Clim Wijnands | Moving Images: Polyfrontal Painting and Bodily Perception in Sixteenth-century Italy | Radboud University / Radboud Institute for Culture and History (RICH) | Promotor(es); supervisor(s): Prof. dr. Volker Manuth (RU) / Prof. dr. Tristan Weddigen (Universität Zürich/Bibliotheca Hertziana) / dr. Bram de Klerck (RU) | 01 September 2019 – 31 August 2023 | c.wijnands[at]let.ru.nl
Notwithstanding our daily interaction with images, our contact with historical paintings is mostly that of museum-goers looking at framed surfaces from a safe distance, or commuters swiping through Instagram feeds on their cell phones.
However, many early modern paintings were originally engaged with on a physical level. In sixteenth-century Italy, paintings in the (semi-)private space were touched, moved, kissed, and conversed with for a myriad of reasons. Polyfrontal paintings facilitated these multisensory interactions as they were painted on two sides or had mobile parts like hinged doors or sliding covers that encouraged beholders to move the works with their hands. These multifaceted objects thus lured the spectator into a prolonged interaction that was both physical and intellectual. These interactions were influenced by Renaissance paradigms of (un)veiling and revelation, and responded to contemporary developments in art theory.
Renaissance polyfrontality operated at the nexus of art, philosophy, theology, literature, and science, yet has never been contextualised as a phenomenon within these frames. This project offers a new perspective on early modern material culture by asking: How did polyfrontal paintings in sixteenth-century Italian palazzi invite the beholder to move and touch, and how did this physical and mental interaction influence the construction, transfer, and reception of meaning?