Robert Klein, Art Historian and Philosopher


Thursday, November 8, 2018 (All day) to Friday, November 9, 2018 (All day)


Gould Hall, I Tatti (Nov 8), Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz (Nov 9)
Image of Robert Klein

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Robert Klein (1918-2018), this conference will bring together scholars to reconsider the published and unpublished works of one of the most erudite and inventive art historians of the twentieth century. At stake is the question of defining Klein’s historiographical, critical, and theoretical positioning, as well as his contribution to the history of art and philosophy.

To date, no sustained study has yet been dedicated to Klein and his work, in part due to his tragic death in Florence in 1967, and the subsequent disappearance of a large part of his manuscripts (including his work on ars and technè from Plato to Giordano Bruno, his thesis on the aesthetics of technè in the sixteenth century, his study of the so-called Mantegna Tarocchi, and an essay on responsibility). The rediscovery of Klein’s unpublished papers, donated to the library of the INHA in 2013, document his contribution to the redefinition of the discipline of art history and invite a reconsideration of his work. As the recent publication of his thesis L’esthétique de la technè (INHA, 2017) has shown, Klein undertook in particular to rethink Renaissance art and its history, bringing to bear the Aristotelian notion of technè and offering a vision of Renaissance artistic production quite different from the Neoplatonic ideals to which it is often linked. This conference will shed more light on these investigations as well as on the intellectual journey of an important art historian and philosopher of the past century.

Organized by:
Alina Payne (I Tatti – The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies)

Jérémie Koering (Centre André Chastel)

Alessandro Nova (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz Max-Planck-Institut)


This conference is organized in partnership with the INHA. 


Rinascimenti: Colloquia on the Historiography of Early Modern Art

This series of lectures and seminars jointly organized by Villa I Tatti – The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies and the research group Rinascimento conteso of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max Planck Institut aims to reassess the Renaissance as a historiographic paradigm. Against the background of the traditional research interests that guided the founding of both institutions, the project's goal is to put such a paradigm to the test, debating its impact and status in the discipline by bringing together a polyphony of critical voices from the international scholarly community.

The events will focus on key texts that successfully and meaningfully engaged with the defining issues of the Renaissance from both a formal and a more broadly cultural point of view. Returning to those canonical texts of the art historical discipline that, from the late nineteenth into the twentieth century, contributed to crystallize and define the concept in academic circles, each event will respond to the evolving history of the field and to the various critical turns that it has undergone in more recent times.

The aim of the series is to determine whether such a category—often replete with elitist and Eurocentric connotations—can still be useful as an interpretive tool to see and read the past, one that can not only advance knowledge specific to studies of the premodern West, but also offer more far-reaching methodological lessons.