Book Series Studies in Medieval and Early Renaissance Art History

Renaissance Metapainting

Péter Bokody, Alexander Nagel (eds)

  • Pages: iv + 348 p.
  • Size:220 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:6 b/w, 147 col.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2020

Temporarily Out of Stock
  • ISBN: 978-1-912554-26-3
  • Hardback
  • Temporarily Out of Stock

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.


“La lettura di questa pubblicazione è di grande utilità per quanti si occupano di iconografia e iconologia e della ricezione delle opere d’arte presso il pubblico quattrocentesco italiano e fiammingo. Le numerose tavole ad alta risoluzione, gli indici e una ricca bibliografia internazionale ne fanno uno strumento importante di aggiornamento scientifico e di preziosa educazione all’indagine del significato delle immagini nel Rinascimento.” (Claudio Passera, in Drammaturgia)


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.


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).


Péter Bokody and Alexander Nagel: Metapainting before Modernity

Origin and Reception

Klaus Krüger: Mimesis as Pictorality of Semblance – on the Fictiveness of Religious Imagery in the Trecento
Robert Brennan: Complicity and Self-Awareness: the Frescoes of Giusto de' Menabuoi at the Santo
Péter Bokody: Tradition and Innovation: Images-within-Images in Italian Painting after the Age of Giotto


Erik Eising: Depicting Panel Painting in Fifteenth-Century Netherlandish Art: Questions of Transfer and Reception
Wolfgang Kemp: Practical Ekphrasis – On Images-within-Images in Van Eyck and Mantegna
Nicholas Herman: Metapainting and the Painted Book

Reflexive Devotion

Anna Degler: The Self-Aware Attribute, or ‘Where does a parergon begin and end?’
Beate Fricke: At the Threshold of Painting: The Man of Sorrows by Albrecht Dürer
Alexander Nagel: Structures of Archaism in Leonardo, Fra Bartolommeo, and Raphael
Shira Brisman: Jan Gossart’s Immaculate Art
André Chastel: Picture-within-Picture