New Sculptors, Old Masters: The Victorian Renaissance of Italian Sculpture

  • Leeds Art Gallery
  • Friday, 8 March 2019
  • Conference in the Henry Moore Lecture Theatre, Leeds Art Gallery, 10am - 5:30pm

In his 1862 catalogue of the Italian Sculpture collection at the South Kensington Museum, curator John Charles Robinson (1824-1913) claimed:

‘It never occurred to the artist of the revival to think architectural ornamentation beneath his dignity; on the contrary, the greatest sculptors have left us specimens of their genius in this branch... surely, where these great artists have so gladly trod no modern craftsman need disdain to follow.’

The collection of Italian Renaissance sculpture at South Kensington presented the Victorian viewer with a wide range of objects in diverse materials and vital colours, often with decorative functions: glazed terracottas, painted plasters, and sculptures in wood, wax and black slate in sizes ranging from the colossal to the miniature. South Kensington’s broad presentation of the sculpture category promoted the Museum’s focus on the applied arts and the great Italian Renaissance sculptors represented were described as artists, architects and artisans who turned their talents to decorative sculpture in multiple materials.

Responding to a current exhibition in San Francisco, Truth and Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelites and the Old Masters (Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 30 June - 30 September 2018) and the recent publication of Elizabeth Prettejohn’s Modern Painters, Old Masters (New Haven: Yale UP, 2017), which concentrated on Victorian painters and the reception of early Italian Renaissance painting at institutions such as the National Gallery, New Sculptors, Old Masterswill highlight the productive sculptural response in the Victorian period to Italian Renaissance works in British collections.

The conference will explore how nineteenth-century sculptors and critics directly encountered Italian Renaissance sculpture, in its broadest sense, through public and private collecting in Britain as well as travel on the Continent. How did encounters with a diverse range of Italian sculptural objects contribute to the developing mythologies of Italian sculptors in the nineteenth century? How did these encounters inspire Italian Renaissance receptions more broadly, both artistic and scholarly? How did they affect the perceived understanding of the term ‘Renaissance’ and its geographical, cultural and chronological boundaries? What impact did this have on modern sculpture practice?

Friday 8 March 2019, 10am - 17:30pm

Henry Moore Lecture Theatre, Leeds Art Gallery

10:00Welcome and Opening Remarks
Dr Charlotte Drew (University of Bristol)
 Session one
Site and Seeing: Encountering Italian Sculpture in the Nineteenth Century
Chair: Dr Charlotte Drew (University of Bristol)
10:15‘Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Donatello’
Prof. Martha Dunkelman (Canisius College, Buffalo)
10:35‘South Kensington’s Cupid and Modern Receptions: A New Chapter’
Thomas Couldridge (Durham University)
Chair: Dr Melissa Gustin (Henry Moore Institute)
11:15‘Charles Callahan Perkins’ Outline Illustrations of his Art Historical Scholarship on Early Italian Renaissance Sculpture’
Dr Deborah Stein (Boston College)
11:35‘New Sculptors, New Old Masters: The Manufacture of Italian Renaissance Art in the Late Nineteenth-century Art Market’
Dr Lynn Catterson (Columbia University, New York )
12:15 - 1:30Lunch
 Session two
Italian Sculpture and the Decorative
Chair: TBC
1:30‘Encountering the Unique: The Della Robbia Pottery of Birkenhead and the Architectural Bas-reliefs of Luca della Robbia’
Dr Juliet Carroll (Liverpool John Moores University)
1:50‘Lithophanes and the Italian Renaissance: Translation between Two and Three Dimensions’
Samantha Scott ( University of York)
2:10‘More Versatile than Most: Alfred Gilbert and Benvenuto Cellini’
Dr Ciarán Rua O’Neill (University of York)
3:00 - 3:30Tea and coffee break
 Session three
Old Masters, New Mistresses
Chair: Prof. Hilary Fraser (Birkbeck , University of London)
3:30‘Like a Virgin: Juliet Margaret Cameron and Clementina Hawarden’s photographic reinterpretations of Renaissance Sculptors’
Dr Katie Faulkner (Courtauld Institute of Art)
3:50‘Feeling Sculptural about Writing: Sexuality and the Modernity of Renaissance Statues’
Dr Francesco Ventrella (University of Sussex)
4:10‘Beatrice Cecilia: Stefano Maderno, Harriet Hosmer and the Two-Body Problem’
Dr Melissa Gustin (Henry Moore Institute)
5:00 - 5:30Roundtable Discussion and Closing Remarks
Prof. Elizabeth Prettejohn (University of York)


Venue details

Venue address

Leeds Art Gallery
The Headrow
West Yorkshire
United Kingdom
T: 0113 247 8256
Visit website

Opening times

Monday: Closed
Tuesday to Saturday: 10am - 5pm
Sunday: 11am - 3pm