Medial and Material Configurations of Pictorial Knowledge in Drawing-Books of the Renaissance

Subproject by Claudia Reufer

Due to its technical and media specificities the book is considered to be the medium of storing and transmitting knowledge in letters, numbers and words. This project deals with books that exclusively contain drawings. It focuses on analysing the epistemic potential of different kinds of drawings and lines as well as the role of the well-established and conventionalized form of the codex for generating and transforming a specific pictorial knowledge.

Based on books such as the Rosebery-Album or the Florentine Picture Chronicle, it will be asked how the choice of material (paper or parchment, pencil or pen), formal and structural requirements (i.e. the fold), haptic qualities or practices regarding the use, influence, facilitate or shape the represented knowledge. In the Florentine Picture Chronicle (around 1470), for instance, the representation of historical knowledge is tested out by altering the method of presentation from page to page. Starting with the established representation of exempla arranged in registers, the draughtsmen successively arrive at full-page compositions of single events either consciously respecting the fold or ignoring it. Therefore, the question arises as to the consequences of the handling of the object, the process of the successive genesis from page to page as well as practices of turning the page for the artistic creative process and the development of a pictorial discourse of knowledge. How does the medium ‚book‘ predetermine or suggest a reading behaviour and, as a result, how does it direct the perception of the images and the represented knowledge? The Rosebery-Album attributed to the workshop of Marco Zoppo (around 1460), for example, shows mythologized narrative scenes on every recto. However, they are not mere illustrations of a conceptually transmitted knowledge telling a continuous story. As independent conceptions they operate with associations, allusions and analogies rather than following a linear narrative logic.