The International Consortium on Art History

14th International Springtime Academie

Present pasts. Construction, transmission, and transgression of the past in the arts

Rome, may 16 to 21, 2016

Organized on the occasion of the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Academy of France in Rome 

Our discipline maintains close and complex connections with history. If art history conceives of itself now as an historical discipline, the distinctive character of that independent knowledge is its inescapable visual dimension. When the art historian reconstructs the artistic production of the past, however, history remains one of the horizons of possibility, and certainly one of the most significant.

From its origins, the history of art has interrogated multiple and dynamic relations between past and present, and numerous historians and theoreticians of art have described the sphere of the visual as a space in which the most ancient strata of culture re-emerge and are reactivated. If one considers the work of Winckelmann as a founding event, it is possible to measure the point at which a history of art depends upon the rediscovery of ancient forms not only as a symptom but equally also as a cause. How are we today to assess such an articulation of historical time and what are the instruments best adapted to account for it?

Such resurgences, renaissances and rediscoveries constitute particularly efficacious indicators of dynamics, cleavages and tensions that traverse not only the world of arts, but social space as a whole. Essentially political, they are often expressions of desires for regeneration and for social critique (revolutionary classicism, or the Christian medievalism of the romantics). Erudite, they depend on the veritable work of excavation – in the proper and figurative sense of the word – through which a new repertory of “ancient” forms is put at the disposition of artists, experts and all the actors of a cultural field. They are complex constructions in which ancient elements are re-actualized within their modern contexts.

The 14th International Spring School, organized by the International Network for the Formation of Research in the History of Art on the occasion of the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Academy of France in Rome, takes place from May 16 to 21, 2016 at the Villa Medici in Rome where it will interrogate this imbrication of temporalities in artistic production – in the visual arts, in the arts of the stage, in cinema – as well as in museum exhibitions and in the writing of art history. Starting from the presentations of participants, and through collective discussions each day, the School explores ways in which the past is constructed and put on stage, transmitted to posterity, and put into question in and by the arts, without limitations of medium or chronology. Themes, proposed below, far from being exhaustive, are intended simply as departure points for reflection.

1) To represent the past

If the “Nachleben der Antike” (afterlife of Antiquity) – the expression Aby Warburg borrowed from his teacher Anton Springer – asserted itself in the twentieth century as a fulcrum for art historical research, this is because such a concept permits a finer accounting of the complexity of temporal imbrications that nourish artistic production. Confronting the same problem from a pragmatic point of view, Francis Haskell made the concept of “rediscovery” an instrument of analysis for evolutions in taste conceived in terms of the successive reintroduction of works, forms and ancient practices (1976). Enrico Castelnuovo questioned the nature of the problem of the “Middle Ages” to the past and to the present (2004). But what exactly happens when one “rediscovers” an artist, a current, or an ensemble of objects? How does one account for such processes of reintroduction and also integrate visual, intellectual and modern social contexts? Who are the intermediaries, the actors? What does this reintroduction of the past tell us about the passions and conflicts of a work and the contexts of its arrival? What are the effects on artistic production, style, culture, the market? Which pasts are integrated into the canon of art history? Which are rejected? How are they recreated and “rewritten” in the arts? From peplums to the retaking of “gothic” motifs in the decorative arts, from the “renaissance of antique paganism” to the fortunes of the “primatifs,” from the “ancient” dance of Isadora Duncan to the painting of history, among other examples, the perspectives of multiple case studies and forms of expression will proceed toward collective reflection on the modalities of recuperation, transformation, appropriation, reconstitution – as well as instrumentalization – of the past in the arts.

2) Dreams of the past/ hatred of the past

Although evacuating the temporal dimension of art from his Bildende Kunst (1766), Lessing introduced there a singular and personal experience of time, tied to the projection of the self in the represented event. From another point of view – from Winckelmann (1767) to Baudelaire (1859), and for the Symbolists – the work of art finds itself inscribed in the field of memory, individual or collective. These meditations on time, memory and the arts are both contemporaries of different revival movements that traverse the nineteenth century, while also forcefully contributing to their constitution. What pasts have prompted revival and why? How have dreams of the past provided a useful critique for present problems? The past is not only a model and an object of admiration: erected as something to move beyond by the Futurists, it was ridiculed, hated, condemned. It lends itself to the analysis of political, ideological, and existential games and, more broadly, to the cultural underpinnings of revivals and rediscoveries – from Neoclassicism to the Nazarenes, from the Pre-Raphaelites to the primitivisms of the avant-gardes, to the retour à l’ordre and the anachronisms of postmodern research, to the alternative memories of anti-imperial and postcolonial struggles. What religious, political, social, linguistic or imaginary tensions are at work? What are the privileged media and concrete modalities of such reconstitutions, re-actualizations, or refusals and condemnations of the past? What of the spectacles and circulation of artists, forms and models such as the Grand Tour, exoticism, and the trans-cultural, with their assumptions and appropriations of the pasts of “others”?

 3) To use the past 

Temporary or permanent, exhibitions presented in museums and other patrimonial institutions can be considered as historiographical apparatuses. Proposing itineraries organized for the most part according to narratives of progression, they permit the spatialization and the visualization of historical hypotheses. They are vehicles for historicized accounts of artifacts that reach the largest and most diversified publics otherwise limited to a circle of specialists. They also serve the political symbolism of sovereigns, cities and states for which spectacular manifestations are often particularly efficacious in terms of the construction, representation, diffusion and legitimation of heritage. Questions of public use of the past are not only interesting in the museum context, but also for ways in which patrimonial institutions are crucibles for the foundation and constitution of memory. The topic opens up the study of how such forms of patrimonial production are established and function, together with the interrogation of the intrinsically conflicting dimensions of fabricating pasts, traditions and identities.

 4) To write the history of art

Historically the elaboration of historical knowledge of the arts has fulfilled specific intellectual, social and political needs, such as the example of celebrating patrons, cities, or states. The nineteenth century saw the history of art impose itself as a useful key for the construction of national identities. The century of Michelet and of Ranke, of Lavisse and of Lamprecht, imagined nations as individuals setting out for themselves. From this perspective, the study of artistic production was set to reveal the “genius” of each nation, its original character. In this context, the history of art affirms itself as a discipline able to contribute substantially to the fabrication of historical foundations for national memory. Through the long twentieth century, the practices of art historians evolved, but the intrinsic political dimension of this discipline – who studies, classifies, “recounts” – and then constructs – the patrimony – remains unchanged. How is the history of art written? How is it made in order to respond to symbolic and material needs? How is it written today in an era of global exchanges and of numerous technologies? The topic invites questioning of the intellectual mechanisms and the practical conventions of writing a history of art.

5) Transmitting the past

The academies – including the Academy of France in Rome, which hosts the 14th International Spring School in Art History – were places for the formation of artists and for the practical transmission of aesthetic norms from the early modern period into the middle of the nineteenth century. Often reacting against the corporations of painters and artisans, academies instituted canons inspired by classical Antiquity and ruled over domains of artistic production, including hierarchies of schools and of genres. The object here is to interrogate the weight of such normative constructions in the practices and careers of artists, as well as the didactic tools employed by the academies: lectures and characteristics, repertories of bibliographies and of images, collections of casts and other forms of reproduction of ancient models. Also warranting questioning is the role of the past in the formation of other institutions such as the ateliers of artists, the free or private academies, the “Schools of Arts” in the twentieth century, the universities, and schools of dance, of theatre and of cinema. What of the past in today’s artistic formation/information with its multiple networks – virtual and concrete – and global systems of the arts?

Practical Information 

The École enables doctoral and postdoctoral students with diverse horizons and specializations to share their research, approaches and experiences in a forum run in cooperation with advanced researchers. Programs of preceding Écoles de printemps are available on Participation in the École constitutes one of the necessary elements to obtain a diploma in the international formation in the history of art. Doctoral and postdoctoral candidates are invited to propose precise presentations in relation to their subjects of research, without limits of chronology, geographical area or form of expression. Every 15 minute paper will be read in the context of a thematic session that will be coordinated by an instructor and followed with a collective discussion of questions and issues raised by the interventions and the session as a whole.
Participating students are expected to attend for the full week.

 How to propose an intervention

The call for papers will be published on the sites of the Villa Medici (, the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (, and the Coordinamento internazionale per la Formazione alla ricerca in Storia dell’arte ( Doctoral students who would like to participate in the École de printemps are asked to submit a proposal for a paper that is fifteen minutes in length maximum, and to send it with a short CV to the organizers ( before January 17, 2016.
Proposals should include:

The organizers, in conjunction with the representatives of each country of the Réseau, establish the final program. Applicants will be notified by the beginning of March, 2016. Please note: two weeks following communication of admission, participants must send to the organizing committee ( a correct translation of the abstract for the intervention in English and in one of the other languages (German, French, or Italian). One month prior to the beginning of the School, participants must send to the same address the definitive text of their paper accompanied by a powerpoint presentation.

To participate in the School as a coordinator of a session 

Students who have participated in previous Schools on two or more occasions, or young researchers, postdoctoral, and doctoral students whose research is well-advanced, are able to propose their candidacy as a coordinator of a session. Coordinators will have the job of intervening at the end of each session. Respondents will provide a critical assessment of the session, pose some new questions to expand and to activate discussion. Respondents may also open up the discussion in directions suggested by their own research. Candidates wishing to participate as a respondent in this École are asked to contact the organizers ( before January 17, 2016, with a CV and short text outlining their motivation, aptitude, and competencies. Candidates should also demonstrate the pertinence of the theme to their research. Proposals should not be longer than 2000 characters or 300 words and should be written in German, English, French, or Italian.

Proposals for presentations (Faculty/Staff)

As with previous Schools, professors of the Réseau are invited to propose a talk in accordance with the 15-minute format for students, or to oversee a session. Instructors wishing to participate in the program are asked to make their intentions and availability known to the organizer of the board via email before January 17 to the following address (

National correspondents 

For Canada: Johanne Lamoureux (Paris, Institut national d’histoire de l’art) and Todd Porterfield (Université de Montréal); for France : Frédérique Desbuissons (Paris, Institut national d’histoire de l’art), Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel (École normale supérieure de Paris), Christian Joschke et Ségolène Le Men (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense); for l’Allemagne: Thomas Kirchner (Paris, Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte) and Michael F. Zimmermann (Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt); for Great Britain: David Peters-Corbett (Norwich, University of East Anglia) et Bronwen Wilson (UCLA); for Italy: Marco Collareta (Università degli Studi di Pisa) and Maria Grazia Messina (Università degli Studi di Firenze); For Switzerland: Jan Blanc (Université de Genève); pour the United States Henri Zerner (Harvard University); for Japan, Atsushi Miura (Tokyo University).

Organized by the Réseau international pour la formation à la recherche en histoire de l’art in partnership with the Academy of France in Rome.

Organizing Committee for 2016: Maria Grazia Messina (Università degli Studi di Firenze), Michela Passini (CNRS – Institut d’histoire moderne et contemporaine), Jérôme Delaplanche (Académie de France à Rome), Ségolène Le Men (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense), Todd Porterfield (Université de Montréal).