Distinguished WAI Lecture on Renaissance Art and Culture

The Animation of Statues: How to Understand the Attribution of Emotions and Life to Art Works?
Professor Caroline van Eck, Department of History of Art, University of Cambridge, U.K.

Friday, 27 October 2023, 7.30-9 pm, UTC+8 Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, via Zoom
[12.30 to 2.30 pm UTC+1, London; 1.30 to 3.30 pm, UTC+2, Berlin; 7.30 to 9.30 am, UTC-4, New York, Washington D.C.]


Giovanni Bellini’s Pietà from the Brera Gallery in Milan, 1465-70, tempera on panel, 86 x 107 cm. Image: Public Domain

Dr. van Eck will present different perspectives on a very widespread but little-understood phenomenon: that of viewers treating artworks as if they are living beings. Such reactions have been condemned as idolatry, primitivism or even hysteria, but the universal and very persistent character of such responses asks for a less normative and narrowly Western approach. Concentrating on the Laocoon group, Giovanni Bellini’s Brera Pietà and Gianlorenzo Bernini’s Medusa, I will argue for an anthropological approach that draws on Alfred Gell’s theory of art as agency, as well as on classical rhetoric and early modern memory theories.


Moderator: Wang Lianming, City University of Hong Kong
Discussant: Uwe Fleckner, University of Hamburg/Advanced School for Art and Humanities, China Academy of Art
Q&A translation: Zhao Zifeng, University of Cambridge


Individuals residing outside mainland China are cordially invited to register for virtual participation in the lecture series: https://forms.gle/LAj5SkGCuy7Pgu1x9 Registered attendees will receive timely email notifications containing Zoom links before each scheduled event. See more details: https://arthist.net/archive/39988

2023-24 Distinguished WAI Lecture Series on Renaissance Art and Culture: Established in 2020, the World Art History Institute (WAI) at Shanghai International Studies University has firmly established itself as a leading research institution closely affiliated with the Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art (CIHA). Its primary mission is to promote World Art Studies in China and foster collaboration within the global network of art history institutions, museums, archives, and libraries. In commemoration of its founding, WAI Shanghai will inaugurate the Distinguished WAI Lecture Series in September 2023. The annual program for the 2023-24 academic year will focus on Renaissance art and culture, featuring twelve world-leading scholars who have made significant contributions to various fields of Renaissance studies. These contributions will be presented through a variety of academic activities, including public lectures, roundtable discussions, collaborative workshops, book launch events, translation initiatives, and publication projects. The lecture series will take place in multiple Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, and Shenyang.