Call for Papers | Décor and Architecture

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on March 12, 2016

From H-ArtHist:

Décor and Architecture in the 17th and 18th Centuries:
Between Adherence and Autonomy / Entre union et séparation des arts

University of Lausanne, 24–25 November 2016

Proposals due by 30 May 2016

During the early modern period, décor was considered to be one of the most fundamental elements of architecture. Thanks to décor, architecture could elevate itself beyond simple masonry and claim a superior status. Décor was thus defined as a necessary prerequisite for architecture, rather than a marginal component. However, despite its privileged status, many authors mistrusted it, fearing the harmful effect which an uncontrollable proliferation of ornament would surely have on architecture. This conference aims to question how the relations between decor and architecture were defined and implemented in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Our perception of these relations has often been informed by teleological approaches: indeed, the radical ideas conveyed by certain 20th-century texts, which define décor as an unnecessary bi-product of architecture, have acted as a distorting prism. History of art, for its part, has often separated décor-related studies from architecture-related ones, suggesting a de facto rupture between these fields and potentially biasing our understanding of the artistic production of the early modern period by reducing its scope. As various case studies have shown, the conditions to which the invention of a décor was subjected varied greatly from one building to another. The architects’ prerogatives differed according to the circumstances and constraints imposed on them: while some were largely involved in the invention of the décor, others delegated its conception to artists or workmen.

The following questions—as well as many other similar ones—may be used as a framework for the presentations:
• The term ‘décor’ defines a vast field with no distinct boundaries, potentially covering everything from sculptures, stucco work, paintings, panelling, mirrors and furniture to architectural orders. How did theorists, artists, connoisseurs and patrons define the relations between décor and architecture? In what circumstances was it felt that décor had exceeded its mandate and thus presented a threat to architecture? Were all excesses systematically condemned?

To this discussion of theory can be added several practice-related questions:
• Who was in charge of the invention of a décor and what consequences could a possible sharing of tasks have on the architectural project? To what extent were theoretical principles implemented on the building site? Case studies focusing on architects, artists or workmen could question their part in the creation of a décor.

Finally, historiography raises its own issues:
• How have the discourses developed in the 17th and 18th centuries been understood and interpreted in later times? How has the reception of these discourses biased our perception of the relations between décor and architecture in the 17th and 18th centuries?

Paper proposals which exceed the set chronological limits may be taken into account by the scientific board, if they shed pertinent light on the questions raised in the conference. Papers will be 30 to 40 minutes long, followed by 15- to 20-minute discussions. Paper proposals of up to 300 words—accompanied by a brief résumé and list of publications—should be sent to Matthieu Lett (matthieu.lett@unil.ch) and Carl Magnusson (carl.magnusson@unil.ch) before 30th May 2016.

Matthieu LETT (université de Lausanne, université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense)
Carl MAGNUSSON (université de Lausanne, The Courtauld Institute of Art)

Scientific Committee
Marianne COJANNOT-LE BLANC (université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense)
Alexandre GADY (université Paris-Sorbonne)
Dave LÜTHI (université de Lausanne)
Christian MICHEL (université de Lausanne)
Werner OECHSLIN (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich)
Antoine PICON (Harvard University)
Katie SCOTT (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

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