and to craft secrets. This growing audience, enticed in part by Vasari's stories, wanted to visit studios and watch paintings in creation; some even wanted to do it themselves.

Philip Sohm, University Professor at the Department of Art / Graduate Department of the History of Art at University of Toronto.

Education: B.A., 1973 Oberlin College; M.A., 1974 University College London, University of London; Ph.D., 1978 The Johns Hopkins University.

Employment: 1976-1978 Instructor, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; 1978-1983 Assistant Professor, Department of Art, University of Toronto; 1983-1990 Associate Professor, Department of Art, University of Toronto; 1990-2009 Professor, Department of Art, University of Toronto; 2009-present University Professor, University of Toronto.

Fellowships and Honours: 1976-1978 Samuel H. Kress Fellowship, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; 1984-1985 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Leave Fellowship; 1992-1993 (declined) Alisa Bruce Senior Fellow, Center for the Advanced Study of the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; 1992-1993 Member and Herodotus Fellow, School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, N.J.; 2009-present Fellow, Royal Society of Canada.

Books: The Scuola Grande di San Marco: the Architecture of a Venetian Lay Confraternity, New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1982; Pittoresco. Marco Boschini, His Critics and Their Critiques of Painterly Brushwork in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Italy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.; Style in the Art Theory of Early Modern Italy, New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 2001 (Chapter 2 is reprinted in Italian Baroque Art, ed. Susan Dixon, Blackwell Publishing, 2008.); The Artist Grows Old. The Aging of Art and Artists in Italy, 1500-1800, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007; Painting for Profit. The Economic Lives of Seventeenth-century Italian Painters, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010 (Co-author: Richard Spear).

Selected articles: "Caravaggio's Deaths," in Art Bulletin, 84, 2002, pp. 449-468; "Baroque Piles and Other Decompositions," in Pictorial Composition, ed. F. Quiviger and P. Taylor, London: Warburg Institute Colloquia, II, 2000, pp. 1-23; "Ordering History with Style: Giorgio Vasari on the Art of History," in Antiquity and Its Interpreters, ed. A. Payne, A. Kuttner and R. Smick, Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 40-55; "Maniera and the absent hand: avoiding the etymology of style," in RES. Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics, XXX, 1999, pp. 100-124; "Gendered Style in Italian Art Criticism from Michelangelo to Malvasia," in Renaissance Quarterly, XLVIII, 1995, pp. 759-808.

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