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Between Nature and Culture: Visualising a Mythological Hero in Fifteenth-Century Florence

Date: 14 April 2016 (Thursday)
Time: 4:00-5:30pm
Venue: Room 4.34, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus

In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle briefly delimits the realm of virtue by setting brutishness in opposition to superhuman virtue. This stark contrast—one that retained moral dimensions in the early modern period—was frequently visualised for fifteenth-century Florentine audiences in depictions of heroes doing battle with monstrous entities. Although such representations place the brutish and the superhumanly virtuous on either end of a spectrum, I argue that these types of figures also mirrored one another in significant ways. In this paper, I will consider the congruencies between the heroic and the monstrous as represented in the visual culture of Quattrocento Florence. This approach brings into relief contemporary ideas of virtue as reflected in the ambiguous status of monsters and heros, while foregrounding the unstable boundary that separated nature from culture in fifteenth-century thought.

Speaker: Victoria Ehrlich

Victoria Ehrlich is a doctoral candidate in art history at Cornell University. She is presently writing her dissertation I Modelli di Virtù: Mythological Heroes in the art of Fifteenth-Century Florence.