Location: Warsaw, Poland, Institute of Art History, University of Warsaw
Terracotta has long suffered from the view that it is merely an auxiliary medium, to be analyzed primarily in relation to its role as a building material or its preparatory use in the design of more prestigious bronze or marble sculptures. Yet in recent decades scholars have shown that terracotta sculpture revolutionized the Italian fifteenth-century art scene and during the sixteenth century its artistic significance resonated in other parts of Europe. The success of terracotta sculpture at that time should be credited to the technical ingenuity, including glazing its surface, believed in the Renaissance to have been unknown in antiquity and therefore artistically and intellectually innovative.
The growing field of studies of terracotta sculpture contributed to the re-evaluation of the material but at the same time it divided small-scale terracotta figurines from large-scale sculptures. The arbitrary distinctions into the fine art and the applied arts, with the latter category often dismissed as purely decorative, obscured the image of the artistic production and neglected the technical similarities between the two products. However, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries all terracotta sculptures solicited a complementary range of interactions through the agency of their material and form.
Modern conservation research assists art historians in thinking about the practice, artistic technique and production of terracotta sculpture. Various teams of conservators use similar methods to analyse small- and large-scale artefacts. This provides a scientific justification for inclusive examination of terracotta sculpture from that period. This two-day conference held at the University of Warsaw will offer a possibility of the full exchange of ideas between researchers working on terracotta as a sculptural material.
image: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London