UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Rosso's Fury : engraving, antique sculpture, and the topos of death Andersen, Lisa


This thesis examines an engraving commonly known as the Fury (1524) that was designed by the Florentine painter Rosso Fiorentino and engraved by Gian Jacopo Caraglio in Rome. The Fury exhibits an indeterminacy of both form and content that was rarely seen in contemporary images at a time that continued to favour narrative clarity. The engraving is methodologically interesting because it brings to the foreground what we do when we look at images – make meaning from form. It is my contention that the Fury is very much an image that was made in 1524 Rome, a time and place in thrall with the interpretation of the antique sculptures being exhumed from the earth. It was also a city that was on the cusp of dramatic changes in print production and consumption, a change in which the Fury played an important role. While scholars have observed the references to the Laocoön in the engraving, these references have been characterized as a subversion of the famous sculpture’s heroic pathos. I contend, however, that the desiccated body of the main figure aligns with contemporary accounts of the Trojan priest as volatile, wild, anguished, and damned. Beyond the specific reference to the Laocoön, the Fury should be considered in light of the topos of death associated with the rediscovery of antique sculpture during the sixteenth century. This rediscovery introduced material objects into the artistic consciousness that were characterized by disjunction, inconsistency, and discontinuity, both as a result of physical fragmentation and the loss of knowledge and sources due to the vagaries of time. Fragmented sculpture prompted viewers (often artists) to complete the form and in so doing, to determine its content - to make meaning. The Fury registers this concern in the indeterminacy of form and content thereby exposing the contingency of interpretation. I argue that the two media, sculpture and engraving respectively, had shared material affinities, both involving the digging or cutting away of matter, that made engraving a particularly fertile place to explore the hermeneutic issues raised by antique sculpture.

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