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U.Va. Art Museum Exhibit Examining Renaissance Architectural Ornament Through Prints Opens Aug. 26

August 12, 2011 — The University of Virginia Art Museum will open a new exhibit Aug. 26, "Variety, Archeology and Ornament: Renaissance Architectural Prints from Column to Cornice."

The exhibit, which runs through Dec. 18, re-examines the moment of the formation of the classical canon of architecture. It suggests that the development of the concept of five orders of architecture (Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and composite) over the course of the 16th century was more complicated than typically imagined. Prints and drawings in the exhibit suggest that many architects, draftsmen and printmakers continued to seek out unusual and diverse architectural models from antiquity, even while others were attempting to establish a set of rules and norms.    

The exhibit is curated by U.Va. associate professor of architectural history Cammy Brothers and New York University doctoral candidate Michael Waters, a Rome Prize winner who studied with Brothers and earned his master's degree in U.Va.'s architectural history program.

"The exhibition shows that the view of classical architecture that has been passed on through the centuries is an extremely selective one, and in particular one which has favored the normative over the exceptional," Brothers said. "A much wider range of models – and in particular models celebrating ornamental variety – was embraced in Renaissance architectural culture than those we have inherited."

Architectural prints accomplished this by propagating highly detailed images previously available only through architectural sketchbooks of limited circulation. They served as a bridge between the fragmentary knowledge of classical architectural forms in the 15th century and the published treatises of Sebastiano Serlio, Andrea Palladio and Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola, which standardized ornament and the orders in the second half of the 16th century.

On view will be works from major holdings in this field in the U.Va.'s Art Museum and its Special Collections Library, including early printed architectural treatises and a collection of prints attributed to the Master G.A. with the Caltrop. These works, together with ones on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Getty Museum, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Yale, Columbia and other university libraries, will present a nuanced consideration of the issues surrounding architectural ornament across the Renaissance.

The exhibit will include an innovative digital component, created in collaboration with faculty from the School of Engineering and Applied Science's Computer Science Department. It will also include an online catalog with essays by the curators.

In conjunction with the exhibit, a symposium will be held Sept. 30 through Oct. 1, with scholars from Princeton University, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art and Johns Hopkins University. The symposium is dedicated to the memory of Mario de Valmarana, a former member of the U.Va. School of Architecture faculty who died last fall. A native of Venice, Italy, he created the school's study abroad programs in Venice and Vincenza.

Also in relation to the show, Brothers will teach a graduate seminar on Renaissance prints that will emphasize the study of the works in the original and will include a study trip to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. 

The exhibition and symposium are made possible through the support of Albemarle
Magazine, Arts$, B. Herbert Lee '48 Endowed Fund, The Hook, Ivy Publications LLC's Charlottesville Welcome Book, U.Va.'s Page-Barbour and Richards Lectures Committee, the School of Architecture, the Art Museum Volunteer Board, the Buckner W. Clay Endowment and a Deepening Global Engagement International Faculty Fellowship grant through the Office of the Vice Provost for International Programs.

For information, visit here or call 434-924-3592.

— By Jane Ford

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