New Publication: Renaissance Meta-painting, Edited by Alexander Nagel and Péter Bokody

The volume offers an overview of metapictorial tendencies in book illumination, mural and panel painting during the Italian and Northern Renaissance. It examines visual forms of self-awareness in the changing context of Latin Christianity and claims the central role of the Renaissance in the establishment of the modern condition of art.

Metapainting refers to the ways in which artworks playfully reveal or critically expose their own fictiveness, and is considered a constitutive aspect of Western art. Its rise was connected to changes in the consumption of religious imagery in the sixteenth century and to the advent of the portable framed canvas, the single most important medium of modernity. While the key initial contributions of some Renaissance painters from Jan van Eyck to Andrea Mantegna have always been acknowledged, in the principal narrative the Renaissance has largely remained the naïve moment of realistic experimentation to be ultimately superseded by the complex reflexive developments in Early Modern art, following the Reformation.

Aiming to challenge this view, this volume examines how painters interrogated the constructed nature of representation before 1500, and evaluates the possibilities of a critical pictorial vocabulary in the predominantly religious framework of Latin Christianity. The contributions delve into an analysis of illusionism, embedded images, subversive attributes, equivoque frames, transparent veils and the staging of the painter at work. The case studies trace these issues in mural and panel painting, as well as in book illumination on both sides of the Alps, and reconstruct their invention and reception during the Italian and Northern Renaissance. The collection also features the first-ever English translations of seminal articles by André Chastel (1964), Klaus Krüger (1993) and Wolfgang Kemp (1995).

Alexander Nagel is Professor of Fine Arts at New York University. He is the author of Medieval Modern (2012), The Controversy of Renaissance Art (2011 – winner of Charles Rufus Morey Award) and Anachronic Renaissance (2010 – co-authored with Christopher Wood). His work is focused mostly on Renaissance art, and is mostly concerned with how material artefacts allow humans to think through time and find orientation in the world.

Péter Bokody is Assistant Professor of Art History at Plymouth University, UK. He is the author of Images-within-Images in Italian Painting (1250-1350): Reality and Reflexivity (2015). His chief interest is the emergence of painting as a complex and political medium in late-medieval visual culture. He is currently working on a book on representations of sexual violence in early Italian painting.

Table of Contents

Metapainting before Modernity – Péter Bokody and Alexander Nagel

Origin and Reception

Mimesis as Pictorality of Semblance – on the Fictiveness of Religious Imagery in the Trecento – Klaus Krüger

Complicity and Self-Awareness: the Frescoes of Giusto de’ Menabuoi at the Santo – Robert Brennan

Tradition and Innovation: Images-within-Images in Italian Painting after the Age of Giotto – Péter Bokody


Depicting Panel Painting in Fifteenth-Century Netherlandish Art: Questions of Transfer and Reception – Erik Eising

Practical Ekphrasis – On Images-within-Images in Van Eyck and Mantegna – Wolfgang Kemp

Metapainting and the Painted Book

Reflexive Devotion – Nicholas Herman

The Self-Aware Attribute, or ‘Where does a parergon begin and end?’ – Anna Degler

At the Threshold of Painting: The Man of Sorrows by Albrecht Dürer – Beate Fricke

Structures of Archaism in Leonardo, Fra Bartolommeo, and Raphael – Alexander Nagel

Jan Gossart’s Immaculate Art – Shira Brisman

Picture-within-Picture – André Chastel


Published by Roisin Astell

Roisin Astell received a First Class Honours in History of Art at the University of York (2014), under the supervision of Dr Emanuele Lugli. After spending a year learning French in Paris, Roisin then completed an MSt. in Medieval Studies at the University of Oxford (2016), where she was supervised by Professor Gervase Rosser and Professor Martin Kauffmann. In 2017, Roisin was awarded a CHASE AHRC studentship as a doctoral candidate at the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, under the supervision of Dr Emily Guerry.

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