Pauline Lafille

Pauline Lafille

Florence Gould Fellow
Battles as Soundscapes in the Arts of the Renaissance


Pauline Lafille is an art historian concerned with political iconography and social uses of art in the Renaissance. She holds a PhD from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris, which she is turning into a book on sixteenth-century Italian battle paintings in their military, cultural and artistical context. A historian of literature by training, her interests also include art theory and relationships between visual arts and other art forms. In 2017, she co-curated the conference “L’arte della battaglia: strategie visive della battaglia del Rinascimento ai nostri giorni” in Rome (proceedings are forthcoming). She was in 2018-2019 Postdoctoral Fellow at Villa Medici, after teaching as an assistant at Université Grenoble and at Paris Sorbonne.

Project Summary

A curious extract by Rabelais depicts the sounds of a battlefield encapsulated in ice, in other words ‘recorded,’ and actually melting in a deafening explosion of noises and onomatopoeias: warfare is captured as a soundscape. This research investigates the imaginary of sound and warfare in the Renaissance and examines how the various arts engaged in the representation of combat, including painting, music, and literature, were inspired and challenged by the mimetic ambition of depicting the sounds of battle. In a time when battle also became a music genre, the project reassesses the common view of painting as a mute poetry, by exploring in the pictures the usually overlooked phonic motives, such as military musicians and instruments, weapons, machines and guns, shouts, voices, and neighs. How do painters endow their silent battle scenes with a particular ‘soundtrack’ and make it comprehensible? Arts of war and scientific treatises, in the fields of acoustics, ballistics, artillery and pyrotechnics, will provide background to a consideration of sound, music, and noise, as forces of discipline and violence during the technical and tactical reshaping of the Renaissance military world. The consideration of a large corpus of artworks in their intermedial dimension will shift the iconographical perspective on Italian history painting by making connections with the cultural history of the sense of hearing, the study of emotions, war anthropology, and art theory.