Colloque Scientae à Belfast - session organisée par le projet Schol'Art

12 juin 2019

15 juin 2019


Conference Scientiae, Belfast, 12-15 June 2019

Title of the panel : The early modern theories of letters and arts in the light of scholasticism
(France-Italy, 1500-1700)

The five-year research project “Schol’art” (2017-2022), led in the University of Louvain-la-
Neuve (Belgium), has as main objective to reconsider the early modern letters and arts theories
against a renewed understanding of the intellectual background of the period. This is carried out
by integrating to the commonly accepted picture (dominated by Renaissance Neoplatonism) the
influence of scholasticism, a philosophical trend whose importance in the 16th and 17th centuries
is not yet sufficiently recognized in these fields. After a brief presentation of the project’s main
hypothesis (by chair and project’s promoter Aline Smeesters), the three panellists will set out
their PhD research dealing with various corpuses (Italian art theory, Neo-Latin poetics, French
Emblematics), which they will link to the contemporary philosophical and theological discourse.
Chair : Aline Smeesters
Pannellists : Elise Gérardy, Sophie Lenaerts, Margaux Dusausoit

Paper 1 : Sophie Lenaerts
The scholastic and jesuit influence on post-tridentine art theory through the example of Federico
Zuccari’s disegno angelico

The treatise Idea dei pittori, scultori e architetti (1607) of the Italian painter and art theoretician
Federico Zuccari is a quite unique contribution to the Counter Reformation art theory due to its
important philosophical and theological approach of the artistic creation. Pivotal is his concept of
disegno, which refers both to the material and mental design, as a faculty shared by God, angels
and humans. By emphasizing the parallel between God’s and man’s creative faculties, Zuccary
raises the artist’s status whose work is conceived as deeply intellectual and spiritual. This ambitious
goal was already partly pursued by previous art theoreticians, but none of them used the scholastic
philosophical tradition as much as Zuccari. My paper will argue that Zuccari’s scholastic
orientation might be largely indebted to his contacts with the Society of Jesus. Indeed, the painter
created several frescoes for the Jesuits, and all of his works were painted under the close
supervision of theologians who were responsible of the iconographical programs. Many of these
frescoes figured angels as intercessors between men and God (in line with the Counter-Reformation
promotion of the veneration of angels). I will bring together Zuccari’s theoretical discourse on the
disegno angelico and some Jesuit scholastic writings on angels (by authors such as Francisco de
Toledo, Gonzaga and Bellarmino), in order to highlight the use that an art theoretician has made of
early modern scholasticism.

Paper 2 : Margaux Dusausoit
The Poetices Libri Septem by Julius Caesar Scaliger (1561) : a scholastic reading of Virgil ?

Published posthumously in 1561, the Poetices Libri Septem by Julius Caesar Scaliger are one of
the most important poetics of the 16th century. Scaliger’s work distinguishes itself from other poetic
treatises of the same period on many points such as the choice of verse as the main criterion of
poeticity, but also and foremost for its important philosophical, and especially scholastic,
dimension. In fact, and by opposition to the Neoplatonic trend, Scaliger’s Poetics is one of the first
poetics to introduce a clearly Aristotelian approach, indebted not as much to Aristotle’s Poetics as
to his philosophical corpus. The objective of my paper will be to track this presence of
scholasticism in Scaliger’s Poetics through an analysis of Scaliger’s reading of Virgil. Indeed, like
many humanist poeticians, Scaliger considers Virgil as the absolute model to which the poet must
refer. Even more than in other poetics from the same period, the Virgilian work, and especially the
Aeneid, is omnipresent in the Poetices Libri Septem. Now, it seems that Scaliger’s readings of
Virgil can be linked to the scholastic way of teaching in some philosophical fields such as logic or
ethics. I will shed light on this aspect through the analysis both of some Virgilian passages quoted
by Scaliger and of some chapters or notions of Scaliger's Poetics.

Paper 3 : Elise Gérardy
Metaphor and analogy: the impact of scholastic logic on Emanuele Tesauro’s definition of

In this presentation, I would like to show how some scholastic concepts could be relevant to explain
the theory of imprese provided by Emanuele Tesauro in his most famous work, the Cannocchiale
aristotelico (1670). This book is usually analysed in the light of the Aristotelian Poetics or
Rhetoric. However, Tesauro’s definition of the metaphor, which is suitable to devices, exceeds the
original Aristotelian poetical framework. Tesauro indeed speaks about a ‘metaphor of proportion’
and a ‘metaphor of attribution’; but the latter concept does not appear as such in Aristotle’s work:
‘attribution’ belongs to the logical scholastic notions used to describe the analogy. Indeed,
scholastic logic explains that the words are either univocal, equivocal or analogical, following an
analogy of proportion or attribution. I would like to investigate why Tesauro uses logical terms in
his poetic-rhetorical theory of the device, taking into account two earlier traditions: the Italian
commentaries on the Poetics developed in the sixteenth century, and the medieval tradition
considering the Poetics as a part of the Organon.

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