Painting as Medicine in Early Modern Rome: Giulio Mancini and the Efficacy of Art

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In Painting as Medicine in Early Modern Rome, Frances Gage undertakes an in-depth study of the writings of the physician and art critic Giulio Mancini. Using Mancini’s unpublished treatises as well as contemporary documents, Gage demonstrates that in the early modern world, belief in the transformational power of images was not limited to cult images, as has often been assumed, but applied to secular ones as well.

This important new interpretation of the value of images and the motivations underlying the rise of private art collections in the early modern period challenges purely economic or status-based explanations. Gage demonstrates that paintings were understood to have profound effects on the minds, imaginations, and bodies of viewers. Indeed, paintings were believed to affect the health and emotional balance of beholders—extending even to the look and disposition of their offspring—and to compel them to behave according to civic and moral values.

In using medical discourse as an analytical tool to help elucidate the meaning that collectors and viewers attributed to specific genres of painting, Gage shows that images truly informed actions, shaping everyday rituals from reproductive practices to exercise. In doing so, she concludes that sharp distinctions between an artwork’s aesthetic value and its utility did not apply in the early modern period.

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About the Author:

Frances Gage is Associate Professor of Fine Arts at Buffalo State College, State University of New York, where she focuses on early modern Italian Art. She has contributed widely to books and journals, including Renaissance Quarterly and Burlington Magazine.

Review:

“Gage breaks fertile new ground for the history of medicine and religious studies as well as art history and the history of collections. Highly recommended.”

—C. A. Hanson, Choice



“Gage’s book provides an engaging, lucid, and learned account of how medicine and painting coincided in the thought of Mancini and his contemporaries. In doing so, it ranges over a vast gamut of secondary literature drawn from several distinct fields, and it grapples with many of the most stimulating lines of inquiry in the current scholarship on early modern visual culture.”

—Sheila Barker, CAA.Reviews



“An important contribution which reminds readers of the strong ties between scientific and artistic thinking in early modern Rome, and urges scholars to push further the discussions of art beyond the limits of aesthetic discourse.”

—Ioana Magureanu, Sixteenth Century Journal



“The vast range of primary source materials that builds this argument makes this volume especially useful to both historians of science and historians of art.”

—Jacqueline Marie Musacchio, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences



“An important addition to studies in early modern criticism that are on a larger scale rethinking the emotional work of the early modern self. . . . Painting in Early Modern Rome is a well-organised and ambitious book, and it is worth noting that the book is gorgeous, with many works included to illustrate Gage’s analyses.”

—Kristine Johanson, Renaissance Studies



“Many scholars have noted the originality and value of the papal physician Giulio Mancini's writings as a source for artists and artistic thinking in seventeenth-century Rome, but Frances Gage is the first to devote attention to his therapeutic and historical theories regarding painting and its display as contributing to the maintenance of good health. She presents an absorbing view of the relations between art and medical thought of the period, and in so doing contributes significantly to the histories of both art and science.”

—Charles Dempsey, Johns Hopkins University



“Mancini's treatises are regarded as precious, if baffling, testimony about the early modern display of art. Frances Gage’s original approach illuminates how Mancini's mentality and training as a physician colored his writing. Mancini focused on the effects of beholding paintings, especially in domestic settings. Aesthetic criteria are considered alongside values aligned with humanist medicine, as Mancini attends to how the various genres and qualities of painting should be deployed to affect a viewer—to influence his health, shape the beauty of eventual progeny, exercise or tire the eye, or inspire virtue by presenting models of civil order.”

—Gail Feigenbaum, Getty Research Institute



“A remarkable study of the way in which seventeenth-century viewers often looked at paintings through a very particular and unusual lens, one focused on the various ways in which pictures affected health. This analysis of the ‘efficacy of art’ brings us a new perspective with which to consider seicento art and culture. Among the dozens of intriguing ideas Frances Gage brings to our attention is the concept of the ‘maternal imagination.’ In this period, women were thought to be extremely sensitive to pictures—so much so that, while they were pregnant, images they viewed could be internalized via their fertile imagination (literally). The wrong images could have harmful effects and even produce birth defects and ‘monsters.’ This book will be of interest to scholars of women’s studies, anthropology, the history of science, and religious studies, in addition to all art historians. Gage’s scholarship is deep; her citations are wide ranging. The writing is very clear and a pleasure to read.”

—David M. Stone, University of Delaware

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Book Description Pennsylvania State University Press, United States, 2016. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. In Painting as Medicine in Early Modern Rome, Frances Gage undertakes an in-depth study of the writings of the physician and art critic Giulio Mancini. Using Mancini's unpublished treatises as well as contemporary documents, Gage demonstrates that in the early modern world, belief in the transformational power of images was not limited to cult images, as has often been assumed, but applied to secular ones as well. This important new interpretation of the value of images and the motivations underlying the rise of private art collections in the early modern period challenges purely economic or status-based explanations. Gage demonstrates that paintings were understood to have profound effects on the minds, imaginations, and bodies of viewers. Indeed, paintings were believed to affect the health and emotional balance of beholders--extending even to the look and disposition of their offspring--and to compel them to behave according to civic and moral values. In using medical discourse as an analytical tool to help elucidate the meaning that collectors and viewers attributed to specific genres of painting, Gage shows that images truly informed actions, shaping everyday rituals from reproductive practices to exercise. In doing so, she concludes that sharp distinctions between an artwork's aesthetic value and its utility did not apply in the early modern period. Seller Inventory # AAZ9780271071039

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