Metamorphic Matter: Elemental Imagery in Early Modern Art

Robert Janson-La Palme *76 Conference and Keynote
Friday, April 5, 2024, 9:15 am5:30 pm



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Conference description

Given the current interdisciplinary interest in the long history of the four elements, this is an opportune moment to reconsider how early modern artists thought about and imagined the “raw materials” of which they believed their surrounding world was made. This one-day conference brings together a group of scholars to discuss early modern imageries and imaginaries of metamorphic matter at a time when the ever-growing expansion of the world was catalyzing new understandings of its properties and formation. “Elemental” is used here in its broadest (early modern) sense, referring to the forces, principles, and ultimate constituents of physical nature. How did artists and artisans use elemental imagery to draw attention to the latent forces of nature and the transformative powers of their own craft? How did they imagine and represent the elements and other ultimate particles of the material world in an age of colonial encounters, skepticism about religious beliefs, and shifting boundaries between nature and artifice?

Department of Art & Archaeology