Appel à communication : « Chiaroscuro as Aesthetic Principle, 1300-1600  » (Berne, 29-30 avril 2016)

Taddeo Gaddi, Annonciation aux bergers, C 1330, Florence, Santa CroceChiaroscuro since Leon Battista Alberti’s De pictura (1435) has been one of the central subjects characterising painting and sculpture in practice and theory in Italy. Primarily, it concerns the articulation of plastic qualities, the formulation of relief, both in painting and sculpture. In the northern tradition, too, chiaroscuro has been highly valued. Through chiaroscuro, the textures of materials and the structural fabric of their surfaces, including their eye-catching highlights, have been evoked. Chiaroscuro goes hand in hand with an intensification of optical qualities.

In the Cinquecento, the significance of chiaroscuro underwent an important change. The evocation of plasticity and corporeality through a chiaroscuro that created relief was now in part replaced by a tonally defined chiaroscuro, which focused on pictorial  qualities. This is the case, for example, in the Clair obscur prints, which developed in both, northern and Italian art. These different uses of chiaroscuro are each linked to differently grounded aesthetic commitments.

Within the context sketched above, we want to understand chiaroscuro as a distinctive aesthetic principle. Our chronological focus is on the period from 1300 to 1600.

The following sections are envisaged:

chiaroscuro and monochrome painting
chiaroscuro in the context of drawing and prints
chiaroscuro and sculpture
chiaroscuro in the art of Leonardo da Vinci

Further relevant proposals may be added: suggestions will be gladly received.

Interested scholars are cordially invited to present their researches and ideas in the framework of the conference. Please send your abstract (max. 300 words) for a c. 20-minute presentation together with your Curriculum Vitae by August 15, 2015 by email to:

Presenters will be contacted in September 2015.

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