Visualizing Community in 15th-Century Florence between Convent and City
Katharine Stahlbuhk is an art historian and specialist for 14th and 15th-century Italian art. She is also a trained conservator for wall paintings. Her research investigates the materiality and technical execution of artworks, as well as the ethical implications of humanist aesthetics. After obtaining her PhD in 2018 from Hamburg University, she has held positions at the Bibliotheca Hertziana and the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz. Her first book (Oltre il colore. Die farbreduzierte Wandmalerei zwischen Humilitas und Observanzreformen) was published in 2021. She is the co-editor of the first German translation and critical edition of Leon Battista Alberti’s Profugiorum ab aerumna (Über die Seelenruhe), which appeared in April 2022.
Departing from two case studies, each related to a major exponent of the Florentine Dominicans, the project seeks to elucidate, through an art historical approach, the contribution of religious orders to humanism. The study focuses on the intertwining of the convent with the city, and intends to investigate, on the one hand, how certain materials resemble in a visual and tactile manner the conceptualization of polity. On the other hand, it seeks to understand how an image-generating use of language enhances the collective imaginary and the contemplation on how to shape one’s own existence on an individual level and within a community. Giovanni Caroli and his writings make up an important part of the project, which display a peculiar use of language that suggests a symmetry between civil society and the religious community and leads to a concise, ‘figurative’ equation of the convent with the “civitas” and “patria”. He uses the convent and its architecture as a metaphor for the harmony and dignity of its community. The epistemological value attributed by Caroli to the material structure is of the highest importance to the study of the visualization, reception, and creation of social cohesion. The intention is to ‘mirror’ this first part on the self-fashioning of the Dominican house as a civic institution in the second part of the study, taking into account a humanist dialogue, which has its setting in a monastic ambient: the Disputationes camaldolensis by Cristoforo Landino.