Color photograph of a light skinned woman with long brown hair wearing a black and white patterned dress and smiling at the camera

Anne L. Williams

National Endowment for the Humanities Rome Prize
1 settembre 2023–5 luglio 2024
Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, University of Hong Kong
Titolo del progetto
Imago humilis: Humor, Irony, and Rhetoric in Art and Devotion
Descrizione del progetto

Imago humilis investigates the history of humor and irony in trecento Italo–Germanic visual culture, reconstructing their role in the creation of memory, in devotional practice, and in the consolidation of communal identity. As the first monograph to reveal the extensive presence, context, and reception of wit, humor, and play in trecento Italian art, my project advances the recent “sensory” or “experiential” turn, exploring art and history through the lens of lived experiences and emotions and bridging the perceived divide between “profane” humor and sacred experience. While art historians emphasize the image’s ability to elicit tears and sorrow and their role in devotional practice, humor and irony have been overlooked. Yet their use is rooted in rhetorical, devotional, and mnemonic practices that bespeak the importance of the affective detail over the optical illusionism of the painted narrative, challenging the teleological primacy attached in much scholarship to the latter.