CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed


Macchie Acting: Alternative Pictorial Practices in Early Modern Europe

Session 19 History of Beauty vs. History of Art


In my paper I will concentrate on an alternative notion of pictorial creation, in contrast to the principle of the line. In early modern Europe, from Dürer and Titian to El Greco and Rembrandt, another notion developed based on a painter’s interest in using patches of color. Blotting techniques were common practice, reflected in academic art theory where it opposed the classical rules of proportion and beauty. Working with macchie or color stains engages the processuality and agency of the artwork, it’s natura naturans. At the same time it thematizes the artwork’s artificiality and naturalness. The mediality of the blot is made evident and simultaneously reflected. A color patch moves between becoming and losing form. It implies a cognitive process in the making and is saturated with implicit knowledge, involving the whole body, both of the artisan and the beholder. Painting in macchie is a cognitive, enactive process. It materializes through the movement of the hand, which intelligibly and expressively shapes the material by partly letting it “unformed”.



Yannis Hadjinicolaou studied Art History, South East Asian Art History and Modern History in Berlin and Amsterdam. In 2010 he graduated on his master’s thesis on “Arent de Gelder´s Portraits and the Problem of their Formal Diversity”. From 2011 till 2014 he held a junior research fellowship of the Collegium for the Advanced Study of Picture Act and Embodiment (Humboldt University Berlin). Since July 2014 he is research associate (post-doc) at the Volkswagen Stiftung funded project “Symbolic Articulation. Language and Image between Action and Scheme” (Humboldt University Berlin). He is Associate Member at “Image Knowledge Gestaltung. An Interdisciplinary Laboratory” also at Humboldt University. In 2014 he defended his Ph.D. thesis at the Freie Universität Berlin, entitled “Thinking Bodies – Shaping Hands. Handeling in Art and Art Theory of the Rembrandtists” (published 2016 in German by Walter de Gruyter). During the summer semesters of 2015 and 2016 he taught (lectureship) at the Institute of Art History of Hamburg University. Other publications include: Paragone als Mitstreit, ed. together with Joris van Gastel and Markus Rath, Berlin 2014; Formwerdung und Formentzug, ed. together with Franz Engel, Berlin/Boston 2016.