Baroque Art in Sicily: The Golden Age of a Mediterranean Island with Alessandra Buccheri

Baroque Art in Sicily: The Golden Age of a Mediterranean Island with Alessandra Buccheri


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This seminar aims to open a new perspective on Baroque art in Sicily by placing it in the broader context of the Mediterranean visual tradition and identifying its unique features. While always being mindful of the complexity of the historical context, some case studies will be used to examine, interpret, and discuss some of the most important artists and their works through the lens of Baroque Sicily.

Being located in the middle of the Mediterranean, over the millennia, Sicily was inhabited by an incredibly rich variety of protagonists who left an impressive and complex multi-layered cultural heritage. We’ll discuss how the artistic outcomes of this long historical process are superb, yet difficult to place within traditional art-historical frameworks.

During the golden age of the Baroque (1600 to mid-1700), Sicily, as part of the Spanish Kingdom, was at a crossroads between Italy and Spain. While being politically and culturally linked to Spain by the permanent presence of the Viceroy and his court in Palermo, the island was very well connected to the Italian peninsula thanks to the trade of agricultural products and a constant circulation of people and goods. We’ll discuss why the origin of Sicilian Baroque, which is traditionally associated only with Rome, is much more complex. It is the outcome of continuous interchanges of patterns throughout the Mediterranean.

A particular focus on the seminar will be on Giacomo Serpotta (1656-1732), who is probably one of the most talented artists of the early modern period. The fame of Serpotta is linked to the decoration of the oratories and small churches of the companies and congregations which arose during the fervor of the Counter-Reformation. We’ll explore some of the works of this talented artist, among a number of others.

Led by an expert on Italian early-modern art, Alessandra Buccheri, this interactive seminar will discuss Baroque art in Sicily. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of the peculiarities of Sicilian Baroque art, and its associations with a larger geographical and historical context.

Alessandra Buccheri is professor of History of Art at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Palermo. In 2009 she completed her PhD at the University of Oxford. Her main area of research is visual culture in early modern Italy, with a special focus on theater, architecture, and decoration (including sculptures and paintings in their original architectural context). She is also interested in gender studies and women in the visual arts. Her published volumes include Quando l’ornamento non è delitto. Un percorso attraverso la cultura visiva siciliana dal tardo-gotico al Novecento (2020), co-edited with Giulia Ingarao, and Archetipi del femminile. Rappresentazioni di genere, identità e ruoli sociali nell’arte dalle origini a oggi (2017), co-edited with Giulia Ingarao and Emilia Valenza. Her most recent monograph, The Spectacle of Clouds, 1439-1650. Italian Art and Theatre (2014), explores the origin and meaning of cloud compositions by looking at the complex relationship between their three-dimensional construction and display in religious and court theater, and their pictorial representations both in churches and secular buildings. She will spend the Spring term 2021 at the Italian Academy for the Advanced Studies in America (Columbia University, New York), where she has been awarded the Weinberg Fellowship in Architectural History and Preservation.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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