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Elizabeth J. Petcu // Orders of Elaboration: Wendel Dietterlin and the "Architectura"


Orders of Elaboration: Wendel Dietterlin and the "Architectura"

This project explores the interplay between architectural tracts, art theory, and artistic practice in Central and Northern Europe in the decades between Albrecht Dürer’s 1525 Underweysung der Messung and Peter Paul Rubens’ 1622 Palazzi di Genova. Working from Julius von Schlosser’s insight that a culture’s primary literature at once registers and conditions its definitions of art, the dissertation shows how we might understand the unfixed relationships between late-Renaissance books, monuments, and objects in light of Strasbourg painter Wendel Dietterlin’s pivotal 1593 Architectura.

Proceeding from the region’s perennial affinity for architectural objects and Kleinarchitektur, and responding to the more recent demand for designs for totalizing, multimedia interiors, Dietterlin’s innovative tract presented the canonical Doric, Tuscan, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite Orders as frameworks for composing designs in and across all media.  The Architectura did not merely reconcile contemporary artistic practice with a treatise culture that previously addressed painting, sculpture, and architecture as discrete fields.  Dietterlin’s system also challenged painting’s previous dominance over discourses about artistic invention, and showed that shifting terms of engagement between the media called for new forms of artistic mastery and a novel approach to art literature.  The tract brought a longstanding re-negotiation of the purview of architectural knowledge to fruition, and was furthermore decisive for the diverse forms art texts assumed after 1600.

By showing how the Architectura precipitated a new, yet deeply Vitruvian vision of architecture and the writing of its literature as universal pursuits, the project complicates enduring narratives about which authorities structured paradigms for invention, artistic mastery, and relations between the media at a crucial juncture in the history of art theory.