World, Knowledge, Power. Encyclopaedic pictorial programmes from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century

Summer School of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut

3 – 11 September 2010

Deadline for application: 14 June 2010

Concept and organization: Manuela De Giorgi, Susanne Pollack, Gerhard Wolf

Academic guest: Dieter Blume

The thirteenth century was a ‘century of encyclopaedias’. Learned compilations of knowledge were then produced, and iconographic programmes formulated, with the claim to present all fields of available knowledge in a comprehensive and systematic way. To be able to present knowledge as ‘Summa’, and represent it in encyclopaedic pictorial  programmes, thematic groups were defined and used in a strikingly constant way; they comprised, for example, such recurrent elements as the planets, the months of the year and the work associated with each, the virtues or the liberal arts. Within this vocabulary uniqueness was created through additions, variations, new combinations, choice of medium and of site, in such a way that the particular expressive force of the individual works would make clear ‘what’ world, ‘what’ knowledge and ‘what’ truth was to be shown.

Over a hundred years after Julius von Schlosser’s ground-breaking study “Giustos Fresken in Padua und die Vorläufer der Stanza della Segnatura” (1896), in which important Italian encyclopaedic pictorial programmes were brought together and analyzed, and which still forms the starting point for most studies on this question, the aim of this year’s Summer School at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence is to tackle the problem of encyclopaedic pictorial programmes through an intensive on-site study based on new research approaches to monuments from Padua to Rome.

The discussion will be guided by such questions as: To what extent do visualizations from encyclopaedic works influence monumental pictorial programmes with their allegorical or symbolic representations, and, vice versa, how far do these have a reflex action on their linguistic and pictorial production? What visual strategies come into play to produce classifications and make visible the relations between them? With what dynamics of appropriation do ecclesiastical, communal or courtly groups claim a kind of participation in global knowledge that transcends their actual spheres of power? How is the cooperation of a theological worldview with natural sciences and cultural techniques to be evaluated? And how are encyclopaedic pictorial programmes to be evaluated in the context of the history of knowledge?

The Summer School welcomes students and younger scholars, including graduate students, doctoral candidates and scholars who are embarking on post-doctoral research. Each participant is expected to contribute to the success of the course not only by presenting a paper but also by actively participating in discussions, which will be held in English, Italian and German.

A good knowledge of all three languages will be presupposed in all participants. Topic suggestions will be provided but all participants are encouraged to include their own proposal, which we will try to take into consideration.

Accommodation will be paid by the Institute, which will also reimburse participants for half of their travel costs and provide a per diem.

Application documents, consisting of a letter of application, CV, description of current research project (maximum 3 pages) should be sent to the following address before 14 June 2010:

Prof. Dr. Gerhard Wolf

Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut

Via Giuseppe Giusti 44

50121 Florence


Applications by e-mail are also welcome to the address:

Envelope/mail should be marked with “Summer School 2010”.