Research Seminar: Christopher J. Nygren (Pittsburgh) - "Titian’s Icons"


Location: Special Collections, Hesburgh Library

The Italian Research Seminar

Christopher J. Nygren (University of Pittsburgh) - "Titian's Icons"

Thursday September 21 at 5pm in Special Collections, Hesburgh Library

Titian is the only Renaissance artist credited by contemporaries with painting a miracle-working image. This fact has been undervalued by modern scholars. While modern scholarship has focused on his paintings of mythological subjects, pyrotechnic altarpieces, and life-like portraiture, this talk aims to re-centers Titian studies by focusing on his icons, which are formally-defined as half-length paintings of biblical narratives. Taking Titian’s miracle-working icon as a point of departure, the talk draws attention to his sustained production of half-length, biblical icons, which have largely escaped serious study. Focusing on this subset of pictures will help us see how Titian appropriated, deployed, and reconfigured the heritage of Christian icon painting. This approach offers a new perspective on Titian, but it also helps redress shortcomings in Renaissance art history tout court. Addressing the only recorded example of a miracle-working image by a Renaissance artist, it challenges the narratives of “disenchantment” and secularization often imputed to Renaissance art.


Christopher Nygren is assistant professor of Renaissance and Baroque Art in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. He earned a B.A. with honors from the University of Notre Dame and completed his M.A. and Ph.D. (with distinction) at Johns Hopkins University. His research focusing on the intersection of religion, philosophy, and art in the Italian Renaissance has been featured in The Art Bulletin, Renaissance Quarterly, Word & Image, and Modern Language Notes. Over his career, he has received fellowships from the Kress Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Delmas Foundation. His teaching encompasses a wide array of themes, periods and geographies including Italian art from 1200 to 1700, the pre-modern Mediterranean, and art in early modern Iberia. He will be on leave during 2017-2018 as a Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies in order to lay the groundwork for a book project examining the emergence of paintings on stone in the Italian Renaissance.