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The Battle of the Sister Arts. Leonardo da Vinci and Antonio Tebaldeo in contest

The project will be the first organic study of a strand of poetic discourse which, in the Italian Renaissance, catalyzed key art-historical innovations.

Articulated in verses that eulogized the works by foremost figurative artists, while also asserting their ontological inferiority to the best poets' creations, this back-handed praise of the power of images was symptomatic of the rivalry among the age's "sister arts." Gemälde: Portrait einer Frau mit Hermelin auf dem ArmScholars have begun to elucidate how this discourse posed challenges which leading artists of the time aimed to solve, whether through theoretical writing or through the visual elaboration of new representative codes.

However, we still lack a systematic study of this dialectic. Building upon novel scrutiny of the verses of the main harbinger of the idea of the primacy of poetry over art—Antonio, Tebaldeo, a poet who in many as-yet-unpublished texts commented on works by such artists as Mantegna, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Giulio Romano—the proposal will remedy this gap in knowledge. Put in dialogue with Leonardo's claims of the pre-eminence of painting over poetry, this corpus will reveal the crucial artistic implications of a poet's assertion of expressive supremacy could be.

Starting date: 01.06.2023
End date: 31.05.2024 (extension conditional upon approval)


[Caption: Leonardo da Vinci, Portrait of a Lady (so-called Lady with an Ermine), ca. 1489-1491. Oil on walnut panel. 54 x 39 cm. Czartoryski Museum, Kraków, Poland. Google Art Project / Public domain]