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Ruling the beautiful. Elusive Knowledge in the art theoretical discourses of academic contexts in Italy and France

Subproject by Mira Becker-Sawatzky

This subproject analyses texts on art theory written within the context of art academies and examines the ways in which they discursively treat, functionalize, and problematize elusive knowledge and its systemic relevance. The focus lies on art academies in Italy and France from the end of the 16th to the end of the 17th century. The regional discourses of, for example, Rome, Milan, and Paris were connected by prominent agents as well as by the transfer of text genres and aesthetic categories, but also by interactive strategies of delineation and distinction. In the theoretical texts of this discursive network, theory and practice come together in a very specific way because questions of how to teach and how to learn to make art and create the beautiful arise, making elusive knowledge and its epistemic status particularly relevant. In what ways are texts of an institutionalized Early Modern art theory oriented towards norms, canon, and rules and how do they try to conceptualize and scrutinize the non-teachable and the non-definable? What are the aesthetic categories, modes of expression, as well as strategies of conceptualization with which the genuinely artistic dimension of artworks and of the artistic practice are analyzed and judged in these texts? How do the texts deal with conceptual uncertainty while defining the ideal of the beautiful as well as artistic styles? The subproject’s text-corpus includes different genres ranging from statutes, minutes of proceedings to lezzioni and conférences, but also diaries and letters. In addition to the texts, it will take into consideration the practice of collecting art as oriented toward academic teaching which, for example, was of great importance for the Accademia Ambrosiana in Milan and the Académie royale in Paris.