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Renaissance Studies

A «Festschrift» in Honor of Professor Edward J. Olszewski

Edited By Jennifer H. Finkel, Michael D. Morford and Dena M. Woodall

This Festschrift is dedicated to Edward J. Olszewski and was created by his former PhD students in gratitude and honor of a professor whose innovative and comprehensive research spans the Renaissance and Baroque periods. His research provided much insight to the arts, issues of patronage, conservation, and context. The text includes an array of topics conceived by each author while studying with Olszewski. His intense seminar on Michelangelo was the catalyst for many articles: Jennifer Finkel introduces new ideas regarding the proposed sculptural plan for the façade of San Lorenzo; Dena M. Woodall provides keen insight on the representations of genii on the Sistine Ceiling; Karen Edwards proposes the early creation of the figura serpentinata in Michelangelo’s own drawings and paintings; and Rachel Geshwind offers a new interpretation of his use of color symbolism in the Sistine Chapel. This seminar, and another on Mannerism, involved provocative discussion of the competitors of Michelangelo, where the foundation was laid for the much needed re-examination of Baccio Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus in Michael Morford’s article, which introduces the probability of Machiavellian influence, and Christine Corretti’s interpretation of Cellini’s Perseus and Medusa as the symbol of Cosimo’s I ideas of justice and the influence of women in his life. Olszewski’s own research on patronage, especially of the Ottoboni, mirrors Henrietta Silberger’s article on the collecting habits of Livio Odescalchi. Finally, Holley Witchey provides a personal experience in authenticating works of art in collections (a topic of interest for Olszewski) and ends her essay with a series of important questions for each of us to ask ourselves.


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Ahead of the Curve: Michelangelo and the Invention of the Figura Serpentinata KAREN EDWARDS 49


Karen Edwards Ahead of the Curve: Michelangelo and the Invention of the Figura Serpentinata The term “figura serpentinata” first appeared in Giovanni Paolo Lomaz- zo’s Trattato dell’arte de la pittura, scultura, ed architettura published in 1584. Since then, only a few scholars have examined the etymology of the phrase. Today, figura serpentinata has become synonymous with figural sculpture possessing pyramidal, helical, flame-like or serpentine qualities; however, Lomazzo originally used the term in reference to two-dimensional, not three-dimensional art forms. Many scholars cite Michelangelo’s Victory sculpture as the original embodiment of the figura serpentinata, despite its three-dimensional form.1 This study will reexamine the origins of the term and prove that Michelangelo conceived of this concept in two-dimensions. Figures in the Battle of Cascina, Doni Tondo, Temptation of Adam and Eve, and Last Judgment provide critical evidence to suggest that Michelangelo invented the form. David Summers was among the first modern art historians to trace the etymology of the phrase to Lomazzo’s treatises.2 In his 1584 publication, Lomazzo wrote: Dicesi adunque che Michelangelo diede una volta questo avvertimento a Marco da Siena pittore suo discepolo, che dovesse sempre fare la figura piramidale, serpenti- nata, e moltiplicata per una, due, e tre. Ed in questo precetto parmi che consista tutto il secreto della pittura, imperocché la maggior grazia, leggiadria che possa avere una figura è, che mostri di muoversi, il che chiamano i pittori furia della figura. E per rappresentare questo moto, non vi è forma più accomodata, che quella della fiamma del fuoco…3...

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