Students at Royal Holloway,
University of London Royal Holloway,
University of London

Invention, Intention, Persuasion: Forms of Self-Expression in Renaissance Arts and Letters

Colloquium organised by the University of Cambridge at Clare College In collaboration with the Centre d'Etudes Supérieures de la Renaissance (CESR), Tours - Cambridge, 31 March - 2 April 2007

Call for papers

In the Renaissance, artistic production is mostly understood in terms of
patronage and private support. In studying the presence of the artist in
his works, what is most often at stake is the reception and interpretation
of the works in a historical setting. Yet in a period which sees the
emergence of the idea of the artist in the context of the revaluation of
the status of artistic production, it might be argued that questions of
style should also be studied in a primary, not to say independent fashion?
In contrast, in the field of literature, with the exception of a few
examples where the search for a patron had a resulting impact on
creativity, patronage is less important. Indeed, if the texts of a few
authors are the result of a commission, many others are created by more
independent writers . with writing taking place before the search for a
patron. In this case there is greater interest in the presence of the
writer in his work than that of the patron. But should not the literary
work be precisely placed in the political context which saw its creation?
In seeking to study the means of creation, the question of the origins of
invention and the possible intentions of a work is inescapable.

Paul Veyne has clearly shown that some well known works can reveal an
aspect of invention through the analysis of self-expression, what he calls
"expression roi" (sovereign expression) as a manifestation of the strength
of the patron (cf. the "illegibility" of Trajan's column). Is it also
possible to speak of the visual manifestation of the artist's strength? We
have also noted that the in-depth analysis of less well known works,
without clear links to a commission, can convey the author's
self-expression, for example of his desire for self-promotion (e.g. the
demonstration of the artist's talents recommended by Machiavelli in The
Prince). Is it really possible to speak of an intentional self-expression?
And if so, what is its nature?

To take up the phrase which gives its title to Michael Baxandall's book,
we are in fact led to asking ourselves what are the "patterns of
intention" in Renaissance arts and letters. The question of intention is
indeed essential, but in this case it will not so much be historical as
stylistic and political: when intention exists, are we only in the realm
of conveying information (Michèle Fogel) or also of conveying belief
(Bernard Guenée) arising from propaganda?  Propaganda sets out to
convince; according to Veyne, its "workings are disguised as information".
We will seek to find out whether artistic creation can be understood
according to these two intentions: expression and persuasion, expression
or persuasion. The question of the aims of self-expression is therefore a
loaded one. Yet if the reason for a work is not essentially what it has to
communicate (Robert Klein), what then does self-expression mean for the
creator, or indeed for the patron?

By cutting across this two-fold problematic - the means and patterns of
the presence in a work of the artist as well as the patron, and the aims
and intentions of expression of this twofold presence/influence - this
colloquium sets out to make a contribution to defining the paths followed
by invention in Renaissance painting, music, and literature.

Other questions which we would like to deal with include the following:

- In general, the artist works towards the "promotion of his own
figure" (Christian Jouhard): can we then ask whether the evocation of the
artist's force lies only in that of the patron?

- How does the force of the patron and that of the artist find expression
not only in the case of a commissioned work but also in the case of a
spontaneous dedication?

- With a work in which writers, artists and musicians are called upon to
collaborate, how can intention be balanced with the responses to the
commission within the various creative fields and their means of
expression? Is it possible to speak of an (idyllic) marriage between
self-expression and praise of the dedicatee in the collaborative work?

- Certain secular themes are particularly suitable for self-expression,
but what is the situation with religious themes, where the artist's
expression confronts the manifestation of the Creator?

- If we speak of the artist's intention, then, as Christian Jouhaud
recommends, it is in the interests of the "creators" that their works
should be received as closely as possible to the intentions for which they
were addressed.. If the opposite is the case, can a "misunderstanding" of
the work, which then becomes an "object of historical investigation",
help, in return, to define the artist's intention?

- Beyond what is immediately perceptible, comprehensible, in a work,
self-expression assumes forms which require of the connoisseur more than
an "attentive gaze" (Veyne), a realisation of the artist's freedom. But
what exactly are the limits of artistic freedom in the context of a
commission? Can he experiment and "amuse" himself? If so, to what extent?
If the artist's freedom is also to be found "in divergences of style" and
if "ugliness is deliberate" (Veyne), can we limit the artist's presence to
areas of excess, to what departs from the rules?

Papers, of 25-30 minutes maximum in length, will be delivered in English
and French.

Please send proposals for papers concerning music including their title
(around 500 words in Word or RTF attachment), including your name, e-mail
address, postal address, and academic institution, by 30 September 2006 to
Dr Tess Knighton at Clare College, Cambridge CB2 1TL, e-mail: (please indicate the subject of the message as
"Self-Expression Colloquium").

Notification of acceptances will be sent out on 1 November 2006.
Back to top of page
Back to index of conferences
Back to index of past conferences, 2006
Golden Pages index
Music Department Home Page
Last updated Tue, 28-Mar-2006 13:33 GMT / AU
Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX
Tel/Fax : +44 (0)1784 434455/437520