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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The conceptualization of prudence in sixteenth-century art and architecture of the Veneto : from mythos to logos Coughlin, Michael Trevor


This thesis investigates the connection between prudence and visual culture in the sixteenth-century Veneto. More specifically, I examine the iconographic transformation of the figure of Minerva, and how, through an adaptation from her mythical origins to a more astronomical association, the nature of prudence identified with the goddess became incorporated in art and architectural theory during the period. This study draws on Plato’s conceptions of myth and the impact of the Platonic academies, as well as treatises of architecture, and navigation. The role of poetry in the Platonic academies in Vicenza is also considered in order to reconstruct how debates about prudence and myth during the period were converted into visual forms. To begin, Anselmo Canera’s fresco of Prudence in the Palazzo Thiene (1542) in Vicenza is analyzed for how the personification of the virtue acquires a cosmological significance. Next, Daniele Barbaro’s villa at Maser (1558) is examined to explore the articulation of prudence in architecture. Drawing on Barbaro’s definition of prudence as a temporal conversation – where the present is in communication with past and future, Chapter Two considers relations between time and space in his villa. Chapter Three investigates the Villa Rotonda (1570) and argues that Andrea Palladio’s developing interest in prudence can be aligned with the plan of the building, and the choices it offers for moving through its interior spaces. Focusing on the tricipitium, an emblem for prudence and Titian’s Allegory of Prudence, this dissertation concludes by considering how the emblem and painting elicited engagement with the complex meanings that accrued to the virtue. By evaluating how pictorial and architectural representations of prudence substituted for written interpretations of the virtue for sixteenth-century Venetian humanists, this dissertation considers how visual imagery was sometimes perceived to be a better vehicle than the written word when it came to philosophical debates.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada