Sketchbook and Zibaldone: Studies in the Theory and Practice of Disegno in Sixteenth-century Italy

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This dissertation addresses the rôle of the intellect in sixteenth-century Italian drawing. Horace's dictum "ut pictura poësis" (as is painting, so is poetry) has been well explored in relation to finished paintings, with many scholars identifying traces of the poet's process of rhetorical invenzione in sixteenth-century objects as well as in art theory. Rather than finished paintings, this study explores the preparatory processes of painter and poet. These are reflected in the painter's sketchbook and the poet's zibaldone, or commonplace-book, in which he collected passages as he read foregoing authors and arranged them under moral headings before using them as the basis for new works. The sketchbooks of three artists, Girolamo da Carpi, Amico Aspertini, and the anonymous Fossombrone artist, show the inner workings of rhetorical invenzione as the painters collect, combine, and transform ancient and modern visual models in the same way as the poet uses others' words in the process of writing. Each artist shows a specific facet of the process: Girolamo da Carpi's friendship with Giorgio Vasari allows a close view of the relationship of objects and art theory, Amico Aspertini's early Roman trip and long career allow us to see the relationship between early preparation and finished works, and the Fossombrone artist's minor status shows the penetration of rhetorical ideas to lesser draughtsmen. Since the parallel between sketchbook and zibaldone is one of function rather than structure, this study relies on the evidence of art and rhetorical theory and their intellectual and philosophical context in addition to the objects themselves. These pages endeavor to fill several scholarly lacunae. By applying Horace's "ut pictura poësis" to the preparatory process, it addresses a gap within the vast literature on rhetoric and the art of painting. Secondly, by applying to the sketchbooks the theories of drawing and painting current at the time of their creation, it places them within Renaissance epistemology, supplementing studies based on the ancient motifs and on connoisseurship. Finally, by applying the sixteenth-century theory of disegno to drawings, it conjoins theoretical and object-based studies to arrive at a more complete picture of drawing's function in sixteenth-century Italy.