Lecture on propaganda in art


In Fairfield University’s Art History lecture on March 31, Professor Philip Eliasoph eluded to the wise works of Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben ‘ Jerry’s Ice Cream, that the most powerful source in American society today is business.

“Society is a battlefield of representations,” said Eliasoph quoting UCLA Professor TJ Clark, “In a capitalist society, economic representations are the matrix around which all others are organized.”

This point was the main focus of Eliasoph’s lectures entitled Patronage and Propaganda: Medici Princes to High Renaissance Popes. Eliasoph explained the nature of artistic patronage, the origins and techniques of propaganda and uses of these in the visual arts.

“I am looking at art in society as it was understood originally, and how we have come to weave ideas of art and commerce into our own reality,” said Eliasoph.

Eliasoph noted the significance of propaganda in society today. Propaganda is almost something we have come to live by, as it began in America with WWI, and has followed through ever since.

“Effective propaganda is limited to a few points and must harp on these slogans until the very last people will never forget.” A chilling silence filled the auditorium as Eliasoph cited the definition of propaganda as it is described in Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

The Medici Family in Florence has been as artistic pillar that has commanded power and has used propaganda in almost all of its art, according to Eliasoph.

The Palle is a series of five golden balls that is a symbol of the Medici Family. The Palle has been imprinted in many pieces of art and architecture throughout Italy as a form of propaganda to show the dominance and power of the Medici Family. It can be seen on the doors of the San Lorenzo and other sacred places in Florence.

“In modern times, it would be like engraving the Microsoft code of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral,” said Eliasoph.

In Benozzo Gozzoli’s Procession of the Magi (1460), members of the Medici Family are identified as patronage to the Magi. The family was so powerful that they are even represented in these famous works of art, according to Eliasoph. The Palle is also depicted on the saddles of the horse in the background of the painting. Another example of this depiction can be found in the Medici Library that contains works of art showing the Trojan War taking place around the Medici Palace, again to emphasize the sense of dominance.

Eliasoph closed by summarizing that the interconnection of money, power and art convey the reality of what Florence was about during the Renaissance. The conclusion of the Fairfield University Art History Lecture Series will take place on Friday, April 14 at 4:30 p.m. in the School of Business Room 110 AB. For more information. Please call 254-4000 ext. 4222

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