Mute Eloquence: Drapery in Italian Drawings 1420-1540
Amanda Hilliam is an art historian with particular interests in the relationship between art making and theory, period viewing practices, and the visual as a form of knowledge. She received her PhD in 2020 after holding a Collaborative Doctoral Award at London’s National Gallery and Oxford Brookes University. Her thesis examined pictorial and material interplay in the work of Carlo Crivelli, and its devotional efficacy among Crivelli’s audiences in the Marche. This research informs her monograph, forthcoming with Reaktion Books, and an exhibition at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, with a complementary display at the National Gallery. In 2018/19 she held a predoctoral position in the Prints and Drawings department at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. She is an Associate Lecturer at the Courtauld.
Italian Renaissance drawings record a deep concern with the arrangement of drapery. This project will approach the drapery study as more than simply a stage in the preparatory process, or a Morellian index of authorship, but as a vehicle for the discovery of poetic expression. Through veiling and unveiling the body, through catching wind, water and light, and through linking distinct compositional entities, drapery can assist in the generation of meaning. As a form of non-textual knowledge, drapery will be shown to possess what is here termed a mute eloquence, which artists harnessed through drawing to produce persuasive images. Clothing was often described as a rhetorical device among humanist circles of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries in Italy. Considered in relation to this cultural setting, the research will enable an understanding of how the activity of drawing drapery shaped both an artist’s style and the communicative potential of their work. Close physical examination of specific sheets will reveal how artists manipulated their materials to produce calculated visual effects, which were often tempered in finished works of art. Case studies will comprise a range of drawings by artists active between 1420 and 1540 for whom drapery was a central concern, including Parri Spinelli, Stefano da Verona, Mantegna and Parmigianino.