Reflections on Narcissus: Art and Nature in Early Modern Europe
Susanna Berger (PhD, University of Cambridge) is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Southern California. Her first book, The Art of Philosophy: Visual Thinking in Europe from the Late Renaissance to the Early Enlightenment, is forthcoming with Princeton University Press in 2017. This project is a transnational study of the relations between images and philosophical knowledge in Italy, England, Germany, the Netherlands, and France. Berger was previously a member of the Society of Fellows at Princeton University. Her articles have appeared in The Art Bulletin, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Word & Image, and elsewhere.
How did early modern philosophers and artists differentiate artworks from works of nature? According to Aristotle natural entities possess inner principles of change and rest; man-made objects, by contrast, lack these innate impulses. My project challenges prevailing assumptions about the fixedness of the categories of art and nature in the early modern era, by showing the ways in which thinkers and artists reconceived of Aristotle’s definitions. My study will explore how the myth of Narcissus came to function as a vehicle for European artists, poets, composers, and philosophers to dissolve the boundary between artificially and naturally generated entities.