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Re-Framing Mythological Pictorial Space in Seventeenth-Century Italian and Spanish Painting

Lee, Se Na; (2019) Re-Framing Mythological Pictorial Space in Seventeenth-Century Italian and Spanish Painting. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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This thesis examines the re-framing of mythological pictorial space in late sixteenth and early seventeenth century Italian and Spanish painting, and argues that the re-conception of mythological painting can be understood in relation to decisive changes in the production and circulation of painting, especially its new state of mobility. Traditional claims of mythological painting – links to fresco painting, architectural space, permanence, illusionism and site of the imagination – are considered and shown to hold new relevance in the context of the emergence of the ‘galleria,’ the site of a new kind of collectible painting concerned with the practice of painting itself. Mythological painting, however, did not become simply an alternative to ‘modern’ painting, but a crucial part of its making by taking up debates between increasingly distinctive pictorial vocabularies. A strategic factor in this process was the issue of framing that, in its broadest sense, could mobilise the pictorial structure of mythology, constructing a new kind of transformative pictorial space. The first chapter explores how claims of de-contextualisation from architecture served mythological painting even when deployed as fresco painting within the traditional spaces of a noble family villa. My focus is Domenichino’s fresco cycle at the Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati, Italy (c.1616), which offers an important instance of how mythological space was used to produce the illusion of the 'magical' surface of courtly life in relation to architecture in situ, and which later was detached from the wall and ‘re-framed’ as transportable canvases. Chapter two examines the splitting of the pictorial space of mythology in Diego Velázquez’s painting Las Hilanderas (c.1658). I will focus on how this process establishes an intertextual space ‘in-between’ the physicality of labour in the foreground and the divinity of labour that appears to recede into the background. The third chapter considers a process of mirroring in Bartolomeo Manfredi’s painting Bacchus and a Drinker (c.1621) that conceals the boundaries between mythological space and the world of the profane. The confrontation between the two, including the making and unmaking of possible boundaries, tests out the pictorial space of mythological painting in relation to that of the newly formulated genre painting. Chapter Four brings these pictorial strategies together by exploring the fresco decoration of the Galleria of the Palazzo Farnese painted by the Carracci before the end of the sixteenth century. Picturing a ‘Galleria’ of painting in the making, the frescoes deploy the tradition of the illusionistic wall not to change the architecture as much as to transform the space into a sequence of frames and framing devices that articulate and even reveal the future potential of painting, including that of mythological pictorial space.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Re-Framing Mythological Pictorial Space in Seventeenth-Century Italian and Spanish Painting
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History of Art
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10077766
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