Symposium ‘Visual Humanisms’ – 20-21 oktober 2022

Op 20 en 21 oktober zal in het NIKI het symposium Visual Humanisms plaatsvinden. Het symposium is georganiseerd door Marieke van den Doel (University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht) en Michael W. Kwakkelstein (NIKI).

Toegang tot het symposium is gratis. Aanmelden is noodzakelijk:


Renaissance Humanism was an important driving force behind the ideal of bringing antiquity back to life, or restoring the ancient gods to their former glory. Was this resurrection of non-Christian gods merely an intellectual game or should we call it religious practice? Because of the education in the studia humanitatis, elites in early modern Italy were well versed in ancient texts relating to Roman, Greek, and other local antiquities; that knowledge was an element of social distinction and many were therefore willing to contribute to new translations and publications or to the decoration of buildings, palazzi, and gardens with reference to the ancient gods. As Ernst Gombrich already noted, Botticelli’s Primavera (1482), showing Venus and Mercury, was the first non-religious painting after antiquity in a size that had previously been reserved for altarpieces. This raises the question if we should see this as Renaissance polytheism or paganism.

This symposium examines the role of artists in bringing about the ideals of Renaissance humanism. Many Renaissance artists were active in identifying and physically examining antiquities. Treatises of art theory – often written by artists themselves – contributed to both detailed and overview knowledge about antiquity. In this process Renaissance artists may have gained more than textual and visual information alone, which could be described as ‘tacit’ or ‘embodied’ knowledge. One could argue, that artistic research played a pivotal role in the process of reintegration of classical textual sources and visual and material culture, which was typical for the Renaissance movement.

What is more, by restoring the classical pantheon of gods, artists may have also contributed to the inconsistency of belief and possibly to new forms of paganism. Alexander Nagel and Christopher Wood argued in Anachronic Renaissance (2010), that Renaissance works of art referring to an ancient past acquire multiple temporalities; Botticelli’s ‘paintings became instantiations of ancient gestures’, so to speak: embodiments of ancient works of art, rematerializing the pagan gods. If we focus on these visual, material and public aspects of religion and not as something people ‘believed’ in, does that approach give us new insights into Renaissance culture and its complex, possibly religious interest in ancient paganism?


VOORLOPIG PROGRAMMA: (Click here for a pdf version with abstracts)

Thursday, October 20

10.00    Coffee/Tea
10.15    Michael W. Kwakkelstein, Director’s Welcome
Marieke van den Doel (University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht), Introduction

Session 1 Visual Humanism and Paganism
(chair: Gert-Jan van der Sman, NIKI)

10.30    Susanna de Beer (University of Leiden, Royal Netherlands Institute Rome)
Who is Best at Restoring Ancient Rome? Collaboration and Rivalry between Humanist Writers and Visual Arists

10.55    Han Lamers (University of Oslo)
The Dotti Greci of Italian Humanism: An Alternative Introduction

11.20    Discussion

11.30    Marieke van den Doel (University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht)
Visual Humanism and Paganism: The Case of the Tempio Malatestiano

11.55    Matthijs Jonker (University of Utrecht, Royal Netherlands Institute Rome)
Transcultural Visual Humanism: Understanding New World Antiquities through Images

12.20    Discussion

12.30    Lunch


Session 2 The experiment of the Renaissance artist
(chair: Joachim Duyndam, University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht)

13.30    Joost Keizer (University of Groningen)
What Is a Renaissance Allegory?

13.55    Elsje van Kessel (University of St Andrews)
Visual humanisms out to sea

14.20    Sergius Kodera (University of Vienna)
Giovan Battista della Porta’s Physiognomics and the Pagan Gods

14.45    Discussion

15.00    Afternoon Tea


Session 3 The Ancient Gods
(chair: Anja Machielse, University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht)


15.30    Kocku von Stuckrad (University of Groningen), keynote lecture
Agential Entanglements in Renaissance Art: Locating Ancient Gods in Religious Discourse

16.20    Discussion

16.30    Reception


Friday October, 21

10.00    Coffee/Tea

Session 5 Botticelli Revisited
(chair: Valery Rees, London School of Philosophy and Economic Science)


10.15    Alessandro Cecchi (Casa Buonarroti)
Letture Botticelliane. La Primavera e una proposta per la Villa dell’Ospedaletto

10.40    Ingrid Rowland (University of Notre Dame School of Architecture)
Botticelli, Vasari, and the Medici Revival of Etruscan Art

11.05     Gert Jan van der Sman (NIKI)
The Visual Language of Botticelli’s Primavera

11.30    Discussion

11.40    Coffee/Tea


Session 6 Harmony of Concurrent Alternatives
(chair: Anja Machielse, University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht)


12.00    Jacomien Prins (Utrecht University)
Seeing, Hearing, Beauty and Love in Ficino’s Commentary on Plato’s Symposium

12.25    Valery Rees (London School of Economic Science)
Reframing the ‘Twilight of the Gods’

12.50    Discussion

13.00    Lunch


14.00    Book presentation Marieke van den Doel, Ficino and Fantasy. Imagination in Art and Theory from Botticelli to Michelangelo with Valery Rees and Anja Machielse

15.00    Concluding remarks