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Murray Seminars | Fit for the Gods: Chinese Porcelain in Duke Alfonso d’Este’s camerini

January 12 @ 10:45 am - 12:30 pm

Lecture: “Fit for the Gods: Chinese Porcelain in Duke Alfonso d’Este’s camerini”

Leah R. Clark

Giovanni Bellini’s Feast of the Gods is well known as one of the earliest representations of Chinese porcelain in Italy. Painted for one of the famed camerini of Duke Alfonso d’Este of Ferrara and later repainted by a compatriot, Titian, and the Ferrarese Dosso Dossi, it is often assumed that Bellini copied Chinese porcelain he had seen in his native city of Venice. Yet this talk will consider instead how Bellini may have been referencing the large porcelain collection held by the Este, housed in spaces such as the previously unknown Stanza delle Porcellane. A narrow art historical focus on the paintings destined for the camerini and their literary interpretation and programme has ignored the role of material culture (including porcelain) across the rooms. An emphasis on materials and their transformative qualities was a theme running throughout the paintings, but also in the objects of display, and in the larger interests of Duke Alfonso. Looking at the material, sensorial, and pictorial conditions of the camerini thus allows us to explore broader understandings of disegno. The inclusion of porcelain in Giovanni Bellini’s Feast of the Gods is not simply a representation of Alfonso’s porcelain collections and his interests, but rather, sets up a complex relationship between reality and fiction and the metaphoric capabilities of material culture.