Art and Internal Anatomy

Art and Internal Anatomy

Michelangelo, Bronzino and Mannerist Bodies

Christian Kleinbub

8 February 2022 – 5 PM (CET)

Anatomy is featured throughout the practice and theorization of Italian art in the sixteenth century.
Yet, almost without exception, the textual and pictorial evidence has been taken to suggest that artists were concerned only with superficial anatomy, those parts of the body visible on its outsides such as muscles, bones, and sinews.
This talk takes issue with this perspective, turning to artworks to build a different point of view.
Building on the speaker’s research on Michelangelo’s investment in internal anatomical matters, this talk proposes that other artists of his time, especially Bronzino, paid particular attention to the meaning of the internal organs like the liver, heart, and brain, referencing those organs to explain the internal states of represented bodies.
Although such references were only occasionally systematic, this talk contends that they contributed to something like an elite visual language of the body that depended on a long tradition in Tuscan poetry with special reference to Dante.

These findings emphasize that the Mannerist body cannot be easily dismissed as a matter only of arbitrary or ornamental form, and they cause us to rethink what “artificiality” means in discussing the art of the period.

About the Speaker ...

Christian Kleinbub studies the arts of the Italian Renaissance with particular focus on issues of image theory, naturalism, the body, and period conceptions of vision and the visionary.

His first book, Vision and the Visionary in Raphael (winner of the 2013 Gustave O. Arlt Award in the Humanities from the Council of Graduate Schools) considers the important ways in which an influential Renaissance artist attempted the reconciliation of contemporary imperatives of painting and the traditional functions of sacred images. His second book, Michelangelo’s Inner Anatomies, explores the poetic, philosophical, and scientific dimensions of the artist’s understanding of the internal organs, a crucial but neglected aspect of his work. Other publications on this subject and others, have appeared in edited volumes and leading specialist journals such as The Art BulletinRenaissance QuarterlyWord and Image, and The Burlington Magazine.

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