Salvatore Settis. © Scuola Normale Superiore Pisa. NIPO 555-10-002-7

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The Line of Parrhasius. Strategies in Drawing: experimentation, workshop practises and art history

Parrhasius, the mythical Athenian painter who was celebrated for his ability to draw outlines, is the starting point for this series of lectures that will offer a survey of the history of drawing from antiquity to the Renaissance and on to the seventeenth century: two thousand years in which drawing has been used to give form to our visual experience of the world. The lack of any surviving classical drawings, which were central to the Greek and Roman artistic experience, has meant that the few written sources (particularly Pliny the Elder and Quintilian) are particularly important and have been the principal reference point for artists’ reflections on drawing, especially since the time of the Italian Renaissance.

This "presence-absence" of ancient drawings will be the guiding thread of the lectures, which will focus on the different types of discourse on antique drawing and its crucial importance for Renaissance experimentation. The lectures will also focus on the different functions of drawing, its nature as a procedure and vehicle for experimentation and its values and cognitive intent.

Despite the regrettable lack of surviving classical drawings, the fact that linear designs from the Greek and Roman world exist on vases and in papyri (constituting a little-known corpus) allows for a comparison with known literary sources with the aim of reconstructing the nature and scope of classical drawing. The next themes to be analysed will be those of workshop practices, the issue of the medieval "artistic tradition" (as studied by Julius von Schlosser), medieval drawing books, and the birth of all’antica drawing and albums of such designs. The last three lectures will focus on specific case studies: the function of drawing in the composition of Raphael’s history paintings; the use of antique models senza far disegno by Caravaggio; and the intensive dialogue between the mature Rubens and the young Van Dyck that gave rise to a painting of an antique subject.

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