The Fragility of Pastel


  • Datum: 23.06.2022
  • Uhrzeit: 13:00 - 16:00
  • Vortragende(r): Workshop
  • Ort: Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom
  • Kontakt:
The Fragility of Pastel
Pastel is a difficult medium for art history. Its origin is obscure, its classification complex, its status suspended between painting and drawing, between preparatory and finished work. One thing about pastel is clear, though: its extreme susceptibility to damage.

Risk management in this field has a long history. During the eighteenth century, at the height of their popularity, pastels were sent by artists to clients across Europe. Given the medium’s fragility, the works were packed carefully in crates and – as in the case of Rosalba Carriera – given protection from the perils of the journey by religious tokens. Self-portraits of pastelists at work from this period show the friable sticks held in cotton-lined boxes nestled on the artists’ lap. Writings by critics and collectors convey concern and fascination with the powder’s vulnerability to touch.

In this workshop, we examine the medium of pastel by focusing on shifting perceptions of its fragility. Beginning with its Renaissance origins and foregrounding the technique’s rise in popularity in the eighteenth century, we consider how pastels have been made, stored, collected and displayed. In a final discussion we look at pastel’s demands on care, both then and now.


Session 1: The Origins and Emancipation of Pastel moderated by Jana Graul (BHMPI)

13:00 Laura da Rin Bettina (Uffizi), The Origins of Pastels in the Renaissance: Material Characteristics and Written Sources
13:30 Rodolfo Maffeis (Politecnico di Milano), Benedetto Luti and the Fragile Autonomy of Pastel
14:00 Break

Session 2: Pastel’s Eighteenth-century Rise moderated by Diane Bodart (Columbia University)

14:30 Alice Ottazzi (Université de Franche-Comté), Shall We Fix It? Preservation or Sensation in Eighteenth-Century Pastel Paintings
15:00 Oliver Wunsch (Boston College), Pastel and the Meaning of Delicacy in Eighteenth-Century France

15:30 Final Discussion

The Workshop includes a visit to the pastel collection of the Galleria Corsini led by curator Yuri Primarosa (for speakers only)

Scientific Organization: Francesca Borgo

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