Journal Article

What makes a picture?

Chriscinda Henry

in Journal of the History of Collections

Volume 23, issue 2, pages 253-265
Published in print November 2011 | ISSN: 0954-6650
Published online January 2011 | e-ISSN: 1477-8564 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jhc/fhq034
What makes a picture?

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This essay evaluates sixteenth-century Venetian property inventories as evidence for art historical inquiry. It begins with a brief description of the available archival fonds and the character of the inventories they contain – their purpose, organization, and the types of information they provide. This is followed by a critical analysis of their descriptive language, which I argue is best studied over a large sample size. I focus on how tensions between the’ ‘plain’ language of the inventories and the rich physical complexity of the art objects they characterize complicate this effort. In closing, I use the conclusions drawn in the first part of the essay to address a particular research question on the status of prints as objects of display in the Venetian home. The inventories provide evidence suggesting that the display of prints alongside paintings and other artworks on the walls of private homes was far more widespread in the Renaissance than can be demonstrated by surviving physical examples.

Journal Article.  9297 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Exhibition Catalogues and Specific Collections ; History of Art ; Social and Cultural History

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