The Sensuous in Art

Seven lectures on the theme The Sensuous in Art were presented by the Institute for Advanced Study and Princeton University in the 2006-2007 academic year. From medieval to contemporary art, the series focused on what Yve-Alain Bois, Professor of Art History in the School of Historical Studies, called "a return to the object" in art history "after, and benefitting from, two decades of intense theorization."

The lecture series, made possible with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, was organized by Bois and Hal Foster, Chair of the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University, and alternated in venue between the Institute's Wolfensohn Hall and McCormick Hall at the University.

The series began with Anne Wagner, Professor of Modern Art in the Department of History of Art at the University of California at Berkeley, who examined the structuring traces that the consumption of global capitalism leaves behind. Jeffrey Hamburger, Professor in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University, looked at the ways the sensory came to be integrated into the spiritual in medieval art. Experimental approaches to representing human physical nature in the work of Giorgione, Titian, and Domenico Campagnola were examined by Stephen Campbell, who teaches Italian art of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries at the Johns Hopkins University.

David J. Roxburgh, Professor of early Islamic Art and Architecture in the Department of Art and Architecture at Harvard University, addressed the ideal values espoused in Islamic calligraphy, dealing with production and reception, as well as the neglected formal and aesthetic features of writing itself. The relationship between emotion and representation as depicted in the Greek myths on the wals of Pompeian houses was explored by Natalie Kampen, Chair of the Department of Women's Studies and the Barbara Novak Professor of Art History at Barnard College, who focused in particular on the way family representations were characterized and the suggestion of a complex process of "emotional interpellation" in the imagery.

Irene Winter, William Dorr Boardman Professor of Fine Arts at Harvard University, examined the "wow"-effect of visual experience in ancient Mesopotamia, particularly how the human body is selectively revealed and concealed, the parts as well as the whole often coded for sexual, not just sensual, appeal. Focusing on four enigmatic paintings by Veronese in The National Gallery in London, T.J. Clark, the George C. and Helen N Pardee Professor of Art History at the University of California, Berkeley, discussed Veronese's brand of hedonism, and the artist's unique feeling for the body's architecture and balance, paying particular attention to Veronese's treatment of cast shadow, one clue to the artist's feeling for matter and passing time in general.