François Quiviger (Warburg Institute)
Fellow in Research Area 1: "Competing Communities"
November - December 2023
The Art of Memory and Early Modern Festival Culture
Early modern festivals and their printed descriptions aimed at impressing potent images of the rulers and dynasties they celebrated on the memory of their audiences. They recruited the resources of classical mnemonic and early modern printing not only to memorialise events, but also to rewrite history—not so much creating new knowledge as setting up new memories. While the classical art of memory developed the powers of imagination to represent and order knowledge, court festivals and entertainments responded to political and dynastic purposes. As a tangible art of memory, early modern festival culture has prompted the elaboration of a large variety of animated images: tableaux vivants, mnemonic theatres, triumphal arches studded with emblems, sculptures, paintings from which actors clad as ancient gods and modern personifications would honour visiting monarchs and their suite; automatons such as Leonardo’s lion which greeted the French King Louis XII with a burst of fleur-de-lys or the sea monsters that entertained his successors. Some festival books also record fireworks. Moving images abound even at the micro level of banqueting in re-feathered birds, table-fountains, basins and drinking cups with gilded or glazed images, coloured and set in motion by water or wine. To approach this material from the angle of the art of memory and its relevance to early modern temporal communities, this project focuses on Italian and French early modern festivals and proceeds in three thematic parts: the creation of a new memory of place; the function, use and presence of brutal and striking images; the representation of origins and the creation of new memories.
Francois Quiviger is a Fellow of the Warburg Institute, University of London, where he previously worked as a librarian, curator of digital resources, researcher and teacher. The main theme of his research is the history of cognition and sensation in so far as it pertains to the making and reception of images and to the relationship of humans to nature. With these questions in mind, he has written on early modern art and art theories, academies, music, wine, banqueting and festivals. Recent books include Leonardo da Vinci: self, art and nature (2019) and The Sensory World of Italian Renaissance Art (2010).