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Eva Falaschi // The Fragments of Greek Art Treaties and Their Afterlive in The Ancient and Modern World. Collection, Translation, Commentary

Eva Falaschi // The Fragments of Greek Art Treaties and Their Afterlive in The Ancient and Modern World. Collection, Translation, Commentary

Besides the Greek and Roman material evidence, and strictly linked to it, there is another artistic reality which survives in fragmented forms and has been almost completely neglected up to now: the art treatises written by Greek artists. Art production, in fact, has never been detached from reflection on art itself. Artists, no less than philosophers and intellectuals, contributed to the development of art theories not just through their artworks, but also through their art treatises. Pliny the Elder, for example, says that Apelles contributed to painting more than did all the other artists put together, “also publishing volumes containing the principles of painting” (Natural History 35.79).
This research aims at reconstructing and studying the art treatises written by ancient Greek artists such as Apelles and Polycleitus, where they laid the foundation of ancient (and modern) art history. These treatises survive only in fragments quoted by other ancient Greek and Latin authors. Up to now this material has never been treated as literary fragments. A collection and a critical edition of these fragments, which aims at reconstructing, through the methods of modern philology, the books they belong to and their reception through time, is lacking.
Thanks to the support of the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, this research intends to fill this gap and produce the first complete collection and critical edition, with English translation and art historical commentary, of the fragments of Greek art treatises. Particular attention will be paid to the circulation and impact of art treatises in Hellenistic and Roman society by the study of the fragments in their context of quotation. Moreover, the post-antique reception of the fragments and their impact on modern art will be investigated. Art treatises, albeit in fragments, will gain consistency and will for the first time be accessible to scholars, and, through the English translation, to a larger public of non-classicists. They will offer a new instrument in comprehending aesthetic values and canons, artistic fashions, the reuse and re-staging of Greek artworks, appropriations of styles and artistic languages, the fortune of models, theories and artworks.

[Caption: Pliny the Elder, Natural History 36, incipit. Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, ms. Parm. 1278, f. 216v. Courtesy of the Italian Ministry of Culture [Detail]]


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