I Tatti Debriefs 6 - Cinquecento Art and Internal Anatomy: Michelangelo, Bronzino, and Mannerist Bodies


Wednesday, March 23, 2022, 5:30pm


Michelangelo, Studies fore the Libyan Sibyl (detail)

Speaker: Christian Kleinbub (Ohio State University)

Anatomy is featured throughout the practice and theorization of Italian art in the sixteenth century. Yet, almost without exception, the textual and pictorial evidence has been taken to suggest that artists were concerned only with superficial anatomy, those parts of the body visible on its outsides such as muscles, bones, and sinews. This talk takes issue with this perspective, turning to artworks to build a different point of view. Building on the speaker's research on Michelangelo’s investment in internal anatomical matters, this talk proposes that other artists of his time, especially Bronzino, paid particular attention to the meaning of the internal organs like the liver, heart, and brain, referencing those organs to explain the internal states of represented bodies. Although such references were only occasionally systematic, this talk contends that they contributed to something like an elite visual language of the body that depended on a long tradition in Tuscan poetry with special reference to Dante. These findings emphasize that the Mannerist body cannot be easily dismissed as a matter only of arbitrary or ornamental form, and they cause us to rethink what “artificiality” means in discussing the art of the period.


Christian Kleinbub is professor of Italian Renaissance and Baroque Art at Ohio State University and co-director of the New Foundation for Art History. His first book, Vision and the Visionary in Raphael, won the Gustave Arlt Award from the Council of Graduate Schools, and his second book, Michelangelo's Inner Anatomies, published by Penn State University Press in 2020, grew out of his research at I Tatti during 2015-2016. His current research is addressed to the relationship of art, anatomy, and religion in a number of early modern artists, including Agnolo Bronzino and Leonardo da Vinci. 




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