Hybrid conference ”Artists’ Workshop Practice in the Renaissance” on 20-21 September 2023


Hybrid conference ”Artists’ Workshop Practice in the Renaissance” 

Organized by Michelle O’Malley, Lydia Goodson and Michael W. Kwakkelstein

20-21 September 2023

The workshop was the nexus of artistic production in the Renaissance, yet the idea of the workshop and its concomitant acknowledgment of many hands has never sat comfortably within an art historical tradition that continues to prioritise attribution. While many scholars consider the work made in artists’ workshops and much recent scholarship seeks to attribute the outputs of the assistants of well-known painters and sculptors, there are still many questions concerning quotidian life in the workshop that have attracted little scholarly attention, and about which we know very little – or practically nothing.

How did an Italian Renaissance artists’ workshop function? What norms, rhythms of work, and protocols governed its day-to-day operation? What do we know about the detail and manner of the training assistants received and what can we tell about ways they absorbed tuition? How did masters manage the operation of the workshop members in the organisation of production? Are there connections between workshop practices and style? Did location and networks affect methods of working? Artists’ Workshop Practices in the Renaissance examines such questions.

The conference develops from a project centred at the Warburg Institute, London, which looks closely, critically and collaboratively at issues of Renaissance artists’ workshop practice. We aim to pool data from disparate artists and artisans and to trade methodologies to build a better picture of daily workshop life. But more than that, the project opens out fundamental aspects of our understanding of workshop practice through long, focused discussion on topics that explore how the members of a workshop specifically operated together to make works of art. The conference will consider issues of the workshop context and its materials and look both at how training worked on the ground and at how artists used or built on their training. It will address questions of management that have to do with how work was organised and masters might specifically deploy their assistants and contribute their own talents to making works. Management is often seen in practices of the reproduction of figures or compositions in works of art and so a section of the conference is devoted to looking forensically at ‘copies’ to determine the extent and means of replication and appropriation, especially in artists most expected to employ reproduction techniques. In the last session, the conference turns to the management of production that must occur outside the workshop and, finally, analyses the uneasy integration of the concept of the workshop into the art historical canon.

The conference focuses on the practice of Italian painters in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, but papers encompass a wider group of media and cover a chronology that stretches from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century. In terms of geography, the material under scrutiny stretches from Venice to L’Aquila and westward to viceroyal Santa Cruz. The papers are designed to raise issues in the study of how artists were deployed to make objects in a variety of workspaces and the conference schedule is organised to encourage wide discussion of the key questions it addresses.

Click here for the program.

The conference is open to the public free of charge. Pre-registration is required to guarantee seating:

Please click here to register for online attendance.

The NIKI is located in Florence, Viale Evangelista Torricelli 5.