"GNOTHI KAIRON: Experiencing Time in the Art of the Italian Renaissance"

Lead Research Organisation: University of London
Department Name: School of Advanced Study


Kairos incorporates the ancient Greek conception of the dicisive, critical and opportune time appropriate for human action. Experiencing an intellectual blending of diverse cultural archetypes and surviving as an embodied vision of different philosophical and linguistic traditions in Renaissance iconography, Kairos circulates among well-known 16th century treatises presented either as the master who sways over everything (pandamator), or as a winged-feet young woman (Occasio) with a proverbial forelock and a razor in her hand, standing upon the Wheel of Fortune. The present research project aims to challenge traditional approaches to the interpretation of Renaissance art and visual culture by constructing a functional model that portrays qualitative notions of Time within the milieu of artistic production and highlights their substantial analogies to respective patterns of human experience. With the purpose of examining how the intrinsic meaning of Kairos (gnothi kairon)- as a unique notion of Time that can be seized, rather than doom and wither- was conveyed, perceived and experienced by Renaissance artists by the means of both literary sources and visual representation, I intend to introduce an innovative method for the analysis of visual art -namely, temporal analysis. This method will entail an alternative approach to visual culture in Renaissance Italy, presenting the latter as a locus of co-existent temporalities, each time in accordance with a diverse institutional framework; as a field of interaction between a vertical time pointing heavenward while narrating the events of the Holy Scriptures, a horizontal time that reflects the political-dynastic principle and its relationship to artistic production, and a diagonal temporality that associates the revival of classical antiquity with the individual present of the artist and his/her workshop practice.


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