Paradigms of Renaissance Grotesques

Edited by Damiano Acciarino - ES43

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This collection offers a set of new readings on the history, meanings, and cultural innovations of the grotesque as defined by various current cultural critical theories and practices. Since the grotesque frequently manifests itself as striking incongruities, ingenious hybrids, and creative deformities of nature and culture, it is profoundly implicated in early modern debates on the theological, philosophical, and ethical role of images. This consideration serves as the central focus from which the articles in the collection then move outward along different lines of conceptualization, chronology, cultural relevance, place, and site.
These articles cover a wide spectrum of artistic media, from prints to drawings, from sculptures to gardens, from paintings to stuccos. As they do this, they engage with, and bring together, theoretical perspectives from writers as diverse as Plato and Paleotti, Vitruvius and Vasari, Molanus and Montaigne. Whether travelling a short distance from Nero’s Domus Aurea to Raphael’s Vatican logge, or across the ocean from Italy to New Spain, this volume goes further than any previous study in defining the historic understanding of grotesque, and, in so doing, providing us with a more nuanced resource for our understanding of an art form once viewed as peripheral.

597 pp. + 153 colour illustrations.
ISBN: 978-0-7727-2195-2 softcover, 978-0-7727-2193-8 hardcover
Published: 2019


Seventeenth Century News, 78:3&4 (Fall 2020), pp. 95-102. Reviewed by Livia Stoenescu.


1. Damiano Acciarino, Introduction, "Between Renaissance and Reformation: Grotesques and the Debate on Images"

Theoretical Perspectives
2. Alessandra Zamperini, "Grotesques and the Antique. Raphael’s Discovery of the Fourth Style"
3. Dorothea Scholl, "'Sense of Nonsense.' A Theology of Grotesques"
4. Philippe Morel, "Laughing with the Grotesques in the Renaissance"
5. Clare Lapraik, "Plato’s Stag Goats: Sophistic Heritage in Renaissance Grotesques"
6. Maria Fabricius Hansen, "Telling Time: Representations of Ruins in Grotesques"
7. Simon Godart, "Grotesque Poetics. Michel de Montaigne’s Use of Grotesques in De l’Amitié (I:28)"
8. Frances S. Connelly, "Unwinding the Arabesque: Grotesque Ornament and Modern Meaning"

Practical Applications
9. Kathryn Blair Moore, "The Logic of Grotesques in Renaissance Art: Marian Figuration at the Limits of Representation"
10. Barnaby Nygren, "Old Forms Grow in New Lands: Grotesque Decoration in the Open Chapel at San Luis Obispo (Tlalmanalco, Mexico)"
11. Marvin Lee Anderson, "Fighting the Thirty Years’ War on Two Fronts: Religious Intolerance and Militant Nationalism as Threats to Christ’s Presence in the World"
12. Patrizia Granziera, "Plants of the Gods and Weird Creatures: The Cryptic Language of Sixteenth-Century Convent Walls in Mexico"
13. Luke Morgan, "'Nocturnal Fowl Disorientated by Sunlight' Grottesche and Gardens in the Late Sixteenth Century"
14. Maria-Anna Aristova, "Other Bodies and Other Forms: Grotesque Departures in Seventeenth-Century Naples"
15. Veronica M. White, "Ridicolosa Rassomiglianza: The Art of Exaggeration in the Carracci’s Caricatures"

Ulisse Aldrovandi. Five Letters on painting – Thomas DePasquale (trans.)
Pirro Ligorio. Three Letters on Grotesque Painting – John Garton (trans.)
Giambattista Bombelli. Three Letters on grotesques – Sylvia Gaspari (trans.)
Egnazio Danti. Letter to Camillo Paleotti – Sylvia Gaspari (trans.)
Federico Pendasio. Letter to Giovanni Francesco Arrivabene – Sylvia Gaspari (trans.)
Alfonso Chacón [?], Letter to Camillo Paleotti – Sylvia Gaspari (trans.)