Aby Warburg: The transformations of style
Author: Maurizio Ghelardi, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University
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Just how bizarre are bizarre silks? A case study in style historiography and visual digital analysis
Author: Jorge Sebastián Lozano, University of València
In 1953, Vilhelm Slomann published Bizarre Designs in Silks, a volume dealing with a trend within luxurious textiles from the late 17th and early 18th century. The previously non-existent label “bizarre silks” met with instant success within textile historiography, despite disagreement on its actual meaning. The term in question provides a useful case study on the development of stylistic categories within art historical research. Previous cataloguers and specialists did not seemingly need any historiographical label for what quickly came to be seen as an essential, distinct phase of the evolution in Baroque fashion. In fact, its mere visual appearance came to be labelled by early commentators as “virtually indescribable”. In spite of such loose accounts, the term is absolutely standard, and has peacefully made its way into various European languages and historiographical traditions. This may be seen as yet another example of the scholarly consolidation of subjective, vague, even pejorative terms. The concept remains useful to this day, however, since the existence of such designs and fabrics -sharing what might be considered some bold looks- is hard to deny. In fact, its clear-cut chronology and pan-European dissemination have allowed for further subdivisions and categorizations. Attempts to translate their visual features into terms remain only partially successful, making them a particularly apt study case for the application of machine learning to their visual analysis, and for the understanding of its potential and risks.
Jorge Sebastián Lozano is Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History of Universitat de València, where he teaches heritage and art history at the graduate and undergraduate levels. He has also been a research fellow in Real Colegio Complutense, at Harvard University, in 2017 and 2018. His doctoral dissertation was devoted to female representation in Spanish court art and visual culture during the 16th century, with a number of book chapters and exhibition essays resulting from it. In 2020 he collaborated in Sofonisba Anguissola’s exhibition in Museo del Prado. He has also been involved in Digital Humanities initiatives since the early 2000s. Between 2018 and 2021 he works as Technical Manager for SILKNOW, a European Commission-funded research project on silk production and trade in Europe in early modern times.