Research Group Images of Knowledge
Guest Lecture : “A Science of Names and Words”

“A Science of Names and Words” Art, Knowledge, and the Learned Artist in Late Renaissance Venice

Marciana library in Venice
Marciana library in Venice
wga.hu / Public Domain

Main content

In recent years, a great effort has been made to describe the cultural and educational backgrounds of early modern artists, and to provide new evidence of their participation in the cultural life of their time. New in depth investigations exemplary succeeded in the reconstruction of knowledge cultures relevant to the 16thand 17thcentury artists, bringing out new characters and projects so far overlooked. My paper contributes to this scholarly trend by bringing into focus the case of Giuseppe Porta (1520–1575), also known as Giuseppe Salviati, a well-established painter Tuscan by origin and active in mid 16thcentury mostly in Venice and Rome. Salviati embodied, to some extent, the ideal of learned artist (or pictor doctus) delineated by Alberti: he was knowledgeable in astrology and mathematics, and his achievements in these fields received much praise and attention from contemporaries, including the polymath Daniele Barbaro and the philosopher Francesco Patrizi. His main work, an unfinished treatise composed in the 1550s that circulated only manuscript in Venice, deals with the connections between acoustics and astrology. Combining empirical observation with a simplistic theoretical background, Salviati endeavored to provide a rough classification of natural and artificial sounds, describing at the same time an ingenuous (as well as largely ineffective) means for their artificial reproduction. Such an unusual subject is close in spirit to some researches carried out in Venetian intellectual milieus, in particular in the celebrated and short-lived “Accademia Venetiana.” I will consider Salviati’s scholarly contributions in connection with contemporary scholarship, teasing out its peculiarities as well as its flaws. This analysis will provide a solid background to discuss the role of the artist in the context of the early modern Respublica Literaria, a trans-disciplinary institution whose boundaries were constantly debated and negotiated.

The lecture will be held in English.

“A Science of Names and Words” Art, Knowledge, and the Learned Artist in Late Renaissance Venice" is a guest lecture hosted by the research group 'Images of Knowledge' at UiB.