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Cambridge University Press
The Living Image in Renaissance Art

The Living Image in Renaissance Art

by Fredrika H. Jacobs


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Combining research and ideas from the histories of art, medicine, and natural philosophy, this book demonstrates the significance of "lifelikeness" in Renaissance art and considers the implications of claims that a work of art is "a living thing." Critical language describing such works became codified. This period also witnessed the advent of early modern medicine and anatomical science. Sixteenth-century Italian Renaissance artists rendered images in painting and sculpture that are so higholy mimetic as to be nearly lifelike.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780521821599
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 04/11/2005
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 267
Product dimensions: 6.85(w) x 9.72(h) x 0.79(d)

About the Author

Fredrika H. Jacobs is professor of art history at Virginia Commonwealth University. A scholar of Italian Renaissance art, she is the author of Defining the Renaissance: Virtuosa Women Artists and the Language of Art History and Criticism.

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The "Living" Image in Renaissance Art
Cambridge University Press
0521821592 - The "Living" Image in Renaissance Art - by Fredrika H. Jacobs



"We take pleasure in truth and it amazes the eye of the viewer to see in stone, in canvas, or in wood an inanimate thing that seems to move."

- Lodovico Dolce, Dialogo della Pittura, 1557

"We ought to understand that to depict human life is impressively hard, never easy."

- Plato, Critias

"Life; the union of soul with body."

- Il Vocabolario degli Accademici della Crusca, 1612

AS A SIGNIFICANT feature of the ekphrastic exercise and the poetics of desire, lifelikeness is one of the most enduring themes in the history of art. Indeed, since antiquity, the cultural landscape has been increasingly populated by incarnate artworks, which, to quote Clement of Alexandria, "beguile man by pretending to be truth."1 There is, for example, the wax "simulacrum"of Protesilaus that Laodamia took nightly to her bed, an image of a beautiful woman with which, according to Aristaenetus, the painter slept, and the effigy of the deceased Francis I, which, Girolamo Cardano claimed in De subtilitate, 1550, was a "living image."2 There is also the tale of Pygmalion's ivory statue of a virginal maiden that not only came to life but having done so bore the sculptor a daughter.3 Additionally, there is Michelangelo's Aurora, 1524-26, a marble personification that conversed with visitors to the Medici Chapel in San Lorenzo, Florence, and, conversely, Johan Baptista Houwaert's 1578 tableau vivant, which portrayed Perseus rescuing Andromeda, who, although a living girl, "seemed a marble statue."4 Currently, Duane Hanson's mixed media Museum Guard, 1975, is routinely approached by visitors in need of directions to special exhibitions in the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, while Elizabeth King's Quizzing Glass, 1999, startles the unsuspecting spectator with a blinking eye.5

Within this long history of works of art said to be so lifelike as to be alive and, conversely, living figures stupefied into being lifeless by the stunning visual effects of lifelike pictures and irrepressibly vivid statues, the Renaissance can claim to be one of the most interesting periods to study on three counts. First, it was during the sixteenth century that the critical language describing artworks was codified. This language included terms and phrases like vivo (alive), vivere (to live, be alive), veramente vivissimo (to truly be very much alive), una cosa viva (a living thing), and la tavola viva (a living picture). Second, the same period witnessed the advent of anatomical science and taxonomically ordered collections of natural and artificial, or manmade, wonders and irregularities (meraviglie, miracoli), including automata and constitutional, or what we understand to be congenital, deformities. As art critics and theorists described and discussed paintings and sculptures with respect to their apparent aliveness, physicians and natural philosophers like Andreas Vesalius (1514-64) Matteo Realdo Colombo (ca. 1515-59), Girolamo Cardano (1501-76), Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1605), and others investigated aliveness as a physiological and psychological condition of being. Third, this was an era of collaboration. Artists and anatomists, including Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1518) and Marcantonio delle Torre (ca. 1473-1506), Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) and Realdo Colombo, and Francesco Salviati (1510-63) and Guido Guidi (ca. 1500-69), worked side-by-side with the objective of producing illustrated anatomical treatises as they searched for the source of life in the structure of nature. In light of this, it is worth asking two interrelated questions. How did an artist "breathe" life into inanimate materials - pigment, stone, bronze - transforming them into a "living" presence, and what were the critical implications of the recognition of that presence? Put another way, how did the perceived analogical likeness of art and life play out in sixteenth-century Italy?

Renaissance texts are replete with descriptions of statues that speak and breathe (statue parlanti and signa spirantia), painted and modeled faces that seem or are said to be alive (vultus viventes), and confounding performative pieces (tableaux vivants) in which living figures coexist with those lacking only a voice (vox sola deest). Because the textual passages detailing these works are so numerous, there is a temptation to dismiss the topos of lifelikeness as little more than a cliché, a tired trope, as mere hyperbole.6 In some instances this is undeniably the case. However, this should not lead us to disregard the topos or ignore the period's distinction between that which is lifelike and that which is alive, or in the parlance of the designation of a painting or statue as something aesthetic discourse, "more lively than alive". As some scholars have rightly recognized, it is a mistake to think that nothing can be learned from the conveyance of convention. David Freedberg, for example, has argued that it simply challenges credulity "to assume that constant talk about living images has no resonance beyond providing a convenient handle for saying something purely descriptive about an image."7 Clearly, the rhetorical convention documents collusion between statues, pictures, and the many writers who endeavored to translate visual experience into descriptive prose, but it does more than that. Prints illustrating new visions of the body's interior proliferated during the sixteenth century as did intense discussions on teleology. Both impacted how a work of art was seen to perform and notions about how it came into existence. In fact, the period marked a shift in thought, moving away from a phenomenological view of the natural world and toward one based on a rational examination of observable causes.

This is not to say that investigating the interaction of vivid words and lifelike images as a complicit act of seeing has not been pursued to fruitful ends. It has, especially in the contexts of a neo-Aristotelian understanding of the expressive aims of imitation as it relates to the poetics of Petrarchan love and longing.8 Less discussed, but of equal importance to a discussion of the lifelike/living/lively, is the relationship of a viewer's imaginative vision to religious imagery. For example, the highly illusionist "sacred places" constructed in Piedmont and Lombardy during the sixteenth century were scaled simulacra of other places that both invited the viewer to interact with life-size polychrome figures and served as a catalyst for "the reification of an interior journey undertaken . . . for the sake . . . of sanctity."9 Similarly, a viewer's rational response to images of mostri, or "monsters," particularly those seemingly bestial beings that so closely resemble the appearance of man himself, must be considered. Some images of "monster," like portraits of Pedro Gonzalez, a so-called "rational animal"(animalia rationalia), prompted a journey of another but no less profound sort, than that provided by simulacra of the sacred. Images of the strange and the marvelous could impel the viewer to undertaken to know one's self (nosce te ipsum). What remains unconsidered are the ways in which the emergent disciplines of anatomical science and natural philosophy play a role in how the topos of lifelikeness was understood in the cultured circles of sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Italy. Similarly, because scholarship has been focused almost exclusively on viewer response, questions about factura, or "work," which may be dually understood as the process of making (cause) and the actual manufactured product (effect), have yet to be properly considered in this context.10 How, for example, were the teleological considerations of making related to those of ontology, especially with respect to fetal psychogenesis and the soul?11 In addition, what did concepts of making a lifelike or "living" image or object signify in terms of the kinship of the creative artist (alter deus) to God, the Deus Artifex, or the relationship of painting (pictura) and feinting (fictura)?

Any attempt to answer these queries must, as Joseph Koerner states, "limit the vast semantic field in which the word factura can potentially operate."12 The same holds true of terms and phrases connoting aliveness, such as più vivo che la vivacità (more alive than lively), risuscitare (to resuscitate, bring back to life), and battere i polsi (beating pulse[s]). In the context of this study, limiting the semantic field dictates that the analogical relationship of art and life be viewed through the tightly focused cultural lens of three emerging academic disciplines: art theory, anatomical science, and natural philosophy, all of which depended on observation, were descriptive in nature, and sought to balance teoria with practica. Only then can the interaction of artists and physicians, art and science, and science and aesthetics be assessed with any degree of accuracy. To this end, this book relies principally on two groups of texts, those written during the sixteenth century and those authored by ancient writers whose works informed many Renaissance concepts about making and being. Relevant Renaissance texts are varied in genre and subject matter. Those relating to art include conic poems, critical commentaries, theoretical prescriptives, rhetorical pronouncements, ekphrases, and artists' lives by writers such as Leon Battista Alberti (1404-72), Pietro Aretino (1492-1556), Gian Paolo Lomazzo (1538-1600), Lodovico Dolce (1508-68), Vincenzo Danti (1530-76), Giorgio Vasari (1511-74), and Gregorio Comanini (1550-1608). Anatomical texts include, among others, those by Alessandro Benedetti (ca. 1450-1512), Andreas Vesalius, Juan Valverde de Hamusco (ca. 1525-ca. 1588), Realdo Colombo (ca. 1515-59), and Girolamo Mercuriale (1503-1606). Books of wonders and philosophical lezzioni, notably those discussing "monsters," such as Ulisse Aldrovandi's posthumously published Monstrorum Historia, 1642, and Benedetto Varchi's (1503-65) Lezione sopra la generazione de'Mostri, 1548, and Giambattista della Porta's (1540-1615) Fisonomia dell' Huomo, 1598, also factor into the analysis. The classical texts that are the foundation of many of the above cited Renaissance sources are equally diverse in nature, ranging from Aristotle's writings on generation, Galenic and Hippocratic texts on the structure and health of the body, myriad authors collected in The Greek Anthology, Ovid's Metamorphoses, Pliny's Natural History, Philostratus's Imagines, and Pausanius's Descriptions of Greece. Theological tracts and treatises dealing with subjects such as the indivisibility of the body and soul (vis-à-vis dissection practices and medical ethics), like Saint Augustine's fifth-century City of God and Avicenna's eleventh-century De Anima, must also figure into the discussion. This is crucial given the religious intensification and ecclesiastical pressures associated with the Counter Reformation. Accordingly, works such as Cardinal Gabriele Paleotti's Discorso Interno alle imagini sacre e profane, 1582, which, in keeping with the Thomistic distinction between two kinds of figured language, sets limits on pictorial artifice, and the Dominican theologian Andrea Gilio da Fabriano's Trattato . . . de la emulatione che il demonio ha fatto a Dio . . . , 1563, which takes aim at the hubris inherent in the concept of the divino artista as a creator, not merely a maker, of figures, are among the many sixteenth-century texts used in this study.

According to Vivian Nutton, the rise of medical humanism was a three-stepped progression. It began in 1490 with On the Errors of Pliny and Other Doctors in Medicine, a text in which the Ferrarese physician Niccolò Leoniceno (1428-1524) argued for the replacement of Pliny and Avicenna with the authority of Dioscorides, Galen, and Hippocrates.13 Leoniceno's polemic gained support from an unlikely source. The outbreak of "the great pox" challenged the notion that medical knowledge with respect to contagions and causative agents was potentially finite and that illnesses present themselves in the form of fixed pathologies.14 The annus mirabilis for early modern medicine and anatomical science, 1525, marks the second step. That year saw the publication of the first edition of the works of Galen in Greek, a corpus containing 106 texts of which 46 had not been previously published. Flavio Calvo's publication of the Hippocratic Corpus in Latin also appeared that year. Although the number of editions of both Galen and Hippocrates varies throughout the century, it is worth noting that Galenic publications topped twenty in 1538 while editions of Hippocrates averaged five a year from 1555 until the end of the century. The third and final leap occurred in 1543 with the publication in Basel of Andreas Vesalius's influential De humani corporis fabrica (revised second edition 1555) and Epitome. The physician's visit to Bologna in 1544, which triggered a heated debate between Galenists (anatomists) and Aristotelians (philosophers) concerning embryological problems of generation and the governance of the body, should be considered a part of this third step. Although these dates and events relate principally to advances in academic circles, the publication of flap anatomies initiated an awareness of the human body among nonacademics, including artists.

In his introductory book on anatomy and dissection published in Venice in 1536, Niccolò Massa repeated an ancient caveat concerning the efficacy of books of anatomy: "Whoever wishes to see the works of nature should not put faith in anatomical texts but in his own eyes."15 The warning came in response to the fact that there was as yet no recourse to a pedagogical anatomical image reproducing the visual experience of dissection. Two years after Massa issued his less than positive assessment of verbally descriptive but unillustrated anatomical texts, the Venetian publisher Bernardo Vitalis printed Vesalius's Tabulae anatomicae sex, a collection of six loose sheets on which human anatomy and physiology were schematically illustrated with marginal explanatory notes. The same year saw the publication of the first fugitive flap anatomies. Flap anatomies are single sheets with superimposed flaps that, when lifted, reveal layer by layer male and female internal organs. As Andrea Carlino has noted, flap anatomies "translated onto paper the whole concept of anatomical dissection, mimicking the progressive unveiling of the body" from the skin to the posterior side of the thoracic cage.16 Between 1538 and 1545 at least twenty flap anatomies were in circulation. Residents of some cities, such as Bologna, were able to corroborate information gleaned from fugitive sheets by attending public dissections, typically staged during the cold, body-preserving period of the year during which carnival took place.17 Seventeenth-century accounts paint an unsettling picture of masked revelers attending these anatomies.

The revised and significantly expanded second edition of Giorgio Vasari's The Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, 1568, similarly chronicles a three-stepped progression in the history of style that suggests parallels with the evolutionary developments in medicine and anatomy narrated by Nutton. Chronology, however, is not what unites the medical and anatomical sciences with the visual arts. Problematics rather than dates connect the disciplines. For example, during the sixteenth century, artists, like doctors, sought to establish a balance between theory and practice. Similarly, both attempted to aggrandize their professions by emphasizing polemics and by stressing their basis in intellect while enhancing an awareness of their histories as a discipline through biographical studies.18 More importantly, the debates concerning agency and the embryonic development of the soul waged between Bologna's philosophers and physicians in 1544 resonates with the first of two public lectures delivered to the Accademia Fiorentina by Benedetto Varchi in March 1547.19 In his primo lezzione, Varchi used Michelangelo's sonnet, which begins "The perfect artist has within himself no concept/other than that circumscribed within the excess of a marble block," as the vehicle for explication. He begins by setting up a conceptual frame within which to establish a hierarchy of being. Following the precedent of Pico della Mirandola (1463-94), Varchi places man midway between heaven and earth. Developing this structure further, he pronounces l'ottimo artista, or the perfect artist, to be above his fellow men.20 The artist's exalted status rests on his ability to do what the Deus Artifex did when he shaped Adam from clay. The artist is the active agent who, to paraphrase Aristotle, induces form into matter.21 In this respect he demonstrates a quasidivine or magical transcendence over material limitations.

According to Varchi, artists possess a special insight that enables them to perceive in their own soul images identical to those shrouded in matter. In other words, and to quote Varchi's understanding of Aristotle's Metaphysics; "Art is none other than the form of an artificial thing existing in the artist's soul."22 It is artificial only to the extent that at this stage it exists potentially. Once that potential is realized in a product, or final art object, it assumes real existence and, therefore, has an essence that is inextricably tied to the intellectual and immortal element of its maker, namely his soul. This "essence," or aria, could be understood in the context of Petrarch's assessment of imitation. As David Summers has argued, Petrarch, following Seneca, saw imitation not as a process of duplication but rather one that "mixed [the artist's] own ingenium, his own talent and vision, his own spiritus, with what he saw in order to make [the work of art] seem alive."23 In attempting to view art against events taking place in science, natural history, and the nascent mechanical arts, this study adopts the contextualist approach to the history of science and cultural studies developed by Thomas S. Kuhn, Steven Shapin, and Simon Schaffer.24 Leaving aside the debated issues of equity in balancing "science" with "culture" and the correct terminology for this interdisciplinary field of study, it seems incontestable that the "specifics of scientific knowledge cannot 'be understood without reference to the special nature of the [historical] groups that produced it.' "25 By the same reasoning, the topos of lifelikeness cannot be fully appreciated without considering the specific disciplines which sought an understanding of the principle of life with those who tried to reproduce it through material and mechanistic means.

If art, ars, can be defined as skilled deception, then the history of art, at least during the early modern period, can be read as the story of learned, even magical, prestidigitation.26 By the same token, artists' biographies and monographic studies, which historically constitute the most common genre of the discipline of art history, can be understood as Promethean myths with hagiographic overtones that define the artist as an alter deus but one nonetheless dependent upon a higher, inspiriting source.27 As Michael Cole has noted, "as artistic giants attempted to build their way to the heavens, the divinity of the artist became thinkable as it had not been since antiquity."28 An alternative argument, but not an unrelated one, suggests that ars and artifice (artificioso), vis-à-vis the examples of art-as-life and life-as-art, be considered within the context of analogy and paradoxical experience. Renaissance ekphrases, which not only describe but also re-imagine the contextual situation of the depicted figures, do not typically subscribe to the choice presented in The Greek Anthology that "either Nature is lifeless or Art is alive."29 Instead they indulge in chiastic riddles about the limits of mimesis, teleological possibilities, material potentiality, and thus the capacity of the artist, as a kind of magus, to create and enliven things.30 Insofar as a lifelike image is defined by its likeness to the represented person (as opposed to a realistic rendering of an inanimate object), it is both wanting and complete. Exactly how wanting or how complete depends on the viewer. While a lifelike painting necessarily makes reference to its own illusionary character, thereby prompting the viewer to applaud what it is - art - by seeing quite clearly what it is not - reality, the rules of engagement differ when the encountered image is said to be alive (vivo) rather than accurate (vero). Such acuity, no less than that which enables the viewer to engage the work with a willing suspension of disbelief, gains its focus in part by way of textual conditioning. It is only logical, therefore, that an understanding of the lifelike is possible only if close attention is paid to the words that convey the concept and then only if context is scrutinized.

John Shearman claimed that "one is disappointed over and over again reading Renaissance texts on works of art . . . because they so often follow a promising buildup with a bathetic cliché: a picture is so wonderful that . . . it only lacks life, or breath, or spirit."31 The assumption of such a position fails to give texts, and the artists who created the images they describe, just consideration within the established but changing contexts of sixteenth-century aesthetics and the sciences of medicine and anatomy, disciplines that liberally reference and intently seek the essence of life. In fact, the very phrases dismissed as clichés should be attended seriously, for as Hellmut Wohl has rightly argued, the language of Renaissance texts can and should be employed as "reliable guides" in any quest for "an understanding of both the making and appreciation of [contemporaneous] works of art."32 The "reliable guides" of this study are those words and phrases conveying the analogical relationship of art to life. There are many variations on the theme, including: vivo (alive), vivere (to live, be alive), veramente vivissimo (to truly be very much alive), una cosa viva (a living thing), spirare un fiato (to breathe, take a breath air), battere i polsi (beating pulse[s]), anima, spirito, fiato, and pneuma (soul, spirit, breath, air), risuscitare (resuscitate, bring back to life), la tavola viva (a living picture), pare che spirimo e sieno vivissimi (appearing, or seeming, to be breathing and absolutely alive), and più vivo che la vivacità (more alive than lively). Some phrases, such as non dipinta ma viva (not painted but alive), imply - indeed assert - the presence of life in inanimate statues and paintings. Others, such as ritrarre dal vivo (copied after life), similitudine vivissime (most lively resemblance), and "un certa attenzione ed accuratezza molto naturale" (a certain attention and accuracy very true to life) suggest the opposite.33The distinction between the two is important. In referencing the living original, comparative phrases draw attention to defining differences. A portrait made dal vivo may be an accurate likeness yet in the absence of terms implying life, it cannot convey fully the sense of a living presence. Nonetheless, portraits made after life raise their own questions when the depicted subject appears to be a fantasy, for example an image of a "monster" but is in fact true to life.

It goes without saying that analogy, polarity, and metaphor play an important part in all facets of the "life" of a work of art; its creation, presentation, and the expectations imposed on it by both the generic rules governing visual reception and those conditioned by a specific culture. In the context of medical knowledge what was known about the human body had long been restricted to what could be observed externally. With the advent of modern anatomical science, new views of the body's long-hidden interior and unprecedented examinations of how it worked first confronted then merged with the classical model, becoming a factor of consequence with respect to cultural conditioning. Consequently, "speaking statues" and "talking pictures" assumed a liminal place somewhere between being and nonbeing.

So, how are we to understand phrases like veramente vivissimo, pareva viva viva, più vivo che la vivacità, and vive e verace? When Vasari says an image appears "to be breathing and absolutely alive (pare che spirimo e sieno vivissimi)" or when Dolce claims "every one of [Titian's] figures is alive, moves and [has] flesh that palpitates (ogni sua figura è viva, si muove, è le carni tremano)" what do they mean?34 Are these the words of hollow hyperbole or are they the carefully selected "reliable guides" that can lead us to an understanding of the analogical relationship of art with life in Renaissance Italy? Do these phrases describe the artist's capacity to create, assess style, promote the stature of the artist as the mortal counterpart to the Deus Artifex, reflect conventions of seeing with or without references to the discourse of early modern science, or all of the above? Through an examination of images and the critical language of sixteenth-century art history and theory, this book considers these and related questions.

Chapter 2, "The Analogical Relationship of Art and Life," serves several functions. First and foremost it establishes the sixteenth-century critical frame in which words and phrases connoting life and lifelikeness function as "reliable guides" in establishing contextual meaning. In addition to phrases such as più vivo che la vivacità and battere i polsi, those recognizing the teleological likeness of biological procreation and artistic creation are considered. Since antiquity, biological reproduction has been employed as a metaphor to explain the production of figurative works of art.35 For example, in On the Natural Faculties Galen noted, "In the same way [the sculptor] Phidias possessed the faculties of his art before touching the material, . . . so it is with the semen."36 During the course of the Renaissance the metaphor, which suggests a comparison of one thing (art) to something it does not literally denote (life), became an analogy recognizing a likeness of attributes and forming a ground of reasoning. In a world of change, which scientists like Copernicus, physicians like Vesalius, and explorers like Magellan created, metaphor and analogy rendered the truth of experience as the truth of knowledge.37 The degree to which truth allowed the substitution of one thing for another is in Renaissance literature a sub-text that ultimatly serves to define "artist." With respect to the visual arts, numerous statements point to the perceived equivalence of art and life. For example, Leonardo da Vinci characterized the creative process using words like partorire (to give birth to), nascere (to be born, or to come into the world), and generare (to procreate) and, hence, maintained that "the figures resemble the master" (le figure somigliano il maestro).38 Similarly, when Vasari encapsulated his biography of Sofonisba Anguissola he did so by observing, "If women know so well how to make living men, what marvel is it that those who wish to do so are also well able to make them in painting."39 Focusing on Gian Paolo Lomazzo's assessment of Gaudenzio Ferrari's (ca. 1475/80-1546) mise-en-scènes in the chapels of Varallo's Sacro Monte, issues concerning the generative soul and agency, and familial and stylistic resemblance are considered.

The classical concept of technẽ, which J. J. Pollitt defines as "the orderly application of knowledge for the purpose of producing a specific . . . product," is clearly related to factura, which in the Renaissance stressed the relationship of the artist to the work he or she made by emphasizing that the hand of the artist should always be indexed by what remained visibly and materially made about a work of art despite its sublation, as image.40 Although as a concept, technẽ was most often associated with the production of art objects and, hence, to aesthetics, it was by no means restricted to the visual arts. In Technẽ iatrike (Ars medica), better known as the Ars parva, Galen, who seems to have thought that medicine was a science only in a broad sense of the word, counts medicine among the productive arts. Like the manipulation of materials that results in the production of an image, the art of transforming a sick body into a healthy one requires the physician to combine theoretical knowledge, which relates to truth and being, with practical knowledge, which relates to action and the process of coming-to-be.41 In the Renaissance the division between theory and practice posed several questions, not the least of which were whether or not medicine took its principles from natural philosophy and can medicine aspire to apodictic demonstration through its identification of causes, or agency? The empirical revelations of anatomical science aside, understanding the causes of disease as well as congenital malformations (mala composition) was problematic since, to cite Anaxagoras, "What appears before us [is] a glimpse of the invisible."42 The best a physician could do is concentrate on the semiological aspects of medicine, which Franciscus Valleriola (1504-80) described in 1577 as a conjectural art. Nonetheless, in accordance with Aristotle, it was maintained that the art of medicine, like alchemy, could "bring about some things which are not possible for nature to bring about."43 As Ian Maclean notes, "What is at issue here is the role given to art in respect of 'natura naturans' and 'natura naturata': of God and of nature."44

However, concerning natura naturans, or the imitation of the processes of nature rather than the replication of her products (natura naturata), Aristotle's contention that art is the form of an artificial thing existing in the artist's soul, not only identified the creative mind and skilled hand of the artist as the productive agents, it also recognized parallels between physiological and artistic creation, which he explained theoretically. The production of a work of art, he says, is "a state of capacity to make . . . [and] is concerned with coming into being, with contriving and considering how something may come into being . . . and whose origin is in the maker." The first to present an explicitly epigenetic theory and the main author of On the Generation of Animals, the primary text cited in debates on embryology through the fifteenth century and one that continued to affect ideas on the subject during the sixteenth century, Aristotle explained his theory in terms of proximate causes. Four interdependent causes are necessary for something to come into being; 1) the efficient cause, or the impetus to the making of a thing; 2) the formal cause, or that which gives form to matter; 3) the material cause, or the matter that receives the form; and 4) the telic cause, or the goal it endeavors to reach.45 As is made clear by the sixteenth-century appropriation of the language of biological creation, Aristotle's theory of causality met the needs of art theorists as well as philosophers and physicians who entertained a wide range of causal theories to explain contagions and physical abnormalities. Significantly, the Renaissance belief that the product bore the indelible imprint of its creator, just as a child reflects its parent, contributed to the emendation of techne into factura.

© Cambridge University Press

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: The topos of lifelikeness; 2. The analogical relationship of art and life: concepts and language; 3. (Dis)Assembling: Michelangelo and Marsyas; 4. Mona Lisa's 'beating pulse'; 5. Nosce te ipsum: Narcissus, mirrors, and monsters; 6. The lifeless and the (re)animation of the lifelike; 7. Postscript.

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