CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

The notion of the painter-architect in Italy and the southern low countries

Symposium: 1 December - 3 December 2011

From the Rubenianum website, 19 July 2011

Since the time of Vitruvius, architects have been expected to have a broad knowledge of the arts and sciences. Not only must they be well versed in the art and craft of architecture, in all its facets, but they must also be able to sketch architectural objects and work up their designs into detailed drawings that portray the structures they hope to realise. Starting in the sixteenth and throughout the seventeenth century, this basic assumption led to fierce debates on the meaning and status of ‘disegno’. Indeed, Italy saw the emergence of painters who also excelled as architects, examples being Bramante, Michelangelo and Giulio Romano. With the rise of the Baroque, it was even alleged that in order to be a competent architect, one had to be a painter as well. This was considered a prerequisite for those striving to combine painting, sculpture and architecture into a harmonious whole. In the Southern Netherlands, too, the notion that an architect must also have a mastery of the painter’s art became widespread, owing in part to the dissemination of publications by Sebastiano Serlio and Pieter Coecke van Aelst. In the seventeenth century, Rubens was able to make his own contribution to this discussion as a consequence of his sojourns in Italy (1601–1608) and the commissions he carried out there.

This colloquium will explore the influence exerted by the interaction of these two arts on the architecture of Italy and the Southern Netherlands. Did the painter–architect contribute to a new architecture? What role did the artist’s house-cum-studio play in these developments? Is ‘disegno’ actually the link between painting and architecture? Are there theories that explain the differences between painting and architecture, or conversely, their successful combination? How did Italian examples affect the relationship between painting and architecture in the Southern Netherlands? In what way did painter–architects differ from the practitioners of architecture and painting as separate disciplines? These and many other questions will be posed at the colloquium, and their answers are expected to shed light on the interrelationship of architecture and painting in the Southern Netherlands, both of which came to fruition in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

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