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Friday, March 08, 2024

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Community, Engagement and Belonging MASc Information Event
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Italian Research Seminar - Professor Stefano Cracolici (Durham University)
FAB 3.25 & Remote

We are honoured to host Professor Stefano Cracolici from Durham University who will present a paper entitled Every Scene a Poem: Figure Staffage in 19th-Century Landscape Art. 

You can join our event remotely using the following link: opens in a new window 

The event is funded by the Doctoral College.


As Carl Ludwig Fernow, the esteemed biographer of Antonio Canova, eloquently put it in 1803, 'Every representation of the landscape should be a poem; for the painter is only a true artist insofar as he creates poetry.' This insight provides a springboard for an exploration into the poetic essence of landscape art during the pivotal shift from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century. The theoretical debates in Rome regarding the genre brought to the forefront a critical question: How could the diverse geological and environmental aspects of nature be transcended to achieve an idealised form? At the heart of these discussions was the issue of whether art could effectively capture the essence of landscape scenery, evolving from constrained imitation to creative freedom. An effective landscape depiction was not supposed to merely present a specific scene but rather engage the viewer's imagination through its mode of representation. A compelling response was discovered in the strategic incorporation of human figures, or staffage, into natural settings, transforming them from simple decorative elements to powerful poetic mechanisms that lend emotional depth and philosophical nuance to the landscapes. This lecture shall examine the hypothesis that such thoughtfully integrated staffage was instrumental in cultivating a poetic interpretation of natural scenery that might have left a mark on the works of Giacomo Leopardi.


Stefano Cracolici is Professor of Italian art and literature at Durham University. He received a Medical Doctor degree from the Albert-Ludwig University in Freiburg, Germany (1994), a laurea in Italian Literature from the Università degli Studi di Trento (1995), an MA (1996) and PhD in Italian Studies from the University of Toronto (2000). Before joining Durham University in 2007, he worked as Assistant Professor of Italian (tenure-track) at Dartmouth College (2000-02) and the University of Pennsylvania (2002-06). He has published on Leon Battista Alberti, courtly poetry, the medical and humanistic discourse on love, the Roman Academy of Arcadia, 19th-century art in Europe and the Americas, and Italian cinema. His research has been supported by the AHRC, the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust. He has been Scholar in Residence at the Getty Research Institute, visiting professor at the University of São Paulo, UK-Mexico Visiting Chair at the UNAM, director of the Zurbarán Centre for Spanish and Latin American Art at Durham University, and Francesco De Dombrowski Visiting Professor at the Villa I Tatti, the Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence.