GIOVANNI ANTONIO DA PORDENONE: ARTISTIC AMBITION AND THE CHALLENGE OF THE LOCAL
Di Resta, Jason
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This dissertation challenges how we understand the relationship between style and location in the case of the traveling painter Giovanni Antonio da Pordenone (ca. 1484–1539). In moving throughout Italy at the start of the Reformation, this artist’s style changed continuously and in ways that draw attention to how it departed from local artistic activity. Such stylistic volatility foregrounds the shortcomings of regionally-based taxonomies of style, making urgent the question of how to address the role of artistic migration in processes of identity formation. Against a tradition of provincializing accounts, I argue that Pordenone’s religious paintings manifest critically self-aware, trans-regional adaptations of the maniera moderna that, when taken together, constituted a network by which the painter laid claim to recognition while increasing the interconnectedness of noncontiguous artistic communities. Pordenone’s relentless experimentation calls attention to Cinquecento fictions of artistic self-representation, but it also can be read as a response to the imperatives of religious reform. Such experimentation exemplifies an interest in testing the referential and affective potential of art to stimulate piety and mediate divine agency. The first chapter considers Pordenone’s changing approach to altarpiece painting in his native city, arguing that the paintings he created for the church of San Marco were conceived in opposition to the works of Giorgione and Titian. By drawing analogies to examples of local dialect literature, I demonstrate how Pordenone’s works “contaminate” the aesthetic ideals of his Venetian peers to assert his own distinctiveness and invite reflection on the reliability and efficacy of different conventions of altarpiece painting. The second chapter investigates how the artist compounded gruesome depictions of violence with a form of projective illusionism to solicit meditation on the representability of Christ’s Passion in the murals he painted for Cremona cathedral. The third chapter concentrates on the painted cupola of the church of Santa Maria di Campagna, Piacenza. The references these decorations make to works by Pordenone’s Roman and Emilian contemporaries suggest a desire to stand out by means of a visual rhetoric of abundance. The final chapter discusses how the painter’s nomadic career led to his marginalization in sixteenth century art literature.