Mattia Biffis: Precarious movements: Rubens and the hazards of mobility
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Foredrag med Mattia Biffis "Precarious movements: Rubens and the hazards of mobility"
Living in a period of increasing mobility of men and objects, Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) was a painter thoroughly dependent on the politics and practices of delivery. From his native Antwerp, the Flemish artist was able to maintain familiar relationships with a ramified network of friends, patrons, and humanists, extending as far as Italy, Spain, France, and Britain. Reduced to standardized volumes of manageable size, his paintings moved efficiently along the delivery lines that crossed the physically divided and politically turbulent landscape of 17th century Europe. Yet, as highly mobile works, Rubens’ paintings were also exposed to the unpredictability of circulation – meaning that his works could get substantially altered when in transit, with the risk of being perceptually compromised by transportation and losing important eidetic information. This paper will offer a critical overview of the strategies adopted by Rubens to preserve what has been called the “sensory continuum” of his paintings – that is, the actions he took to transmit his paintings in the same conditions as they left his workshop, assuring the correct communication of sensory data also over long distance. To protect the organic delicacy of works on the move was a crucial task for a painter like Rubens, one that will also allow us to critically reconsider aspects of materiality and agency of the works of art in the early modern period.
Mattia Biffis (M.A. London, 2007; Ph.D. Venice, 2013) is postdoctoral research fellow at the Norwegian Institute in Rome – University of Oslo. His research focuses on issues of geography and materiality, and is mostly concerned with ideas of physical displacement and mobility of works of art and forms of knowledge in Early Modern period. His current project, entitled “Painting, Distance, and Circulation: Toward a Geography of Things in Early Modern Europe,” investigates the physical and material circumstances by which art is transmitted, displaced, and re-contextualized. Before joining the Norwegian Institute in February 2018, he was postdoctoral research associate at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
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