CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

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Descriptions, Display, and Notions of Value: Pontormo's Halberdier in its Historical Context

Session 4 Appreciation and Utility

Luther College, University of Regina, Canada


This paper explores how historical descriptions of interiors provide vocabularies and that enrich our understanding of how people interacted with objects in early modern court society, and cast light on how the appreciation, status, and function of artworks was determined by their agency and the social roles they played.

As a case study I will investigate the display of paintings in the palace of the Riccardi family in seventeenth-century Florence, focusing especially on Jacopo Pontormo’s Halberdier (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles). I will argue that inventories and historical descriptions of this palace reveal how the context becomes relevant to understand the historical appreciation and multifaceted value of the objects. This painting, along with other works of art displayed in the palace, show that value was constructed through different discourses that affect the way we look at the objects and complicate their status: a work of art of aesthetic value, and at the same time the image of a ruler that functioned within a specific network of social and political relations. This shows how oscillating—or coexisting—object ontologies problematize our understanding of how the status of artworks is determined by their social roles.



FREDDOLINI, Francesco 

Francesco Freddolini is Assistant Professor of Art History at Luther College, University of Regina. His research focuses on early modern sculpture in Italy, as well as on the history of collecting and displaying art. He has received fellowships from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA, and the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles. His recent publications include the book Giovanni Baratta, 1670-1747. Scultura e Industria del Marmo tra la Toscana e le Corti d’Europa (2013), contribution to the book Display of Art in the Roman Palace, 1550-1750, edited by Gail Feigenbaum with him (2014) and the special section of the Journal of Art Historiography entitled "Inventories and Catalogues: Materials and Narrative Histories," co-edited with Anne Helmreich in 2014. His current research project, entitled “Patronage, Images and Courtiers’ Identity in Florence, c. 1587-1609” is supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Development Grant (2013-2016).