A prince according to his heart. The dehierarchisation of power before art (5th B.C. – 16th A.D.)

Wednesday 29 January 2014 18.00-19.30

A prince according to his heart. The dehierarchisation of power before art (5th B.C. – 16th A.D.) 

The theme of this lecture is the relationship of the artist with power, those who represent it and, more broadly, with the instrument that power uses to organise citizens coexistence, whether enslaved or free – the law. The question with which I start is: is the artist, thanks to his extraordinary talent, subjected to the laws that govern the life of ordinary mortals? Or does his prodigious creative talents guarantee him an exceptional status that puts him in a zone of immunity? If this happens, when does it happen?

How has the relationship between rulers and artists been configured over the centuries? I will consider some typical cases, over a period of time from the fifth century BC to the Renaissance, eventually considering the historicist painting of the nineteenth century. 

At the end of the discussion, we will see that there is a moment in the formation of the figure of the artifex in Western culture, in which the merits of his rare genius and his unique gesture could be invoked to mitigate or even nullify a conviction for murder. So it opened the way for the definition of the artist as an unusual figure making him a foreign member of society. It is irrelevant whether he is the romantic rebel who fights against hypocrisy or the eccentric, refined and often rich: they are only two sides of the same coin. Later on, the same phenomenon will appear with forms that are just variations on the main theme.

Marcello Barbanera (Sapienza, Università di Roma)