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Newly Published: The Lives of Paintings

Wednesday, May 24, 2017   (0 Comments)

Elsje van Kessel, The Lives of Paintings: Presence, Agency, and Likeness in Venetian Art of the Sixteenth Century, Berlin: De Gruyter 2017

In sixteenth-century Venice, paintings were often treated as if living beings. They attended dinner parties, helped to heal the sick, made money, and became involved in love affairs. In this book, Elsje van Kessel presents a range of case studies offering a detailed examination of the agency that two-dimensional images could exert. This person-like agency was not only connected to the seemingly naturalistic style of Titian, Giorgione, and their contemporaries, but was also grounded in the works’ social and historical contexts, here reconstructed through meticulous archival research.

The Lives of Paintings contributes to Venetian studies, as well as engaging with wider debates on the attribution of life and presence to images and things. For more information and to order, see

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