Visceral Creativity: Digestion, Earthly Melancholy, and Materiality in the Graphic Arts of Early Modern France and the German-Speaking Lands (c. 1530-1675)
University of Cambridge
History of Art
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Leclerc de la Verpillière, L. (2019). Visceral Creativity: Digestion, Earthly Melancholy, and Materiality in the Graphic Arts of Early Modern France and the German-Speaking Lands (c. 1530-1675) (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.35715
Building on recent scholarship in the history of art which has started to reappraise the meaning of grotesque and scatological motifs, this thesis examines how digestion was conceived of as a model of creation, and how this was translated visually. Renaissance creativity was increasingly modelled on a series of natural processes like digestion, following a trend in favour of Aristotelian psychology. However, it has been largely overlooked in comparison to the bleeding, the pneumatic, and especially the procreative natural models, which have been extensively studied. The central argument of this thesis is that digestion constituted an alternative—albeit less ‘decorous’—model of creation, denoting the intervention of a more ‘earthbound’ ingenium. I argue that this model was used by certain classes of artists as an acknowledgement of a strong engagement with materials and of the labour of a round-the-clock imagination. Goldsmithing and printmaking are artistic professions whereby the artistic process was often considered as an act of ‘soiling’ oneself, both in the sense of the body and the phantasia. This thesis focuses on a period spanning c. 1530 to 1675, from Rabelais’ works to the facetious printer Jacques Lagniet. It mines a corpus of little-studied textual and visual sources from the north of the Alps, examining a continuity between France and the German lands: geographical areas which both had an especially pronounced ‘culture of excretion’. From a broader perspective, this research responds to a widespread scholarly call for more attention to the organic soul and the lower body, nuancing the alleged hegemony of the brain and the higher senses throughout history. It seeks to modify the perception of early modern artists and viewers as cerebral intellectuals, presenting them as individuals who also ‘thought with their guts’.
Digestion, Imagination, Creativity, Graphic Arts, Melancholy, Materiality, History of Art, Grotesque, Laughter, History of Medicine, Physiology, Entrails, Guts, Food, Embodiment, Ingenium, Ingenuity, Excrement, Goldsmiths, Engraving, Printmaking, Phantasia, Obscene, Grillen, Drôlleries, Grylli, Ornament, Renaissance, Early Modern Period
Thesis funded by the AHRC, the Cambridge Commonwealth, European and International Trust Scholarship, and the Pembroke College Lander Scholarship in History of Art.
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This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.35715
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