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Art and humanism in early Renaissance Padua: Cennini, Vergerio and Petrarch on imitation.

A number of passages in Cennino Cennini's early fifteenth-century craft handbook, the Libro dell'Arte, have captured the attention of art historians -- most particularly its spectacular first chapter, which defines painting in terms indebted to late medieval poetics and which praises artistic imagination in terms ultimately derived (though significantly transformed) from Horace's Ars poetica.(1) I would like to focus critical attention on another section of the Libro that is equally rich and complex in both its sources and its transformations -- Cennini's treatment of imitation and style, articulated most pointedly in chapter 27, "How to Strive to Copy and Draw from as Few Masters as Possible."(2) Cennini's discussion of copying masters will be examined in relation to humanist ideas on literary imitation, and this particular aspect of the relation between painting and poetry in the Libro will be explored in light of the author's residency in Padua during the last years of the Trecento.

Cennini's advice on copying models is found in the important and extensive discussion of disegno that occupies chapters 5-34 of the Libro. These chapters form the hinge between Cennini's claims for painting's kinship to poetry as an art requiring fantasy and science (chapters 1-4) and the more technical instructions on painting, gilding, casting, etc. that occupy the book's remaining 155 chapters. Cennini makes disegno a bridge between mind and hand by stating in chapter two that drawing by itself delights the intelletto of those who are drawn to the art of painting by an animo gentile.(3) The chapters on drawing outline a program whereby the apprentice learns to create three-dimensional illusion through modeling in chiaro and scuro. The student progresses from drawing on a small wooden panel with silverpoint (chapters 5-9) to drawing on parchment and paper using ink wash, leadpoint, and pen, the last of which renders him capable of disegno inside his head (chapters 10-14) and then progresses to working on tinted paper (chapters 15-22). Having mastered these techniques, the apprentice is then instructed in the manufacture and use of carta lucida to trace drawings and paintings (chapters 23-26), given the rationale behind copying from masters and from nature (chapters 2728), and finally -- after an exordium in which he is told to regulate his life like one who studies philosophy or theology -- provided with instructions on the technique of copying frescoes in chapels (chapters 29-30). The section closes with added instructions for using charcoal and ink wash (chapters 31-34).

In chapter 27, the section with which we are chiefly concerned, Cennini begins by reviewing the skills the apprentice has thus far learned, and then goes on to write:

Having first accustomed yourself to drawing, as I told you above (that is, on a small panel), you should labor and take delight in always copying the best things that you can find by the hand of the great masters. And if you are in a place where there have been many great masters, so much the better for you. But I counsel you: guard that you always choose the best and the one who has the greatest fame, and proceeding thus day in and day out, it would be unnatural for you not to come close to his manner and to his aria; because if you endeavor to copy one artist today and another tomorrow, you will not acquire the manner of either of them, and you will necessarily become fantastichetto, by the love that each manner will excite in you. Now you will proceed in the manner of this one, tomorrow of some other, and thus nothing will be perfect. But if you follow the method of one master, practicing continually, coarse indeed will be the intellect that does not derive some benefit. Then it will happen that, if nature has given you any fantasia, you will acquire a manner proper to you, and it cannot be other than good, because when your intellea is accustomed to picking flowers, your hand will not know how to gather thorns.(4)

Cennini leaves open the question of exactly which artist one should copy. This seems logical, for the best available model will vary from place to place. Yet reading the rest of the Libro leaves little doubt that the author considered the best and most famous artist none other than Giotto. Cennini begins his book by offering reverence (in neat parallel construction) to God, the Virgin, and the saints, and to Giotto, Taddeo Gaddi, and his own master Agnolo Gaddi. This legitimizing artistic genealogy is recalled near the end of the first chapter, where it is claimed that Giotto "translated the art of painting from Greek into Latin, and rendered it modern," and again in the long and important section on how to paint youthful flesh tones (chapter 47), where Cennini proclaims that the best method is still that of Giotto.(5)

The advice on imitation in chapter 27 might at first seem to be common sense; as surviving model-books and drawings attest, copying works by other artists was a standard feature of medieval workshop practice.(6) Yet no medieval text on art contains anything like Cennini's lengthy discussion of the practice or examines the question of personal artistic style.(7) I would suggest that his recommendations, rather than being a simple reflection of workshop commonplaces, find their proper context within the discussion of literary imitation in the "proto-humanist" -- or perhaps better, "post-Petrarchan" -- culture of late Trecento Padua. This was the milieu in which Cennini worked as court painter to Francesco Novello da Carrara from the 1390s until the early years of the fifteenth century and in which his text was almost certainly composed, yet its importance for the Tuscan-born painter-writer is rarely considered.(8) In putting forth this suggestion, I am also making the larger claim that there was meaningful exchange between the Latinate culture of early humanism and the vernacular culture of the early Renaissance workshop.(9)

Cennini's chapter on imitation bears striking resemblance to a passage written by the early humanist educator Pier Paolo Vergerio (1370-1444), who was a member of the Carrara circle and resided in Padua (with some interruptions) between 1390 and 1405.(10) Vergerio addressed the imitation of models in a letter of 17 August 1396 to Ludovico Buzzacarini, a cousin of Francesco Novello da Carrara.(11) Rehearsing arguments that would be expounded by the ardent Ciceronians of a century later, he tells his correspondent:

Though Seneca considers one should not follow a single model but form a new style out of various models, I do not think this is so; rather one should have a single writer -- and him the best -- whom one imitates before all others, because the more one follows an inferior model and departs from the best, the worse one becomes. So one should do what the painters of our own age do, who though they may look with attention at famous paintings by other artists, yet follow the models of Giotto alone.(12)

Vergerio goes on to advise Ludovico that while some claim that Vergil should be imitated in verse and Cicero in prose, the latter is the most perfect example of eloquence in any field.

As Michael Baxandall has pointed out in his incisive analysis of this passage, a number of models for such prescriptions on imitation -- many of them including illustrations drawn from the visual arts -- could be found in classical literature.(13) A readily available example was in book four of the Rhetorica ad Herennium, where the author defends his decision to use his own stylistic exempla rather than eclectically gathering illustrations from other authors with this analogy: "Not thus did Chares learn from Lysippus how to make statues. Lysippus did not show him a head by Myron, arms by Praxiteles, a chest by Polyclitus. Rather with his own eyes would Chares see the master fashioning all the parts; the works of the other sculptors he could if he wished study on his own initiative."(14) Baxandall uses Vergerio's letter to illustrate his contention that humanist writing on the arts is most usefully interpreted within the conventions of its genre -- here as a polished periodic sentence on the hallowed subject of exemplaria. Vergerio's substitution of Giotto's name for that of Lysippus, Baxandall argues, is therefore less interesting for any information it may provide about the artistic practices in late Trecento Padua than for what it tells us about the frameworks that condition humanist approaches to art.(15)

I would argue in this case, however, that one may profitably look for connections between the realm of humanist art criticism and that of practical craft. Although it is true that Vergerio's recommendations are found in a Latin letter on rhetorical style, the recipient of that letter was not only a student of Ciceronian oratory but also a member of one of great patron families of Padua. In the 1370s Ludovico's aunt Fina Buzzacarini (the consort of Francesco il Vecchio da Carrara) had commissioned the frescoes in the Paduan baptistery from Cennini's Tuscan predecessor at court, Giusto de' Menabuoi, and in the 1380s and 1390s a Tuscanizing style -- and more specifically a Giottesque style -- was the norm in works commissioned by other members of the Carrarese court.(16) One might also recall that it was with reference to a work by Giotto that the artistic expertise of Francesco il Vecchio da Carrara was certified: in his last testament Petrarch willed the Paduan ruler a Madonna by Giotto, whose beauty he claimed was incomprehensible to the ignorant but astonishing to masters of art.(17) Thus Vergerio's decision to use the modern example of Giotto rather than a standard ancient topos may well have been influenced by his familiarity with the Paduan art (and perhaps artists) around him as well as a canny sense of the stylistic preferences at court. It is certainly worth noting that in the early to mid-1390s, Vergerio seems to have been currying favor with the Carrara by dedicating, for instance, public orations to members of the family.(18)

Yet even if we argue such an "interested" angle for Vergerio's choice of Giotto to illustrate his point, the passage is still primarily dependent on the classical writings on imitation that were common humanist currency at the time. One might be tempted to suggest that Cennini's text simply parrots the same ancient topoi (perhaps gleaned from Vergerio, perhaps from some other source), but several things in the text argue that his understanding of imitation was carefully considered. It is notable, for instance, that while the essential nature of the advice on imitation is the same as that found in Vergerio or the Ad Herennium, Cennini renders it into the technical and psychological language he uses to discuss artistic apprenticeship generally. And not only does Cennini integrate it fully into his text; he also adds to it, providing a cognitive foundation for the theory of imitation that was not to be found in either modern or ancient writers.

Let us briefly review the vocabulary Cennini uses to discuss the art of painting and the role of imitation within it. The Libro begins by defining painting as an occupation requiring both fantasia and "operazione di mano" (a vernacular variation on the classical formula of ingenium and manu -- inborn talent or ingenuity, and manual skill).(19) According to Cennini, fantasia links painting to those worthy professions, such as poetry, that are "di maggiore scienza" -- scienza here seeming to indicate the mental skills necessary to an art above the level of the mechanical.(20) Most of the Libro concerns itself with "operazione di mano"; fantasia, which Cennini identifies with the artist's ability to compose figures "standing, seated, half-man half-horse," and intelletto make relatively rare appearances in the body of the text.

Cennini's section on imitation, however, has something of the same interweaving of manual and mental skills that characterizes the opening chapters. The intellect, for instance, is once again associated with drawing; the manual labor of copying benefits the intelletto. Intelletto (which in fact appears twice in our passage) is not a particularly common term in the late Trecento discussion of art. When it is used, as in Boccaccio's claims for the art of Giotto, it describes a faculty necessary for the act of viewing paintings rather than one employed in making them.(21) In late medieval and Renaissance usage intelletto could designate a number of mental activities, ranging from the highest speculative and abstracting powers of the human soul, to such "lower" cognitive functions as imagination.(22) Throughout Cennini's text, and especially in the chapters on copying masters, the term is used in a manner that corresponds roughly to the faculty of judgment.(23)

A key passage for establishing this meaning is in chapter 30, which deals with making drawings after paintings located too high in chapels to be traced or measured. Cennini writes that the artist should begin by choosing a measurement equivalent to one third of a human face. That module (misura) can then be used to generate not only the whole body, but also the buildings, and the distances between figures; "and," he writes, "you will be perfectly guided, by using your intellect to determine how to direct [guidar] the aforesaid measure."(24) The intelletto thus guides the artist in establishing scale relations, helping him project the objects and intervals of the scene on the basis of his small module while at the same time translating a large fresco onto a small sheet of paper. Intelletto here becomes a kind of internal estimation or judgment immediately exercised on information obtained through sense perception -- or a faculty, as David Summers has suggested, akin to the giudizio dell'occhio extolled by later Renaissance writers on art.(25)

We may imagine "lo intelletto al disegno si diletta solo" (as Cennini claims in chapter 2), precisely because drawing is the tool for establishing, testing, and internalizing these kinds of proportional relations.(26) The relationship between disegno and intelletto in chapter 27 is therefore intricately drawn, when the neophyte artist, who has already literally retraced (ritratto) the contours of frescoed images with his carta lucida, then proceeds to make free-hand copies of good artistic models (which should be chosen partially on the basis of the artist's reputation). The intellect benefits from this manual act of copying because it is thus provided with the standards by which it can exercise judgment. Once those standards of judgment are in place, the intellect will in turn guide the hand to gather flowers rather than thorns (and now the artist no longer has to rely on other people's judgment -- the criterion of fame -- to recognize what is good).(27) It is not surprising that in the chapter immediately following, Cennini advises the artist to copy from nature; once he has acquired judgment by internalizing the standards of good art, the artist may proceed to investigate the three-dimensional world.

This activity of judging and copying also leads to the development of a personal style, and it is in this context that fantasia enters the discussion. Fantasia allows internal visualization, and in that capacity it is involved in higher activities of intellection. For the artist it is a kind of internal "projection screen" on which he may examine, as well as combine, divide, rearrange, and judge images originally obtained through sense perception.(28) It allows him, along with the judgment of the intelletto, to create a proper style from the many examples he has copied and internalized.(29) In Cennini's terms, copying models can also kindle a love that distracts the mind and fills the fantasia with images conjured by desirous longing. Copying too many styles will confuse that faculty and render the artist fantastichetto, an unusual word, perhaps signifying that the fantasy (categorized in humoral medicine as hot and dry) is overheated with imaginings.(30)

Certain features in this last passage may suggest familiarity with ideas on assimilation and imitation beyond those found in Vergerio's text or the Ad Herennium. For example, in one of the Epistulae morales the younger Seneca warns his correspondent Lucilius not to read too broadly, "lest this reading of many authors and books of every sort may tend to make you discursive and unsteady [vagum et instabile]. You must linger among a limited number of master-thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind." (31) This is very close to Cennini's warnings about the hazards of copying indiscriminately; we might see fantastichetto as equivalent to Seneca's vagus and instabilis.(32) The Latin vagus (literally wandering, figuratively inconstant or capricious) forms the root of the Italian vago -- an adjective that by the end of the Trecento had come to signify both the state of desiring and that of being desired.(33) Cennini's term would seem to have the same range of connotation as the vernacular rendering of Seneca's phrase; what has an entirely negative meaning in the ancient source becomes more ambivalent in its modern reformulation. "Vagum et instabile" is understood as desirous and unstable, which in turn becomes "fantastichetto per amore." If we accept the relevance of this passage from the Epistulae morales, it once again argues for Cennini's interaction with humanists in Padua, where the study of Seneca had a long history.(34)

I would agree with David Summers, however, that the most profound -- if elusive -- debt in Cennini's text is not to Seneca, or even to the contemporary humanist Vergerio, but rather to Petrarch. Not only did Petrarch produce vividly suggestive writings on imitation, and put his ideas into practice in both his Latin and volgare texts, but he also drew explicit analogies between literary and pictorial imitation. While Summers does not specifically address the circumstances in which the painter could have come into contact with the poet's ideas, he does place both Cennini's text and Petrarch's ideas on painting in the larger context of that practical and theoretical mix that constituted the tradition of the Tuscan artistic workshops.(35) Yet once again the Paduan ambiente, where the poet's presence was felt even two decades after his death, provides the likely point of contact. Petrarch spent his final years (1368-74) in Padua and Arqua under the protection of Francesco il Vecchio da Carrara, and a kind of Petrarch cult was flourishing in the Veneto by the late Trecento.(36) Vergerio was closely involved with the Paduan Petrarchists: he wrote the Sermo de vita moribus et doctrina illustris et laureati poete Francisci Petrarce in the mid-1390s, was charged with editing the Africa, and judging from references in his correspondence seems to have been familiar with a number of the poet's other Latin works.(37)

Summers has suggested specifically that Cennini's use of the word aria to indicate style in his chapter on imitation may owe something to Petrarch, who in a famous letter of 1366 to Boccaccio (Fam. 23.19) similarly used that term, which he claims to draw from the vocabulary of painters, to discuss the proper relationship between literary imitation and its sources.(38) The letter merits close examination, for Petrarch's reference to pictorial practice is embedded in an exceptionally rich discussion of imitation's ultimate goal -- the attainment of a distinctly personal style.

In the letter Petrarch refers to his talented young secretary, Giovanni Malpaghini, who was then transcribing the poet's Familiares. Because he loves him like a son, Petrarch feels obliged to give the young man some fatherly advice, for he has observed Giovanni to be overly fond of the practice of imitation. He recounts this advice to Boccaccio:

An imitator must take care to write something similar yet not identical to the original, and that similarity must not be like the image to its original in painting where the greater the similarity the greater the praise for the artist, but rather like that of a son to his father. While often very different in their individual features, they have a certain something our painters call an air [umbra quedam et quem pictores nostri aerem vocant], especially noticeable about the face and eyes, that produces a resemblance; seeing the son's face we are reminded of the father's although if it came to measurement, the features would all be different, but there is something subtle [nescio quid occultum] that creates this effect. We must thus see to it that if there is something similar, there is also a great deal that is dissimilar, and that the similar be elusive and unable to be extricated except in silent meditation, for the resemblance is to be felt rather than expressed. Thus we may appropriate another's ideas as well as his coloring but we must abstain from his actual words for, with the former, resemblance remains hidden and with the latter it is glaring, the former creates poets, the second apes.(39)

In this passage Petrarch begins by paraphrasing his model, Seneca, who had specified in Moral Epistle 84 that a filial metaphor is more appropriate than a pictorial one for describing good imitation, since a painting is a dead thing (res mortua).(40) Yet Petrarch -- whose praise of Simone Martini in the Rime sparse assumes the painter's ability to portray the soul of the sitter -- cannot dismiss painting completely, and indeed he goes on to describe the type of painting that might seem living -- a painting that is (literally) adumbrated, shadowed about the face and eyes.(41) Citing texts by Plutarch and Philostratus, Summers argues that the aer to which Petrarch refers is the quality in a painting that suggests the inner character, or ethos, of the figure portrayed, those very qualities that seem to render it a living thing.(42) Similarly, Summers points out, what is sought in an artistic or poetic imitation is not the exact appearance of the model, but rather the artistic "ethos" that governs that appearance; aer also refers to the "breath" of the author/painter, the spiritus that enlivens the final product.(43) It is unclear whether the painters of Petrarch's day used the term aer or aria, with the same nuance as the poet; yet in Cennini's text, we may find something of this same complexity with regard to the notion of stylistic aria and copying in general.(44)

If we examine more closely the imitative practices outlined or alluded to in Petrarch's and Cennini's texts, we may note that parallel skills are required of the poet and painter alike. The literary apprentice begins by memorizing the model texts, or even -- if we take Giovanni's labors in copying the Familiares as an example -- by transcribing them.(45) Cennini's apprentice similarly engages in a labor of exact duplication by tracing contorni on his carta lucida -- and then copying frescoes at a distance, using the judgment that has been formed by the controlled movement of his hand around the contours of well-made figures.

Drawing -- the medium which Cennini associates with intelletto -- is the means by which the artist, in assimilating the style of another, discovers his own style. In turn it becomes the means of infusing his style or aria, as a kind of "soul," into the paintings he produces. We may explore the implications of Cennini's use of aria by examining his discussion in chapter 122 of drawing on panel. Panel painting, Cennini claims, is the "sweetest and most polished" art there is, and it is the medium which the apprentice should master before trying his hand at the more virtuoso art of fresco.(46) Implicitly, the artist addressed in this part of the Libro has graduated from drawing into painting and has recently come to find his own style.

According to Cennini's instructions, the painter begins by composing his image on the smooth surface of his gessoed panel, using charcoal tied to a long stick. This preliminary drawing is to be done with a light hand ("con leggier mano"), and the artist should use a quill to brush away any strokes (tratti) that come out badly.(47) The advice echoes chapter 30's discussion of the use of charcoal to copy frescoes located high up on the walls of chapels. There, Cennini tells the artist to keep a quill for erasing and redrawing the figure until it resembles the essemplo he is copying; here, the standard of correctness the painter strives for has been internalized.(48)

After having "adumbrated" the drapery and faces of his figures, the painter should leave the panel for several days, coming back occasionally to review it and "medicate" anything that seems badly done. Here Cennini reintroduces imitation, for during this time, he writes, "you can copy and look at things made by other good masters, and it will bring you no shame."(49) This advice seems appropriate, since the act of leaving the panel and coming back is meant as a check on one's judgment, and copying the works of others is for Cennini, as we have seen, a means of informing that judgment.

When the painter returns to the panel, he is to brush off his original drawing almost entirely, firm up the spectral charcoal drawing with ink wash, and finally erase all traces of the original drawing. "And thus," Cennini writes, "you will be left with an alluring [vago] drawing, that will make everyone fall in love with your works." In other words, the original tratti left by the delicate movements of the artist's hand are themselves obliterated, thrice over (twice by erasure, and once when the final drawing is covered with paint); they become, as it were, a shadow of the artist's movements, and this forms the invisible anima of the finished product.(50) Yet it is this shadowed presence -- the traces that ultimately lead back to the movements of the artist's soul, which guided in turn the movement of his hand -- that causes everyone to fall in love (innamorare) with the painting. It is worth noting that this love is referred to in the earlier passage that includes mention of aria (chapter 27, "On Copying Masters"): the young painter who indulges his attraction to the styles of many different masters becomes "fantastichetto per amore." Here the apprentice has come full circle, for he now is capable of producing works whose aria will incite the love of others.

If the "nescio quid occultum" that lies beneath the surface of Petrarch's ideal imitative text is the shadow of the model, what is adumbrated in the chiaroscuro drawing beneath the surface of Cennini's panel is the artist himself. Yet in this notion of style, we may also find kinship with Petrarch. The poet's insistence in his letter to Boccaccio and elsewhere on a recognizable stylistic independence within the larger practice of imitation is, as the literary historian Thomas M. Greene has argued, perhaps Petrarch's most important legacy to the Renaissance.(51) As Greene writes, drawing on Petrarch's own metaphorical vocabulary, "Petrarch sees that a man's style is as personal as his face, and that both reflect the essential core of selfhood . . . that makes him unique. Only after grasping his own selfhood can the artist create . . . and preserve his literary style."(52)

We may recall that near the end of chapter 27, after extolling the benefits derived from the constant copying of a single great and famous master, Cennini assures his reader that this will result in a style of his own -- a "maniera propia a te" -- which is a claim, as far as I know, without precedent in the technical literature on the arts.53 The resonance of such an insistence is of course different for Cennini than for Petrarch; the latter must create his style (and self) under the long shadow of the ancients, while the former fashions himself in light of the more recent example of Giotto. (It is tempting to think that the absence of Giotto's name from chapter 27 -- one of the places we would logically expect to find it -- constitutes a small gesture of independence within a larger acknowledgment of authority.) A similar sense of both dependency and autonomy characterizes Cennini's very discussion of imitation; while the sentiments expressed may depend on Vergerio, Petrarch, Seneca, and even the Ad Herennium, Cennini refashions them into his own property through an act of translation.

The comparison of literary and pictorial effects found throughout Petrarch's writings formed one part of his Paduan legacy, providing fertile ground for the kind of aforementioned exchange between humanist and artistic culture at the end of the fourteenth century.(54) If Cennini's chapter on acquiring style through copying demonstrates, as I have suggested, his participation in an ongoing discussion (in Petrarch's adopted city) about the imitation of models, then it may also be fruitful to seek a Paduan context for other intriguing parts of the Libro, such as the richly suggestive definition of painting that opens the first chapter.

(*) I would like to thank Michael J.B. Allen and the reviewers of this article for their helpful suggestions. Additionally, I would like to thank Mary Pardo for her many insightful comments on the text.

(1) The lines to which I refer are: "e quest' e un arte che si chiama dipignere, che conviene avere fantasia e operazione di mano, di trovare cose non vedute, cacciandosi sotto ombra di natural), e femmarle con la mano, dando a dimostrare quello che non e sia E con ragione merita metterla a sedere in secondo grado alla scienza e coronarla di poesia. La ragione e questa: che 'l poeta, con la scienza prima che ha, il fa degno e libero di potere comporre e legare insieme si e no come gli piace, secondo sue volonta. Per lo simile al dipintore dato e liberta potere comporre una figura ritta, a sedere, mezzo uomo mezzo cavallo, si come gli piace, secondo sue fantasia" (Cennini, 3-4). For modem commentary on this passage, see most notably Chastel; Summers, 1981, 37ff, and 133-34; and Pardo, 1989, 84-86.

(2) Cennini's chapter on copying masters has been thoughtfully discussed by Mary Pardo in her treatment of memory and imagination in Leonardo da Vinci's writings see Pardo, 1991, 54-56.

(3) Cennini, 5.

(4) Ibid., 27-28: "avendo prima usato un tempo il disegnare, come ti dissi di sopra cioe in tavoletta, affaticati e dilettati di ritrar sempre le miglior cose che trovar puoi per mano fatte di gran maestri. E se se' in luogo dove molti buon maestri siemo stat), tanto meglio per te. Ma per consiglio io ti do: guarda di pigliar sempre il migliore e quello che ha maggior fame; e, sequitando di di in di, contra nature sara se che a te non venga preso di quo' maniera e di quo' aria; perocche se ti muovi a ritrarre oggi di questo maestro, doman di quello, ne maniera dell'uno, ne maniera dell'altro non n'arai, e verrai per forza fantastichetto, per amor che ciascuna maniera ti straccera la mente. Ora vo' fare a modo di questo, doman di quello altro, e cosi nessuno n'arai perfetto Se seguiti l'andar d'uno per continovo uxo, teen sara lo intelletto grosso che non ne pigli qualche cibo. Poi a te interverra che, se punto di fantasia la nature t'ara conceduto, verrai a pigliare una maniera propia per te, e non potra essere altro che buona; perche la mano (lo intelletto tuo essendo sempre uso di pigliare fiori) mal saprebbe torre spine."

(5) Ibid., 3, 4-5, and 78.

(6) See Ames-Lewis, 15; and Ames-Lewis and Wright, 95-101.

(7) The Libro's nearest predecessor, Theophilus's twelfth-century(?) De diversis artibus, says nothing about the method for developing a style. The "Painter's Manual" (Hermeneia) of Dionysius of Fourna -- bwritten in the eighteenth century but possibly reflecting earlier Byzantine texts -- comes closest to Cennini's discussion of copying Dionysius (who begins his text with an account of how he copied the works of the painter Manuel Panselinus) writes that one should first find a learned master, "whom you will soon wish to surpass in some respects if he teaches you clearly as we shall direct." The translation is taken from Dionysius of Fourna, 4.

(8) Summers, for instance, claims that wherever the book was composed, it is an "invaluable record of the state of [the Florentine tradition of painting] on the eve of the more visible flowering of the Florentine Quattrocento" (Summers, 1981, 37). Margaret Plant, who characterizes Cennini's Libro somewhat harshly as "scarcely more than a recipe book with moral instruction added," also seeks to associate it with Florentine rather than Paduan practice (193). See also Schlosser-Magnino, 97, who expresses surprise that Cennini absorbed so little of the antiquarian culture of late Trecento Padua. Francesco Brunello does point to the importance of the Paduan ambiente for Cennini, though he addresses it in terms of "enciclopedismo scolastico" rather than humanism (Cennini, 211). The earliest surviving manuscript of the Libro was completed in Florence in 1437, though numerous elements in the text (for instance, the use of certain Venetianisms and the inclusion of Saint Anthony of Padua in the dedication) suggest that it was composed in the north. See Licisio Magagnato's introduction in Cennini, v; Bacci and Stoppezli, 566; and Skaug, 15-16. Cennini was certainly in the service of Francesco Novello by 1398, and it is likely that he became court painter cat 1391, after the death of the previous artist filling that post, Giusto di Menabuoi (see Bettini, 13-14).

(9) This position somewhat opposes Michael Baxandall's carefully circumscribed differentiations between humanist and vernacular writing on the arts in his Giotto and the Orators. See especially his comparison between a volgare sonnet on Pisanello by Angelo Galli and Guarino of Verona's Latin account of the artist (11-13).

(10) See Leonardo Smith's Life of Vergerio at the beginning of his edition of the Epistolario, xv-xxv.

(11) On Ludovico, see "Buzzacarini, Ludovico" in Dizionario biografico degli Italiani. Ludovico was the son of Arcoano Buzzacarini, who was the brother of Francesco Novello's mother Fina Buzzacarini. Ludovico is one of the Paduan expatriates found in Giovanni Gherardi da Prato's Paradiso degli Alberti set in 1389, the year when Francesco Novello was temporarily in exile; the Dizionario article suggests that it was in this milieu that he came into contact with Vergerio. Little is known of Ludovico's activities in the 1390s; the letter cited here, as well as two others from vergerio in 1396, suggest that he was dedicating his time to the study of history and letters.

(12) The translation is from Baxandall, 43-44; the Latin (Vergerio, 177 [no. 75]) reads "et quanquam Anneus neminem veldt unum sequendum, sed ex diversis novum quoddam dicendi genus conficiendum, michi tamen non ita videtur, sed unum aliquem eundemque optimum habendum esse, quem precipuum imitemur, propterea quod tanto fit quisque deterior quanto inferiorem secutus a superiore defecit. faciendum est igitur quod etatis nostre pictores, qui, cum ceterorum claras imagines sedulo spectent, solius tamen Ioti exemplaria sequuntur." It is questionable whether it is the Younger or the Elder Seneca to whom vergerio refers; see the former's Epistulae morales, 84, which would seem to counsel reading and imitating several models, but also the latter's Controversiae, preface, 6. On theories of imitation in classical antiquity and the Renaissance, see Greene, esp. 28-80; and Pigman, passim.

(13) Baxandall, 40-44.

(14) 4.6.9; translation from the Loeb Classical Library edition, 249.

(15) Baxandall, 49.

(16) In her arguments for the progressive character of Trecento Paduan art, Margaret Plant dismisses Vergerio's comments, suggesting instead that the "continuity of the Giottesque style in Padua was augmented and deepened throughout the fourteenth century" (193-94, n. 85). I would agree with her larger premise on the Giottesque style, but suggest that the humanist notion of imitation represented by Vergerio's remarks allows for the type of augmentation she sees in the art of the period. The greatest surviving example of Giotto's art in Padua is of course the Arena Chapel, although he is also said to have executed the (now repainted) frescoes in the Palazzo della Ragione during his early fourteenth-century stay in the city. On Giusto's frescoes in the Baptistery, see most recently the various essays on style, technique, and patronage in Spiazzi. Some of the Tuscanizing and Giottesque commissions from the later part of the fourteenth century are: the Chapel of S. James in the Santo (frescoed 1377-79 by Altichiero, commissioned by Bonifacio Lupi of Soranza who served in various diplomatic capacities at the Carrara court); the Oratory of S. George (constructed on the model of the Arena Chapel in 1377/8-79, frescoed before 1384 by Altichiero, commissioned by Raimondino Lupi of Soranza); the Chapel of the Beato Luca Belludi in the Santo (painted 1382 by Giusto, commissioned by Naimerio and Manfredino Conti, familiares of Francesco il Vecchio); the Bovi Chapel in S. Michele (painted 1397 by Jacopo da Verona, commissioned by Pietro de' Bovi, director of the Carrarese Mint). Brief discussions of these cycles may be found in Padua sidus preclarum, 94ff.

(17) See Mommsen, 78-81. On the possibility that Vergerio knew this document, see Billanovich, 1947, 367.

(18) On Vergerio's relations with the Carrara court in the 1390s and early 1400s, see Kohl, 422-23. For Vergerio's public orations and relations to the Carrara, see Smith's comments in Vergerio, xv, 116-17n, and Robey, esp. 8-9, 15.

(19) Cennini, 3-4. While fantasia is not properly speaking an equivalent of ingenium, the latter (usually translated as inborn talent, in contrast to acquired skills) could be used to signify inventive powers generally; see Baxandall, 15-16, on ingenium; and also Summers, 1981, 103ff for an exhaustive discussion of artistic fantasia. A detailed account of the usage of fantasia, ingegno and invenzione in Renaissance texts on the arts may also be found in Kemp. It is worth noting that the powers of fantasia and ingenium were conflated in certain medieval texts; Bernardus Silvestris, for instance, refers to the brain's imaging faculty (normally called fantasia or imaginativa) as ingenium (47).

(20) Cennini uses the term scienza in two senses -- first, it is a quality that a man or an art can possess (e.g., after his expulsion from Paradise, Adam "rinvenne di sue scienze" to find a way to live manually [3]; the poet's "scienza prima" is what enables him to compose [4]); and it is a distinct discipline (e.g., "la piu degna [arte] e la scienzia" [3]; painting deserves to be seated "in secondo grado alla scienza" and crowned with poetry [4]). In classical usage, scientia could refer to the skills proper to a particular art (see Pliny, Natural History 34.46; 35.153), or the knowledge necessary to a particular discipline (for instance Cicero; De Oratore, 3.135). In indicating that Adam -- as well as poets -- had scienza, it seems that Cennini refers less to specific knowledge than to imagination in a general sense. In light of Cennini's comparison of poetry and painting, we might also note Boccaccio's claim (Geneologiae deorum gentilium 14.4) that poetry is a "stable and fixed science," as opposed to a mere facultas, such as jurisprudence; see Osgood, 25, 150 n. 12.

(21) In the Decameron Boccaccio contrasted Giotto to those artists who painted "piu a dilettar gli occhi degl'ignoranti che a compiacere allo 'ntelletto de savj" (quoted in Panofsky, 13).

(22) Vasoli, 464ff, discusses the broad range of significances in Dante's use of the term. See also below, n. 29.

(23) Aside from the passages discussed here, intelletto is used in a broad sense to indicate judgment formed through experience at the end of chapter 144 and at the beginning of chapter 145 (Cennini, 148).

(24) Ibid., 29-30: "E pigliando una di queste t'e guida di tutta la figura, de' casamenti, dall'una figura all'altra; ed e perfetta tuo' guida, aoperando il tuo intelletto di saper guidar le predette misure."

(25) Summers, 1981, 364-79, and esp. 375 on Cennini. Summers suggests that in this passage Cennini is making a distinction between intellect and numerical proportion: Cennini's judging intelletto is what enables the artist to go beyond numerical rule, as in making the optical adjustments required to compose pictures that will appear correct from below. Since this chapter is concerned with copying, rather than composing frescoes, however, it is also possible that intelletto here refers more simply to the artist's skill at gauging correct numerical proportions without the aid of a mechanical device.

(26) Disegno and intelletto are also linked later in the Libro; in chapter 171 Cennini writes of artists who have "piu pratica che disegno," and two chapters later he contrasts "pratica" with "saper d'intelletto" (187, 181). The understood relation bet;veen disegno and measure may in fact demonstrate a link between the very different texts of Cennini and Leon Battista Alberti. In book two of De pictura Alberti defines drawing (circumscriptio) as tracing the contours (fimbriae) of bodies, thus relating it to his description in book one of extrinsic rays in vision that fix on the edges (fimbriae) of objects and serve to measure quantities. Compare Alberti, 40, 41 and 66, 67 (pare. 6 and 31).

(27) The relation between judgment and intellect, and the association of both with disegno, find a somewhat Platonized echo in the much grander formulations of Giorgio Vasari over a century-and-a-half later: in the technical chapters preceding the Vite proper, Vasari defines disegno as the "padre delle tre arti nostre, Architettura, Scultura e Pittura" that "procedendo dall'intelletto, cave di molte cose un giudizio universale; simile a una forma ovvero idea di tutte le cose della nature, la quale e singolorissima nelle sue misure" (Vasari, 1:168).

(28) On the various functions of imagination (sometimes called imaginativa, sometimes fantasia) in the late medieval framework of the internal senses, see Harvey, passim.

(29) While Cennini's use of the terms fantasia and intelletto suggests that he is differentiating between them, it is also possible that the two faculties he describes are rather close to, or even identical with each other. See Summers, 1987, 228-29, on Benedetto Varchi's interpretation of intelletto as fantasia in Michelangelo's sonnet "Non ha l'ottimo artiste alcun concetto" and Petrarch's sonnets 264 and 198; Varchi bases his interpretation on the notion of two separate intellects: one' universal or possible, and the other -- identified with the fantasia -- particular, or passive.

(30) In some late medieval discussions of the internal senses, their specific properties are seen to be the result of their general humoral disposition, the fantasy is said to be hot and dry, the memory cold and dry, and the cogitative faculty in the center of the brain temperate. See, for example, Bernardus Silvestris, 48; and William of Conches, 278.

(31) Seneca, 1:6, 7 (Epistle 2.2): "Illud autem vice, ne ista lectio auctorum multorum et omnis generis voluminum habeas aliquid vagum et instabile. Certis ingeniis imnorari et innutriri oportet, si velis aliquid trahere, quod in animo fideliter sedeat."

(32) Fantastichetto -- a diminutive form of fantastico -- is used relatively rarely in the early Renaissance literature on the arts. In Franco Sacchetti's Trecentonovelle, 171, the disgruntled wife of a drunkard artist complains that painters are "tutti fantastichi e lunatichi." In Cennini's text we might suppose fantastichetto signifies a state in which the fantasia is overly stimulated by the mind's desires. The amorous "fantastication" that Cennini describes can be related to the psychology of desire discussed in Andreas Capellanus's twelfth-century De amore; there, love is defined as an "inborn suffering which results from the sight of, and uncontrolled thinking [immoderata cogitatione] about the beauty of the other sex" (Andreas, 33).

(33) Castellano, passim, provides a complete account of the semantic transformations of this term, including its use by Cennini and Leonardo.

(34) See Panizza, 297-98. Vergerio cites Seneca's Epistulae on a number of occasions in his letters; see Smith's index of classical and medieval authors in Epistolario, 523.

(35) Summers, 1981, 56-57.

(36) On Petrarch's final years in Padua and Arqua, see Wilkins, 141ff; and Billanovich, 1976. On his later reputation and the series of imitators in the Veneto, see Medin 442-50. The copies from Petrarch's original manuscripts made in Padua and the Veneto during the last decades of Carrara rule are discussed by Billanovich, 1947, 297ff. Petrarch may also have had some contact with Paduan artistic culture during his years of residency there; on his relation to the painter Altichiero (who included portraits of him in three separate fresco cycles), see Mellini, 51-54.

(37) The text of the Africa remained in Padua for some time after the poet's death; it was prepared for publication in its definitive form by Vergerio in the years 1390-96. See Bernardo, 168-76. Vergerio's Sermo, drawn in large part from Petrarch's own autobiographical Epistola posteritati, is discussed by Aurigemma, 33ff. According to Billanovich, 1947, 361-62, Vergerio read his text in the Paduan cathedral in the mid-'90s on the anniversary of the poet's death.

(38) Summers, 1981, 56-57, 193-94; and idem, 1989, 27.

(39) The translation is from Petrarch, 1985, 301-02; the Latin text may be found in Petrarch, 1942, 206.

(40) See Summers, 1987, 120-21; and Greene, 96, on the relationship between Seneca's and Petrarch's discussions of imitation.

(41) Petrarch's sonnets in praise of Simone are numbers 77 ("Per mirar Policleto a prove five,) and 78 ("Quando giunse a Simon l'alto concetto"); it is especially in the first that Petrarch suggests Simone captured the immortal rather than merely the mortal part of the sitter.

(42) Summers, 1981, 474 n. 5; and idem, 1989, 26. The passages to which Summers makes reference are Plutarch, Alexander 1, 3, in which the face and features around the eyes are identified as the loci in which the painter reveals the sitter's character (ethos); and Philostratus the Younger, Imagines, procemium, 3, in which the "state of the cheeks and the expression of the eyes and the character of the eyebrows" are the features in which "the signs of men's character [ethos]" are revealed.

(43) Summers, 1987, 121. In Moral Epistle 84, Seneca describes how bees produce honey from nectar by "blending something therewith and by a certain property of their breath [proprietate spiritus]." Seneca then recommends that writers sift whatever they have gathered from a varied course of reading and then "by applying the supervising care with which our nature has endowed us, -- in other words with our natural gifts [ingenii nostri] -- we should so blend those several flavours into one delicious compound that, even though it betrays its origin, yet it nevertheless is clearly a different thing from that whence it came" (Seneca, 278-79). As Greene notes (96), Petrarch's letter, when read in relation to Seneca's, is an illustration of the type of good imitation to which both writers refer. I would amplify that by pointing out that Seneca's notion of ingenium/spiritus may be the subtext for Petrarch's use of the specifically "modern" term aer; this substitution would illustrate the latter's advice that while an imitator may borrow his model's ideas and coloring, he should not use his actual words.

(44) Cennini's text seems to be the earliest attestation of the volgare term aria or aere being used with regard to pictorial style; see Battaglia, 1:653.

(45) The educational role of memorization in developing one's rhetorical skills is discussed in Quintilian, II, 7, 2-4. While scribal duties are not necessarily part of a literary education, Petrarch does note with regard to his own transcription of a text of Cicero that "since writing is slower than reading, it impresses more deeply and clings more tenaciously in the memory" (Fam. 18.12; Petrarch, 1985, 64). It is worth noting that the letter to Boccaccio on imitation will become one of the Familiares, and thus Giovanni will eventually copy word for word the very passage which warns him of the dangers of too-literal imitation. While Petrarch is writing of Giovanni's fondness for imitating classical poets such as Virgil, it is possible that he sees himself as a stylistic model for the youth as well. Certainly his use of Seneca's filial metaphor takes on added resonance when one considers his comments that Giovanni is "no less dear to me than a son, perhaps even dearer"; that he is warning him "in a friendly and fatherly fashion"; and that Giovanni is "ever attentive as though listening to a father's advice" (Petrarch, 1985, 300, 301, 302).

(46) Cennini, 109 (chap. 103).

(47) Ibid., 126-27 (chap. 122).

(48) Ibid., 30.

(49) Ibid., 126.

(50) It is possible to see an implicit connection between ombra, which can be used metaphorically to mean soul, and anima in Cennini's text. The primary goal of drawing, as Cennini insists throughout his chapters on disegno, is to create the illusion of shadow and relief (see for instance, Cennini, 11). While rilievo -- prominence -- is created either by making a pale mark or leaving the surface untouched, ombre are created by the repeated tracings of the artist's hand (Cennini, 10). The artist's adumbrations (aombrare is a term Cennini uses throughout the text, e.g., 12, 14, 30 127) finally become the form of the body that is painted on top of it. (Cennilu, 73, 152 uses the suggestive words incarnare and incarnazione in writing about painting flesh.)

(51) See Greene, chap. 5, esp. 94ff, where this and Petrarch's other letters on imitation (Fam. 1.8; 22.2) are discussed.

(52) Greene, 98. The connection between one's own style and one's own face in Fam 22.2 is discussed by Greene, 97-98.

(53) The one possible exception is Dionysius's Hermeneia (see above, n. 7), although even there the discussion of surpassing the master is not cast in terms of achieving a personal style.

(54) On Petrarch's use of metaphor drawn from the technical language of art in his vernacular poetry, see the remarks of Baggio, 331-34.
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Author:Bolland, Andrea
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Date:Sep 22, 1996
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