Livia Stoenescu

Livia Stoenescu

I Tatti/Museo Nacional del Prado Joint Fellow
Ornament as Sacred Agency in the Architectural Drawings, Paintings, and Polychromatic Sculptures of Alonso Cano
2021-2022 (January-June)
Livia Stoenescu


Livia Stoenescu received her PhD from Queen’s University at Kingston and serves as an Associate Professor of Art History in the College of Architecture at Texas A&M. Her research is focused on icon-image theory, metamorphosis, and relic assimilation into Italian and Spanish Renaissance art. Her articles appeared in The Art Bulletin (2011), RACAR (2011), Comitatus (2015), and RES Anthropology and Aesthetics (2018). She edited Creative and Imaginative Powers in the Pictorial Art of El Greco (Brepols, 2016) and The Interaction of Art and Relics in Late Medieval and Early Modern Art (Brepols, 2020). Her first book, Temporalities, Transmaterialities, and Media in the Pictorial Art of El Greco, was published by Amsterdam University Press in 2019.

Project Summary

The practice of seventeenth-century Spanish pintor de imaginería Alonso Cano subsumes into early modernity his original ideas about the relevance of ornament. His activities as painter-sculptor-draughtsman-architect advanced the concept of ornament as sacred agency while challenging the Renaissance concepts of materiality and decorum, relief and sculpture, architectural drawing and painted retable. Taking as its focus the corpus of Cano’s works, this project aims to elucidate the fundamental dissimilarities between the usage of ornament in the practices of Italian and Spanish artists. While disegno prevailed in the arts of ornament from the Italian Peninsula, the techniques of encarnación and estofado inflected the practices of ornament from the Iberian Peninsula with color, sculptural relief, and scientific discovery. Cano’s architectural drawings, paintings, and polychromed sculptures lend themselves to a particularly compelling case study based on the role played by ornament in the work of a multi-media artist.