Prof. em. Dr. Rudolf Preimesberger
Rudolf Preimesberger was born in 1936 in Ebensee/Upper Austria. He studied art history, history and philosophy at the University of Vienna, where he received his doctorate in 1962 with studies on Genoese Baroque sculpture under Karl Maria Swoboda (1889-1977). He worked at the Departement of Art History Institute, there, the Austrian Institute for Historical Studies in Rome, the Bibliotheca Hertziana (Max Planck Institute) in Rome, as well as at the Central Institute for Art History in Munich, and obtained his habilitation in Munich in 1977. He taught at the Free University of Berlin from 1979-1983, at the University of Zurich from 1983-1989 and at the Freie Universität Berlin from 1989 until his retirement in 2001. He was Scholar in Residence at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles and Samuel H. Kress Professor at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts of the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
His main interest is in early modern art with a focus on Italy. His preferred areas of work are: Italian sculpture from the 16th to the early 18th century, art theory and history of genres between the 15th and the early 18th century, the paragone between the arts, modalities of the word-image relationship, texts on the portrait as a genre, art of the Papacy between the 16th and the early 18th century, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Raphael, Jan van Eyck, Caravaggio, St. Peter in Rome since 1506.
- Pontifex Romanus per Aeneam praesignatus. Die Galleria Pamphilj und ihre Fresken, in: Römisches Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte 16 (1976), pp. 221-287.
- Zu van Eycks Diptychon der Sammlung Thyssen-Bornemisza, in: Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 60 (1991), S. 459-489.
- Porträt, ed. by Rudolf Preimesberger, Hannah Baader und Nicola Suthor, mit Beiträgen von Karin Hellwig, Ulrike Müller Hofstede, Barbara Wittmann und Gerhard Wolf (Geschichte der klassischen Bildgattungen in Quellentexten und Kommentaren 2), Berlin 1999, Darmstadt 2003.
- Paragons and Paragone. Van Eyck, Raphael, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and Bernini, (Getty Publications), Los Angeles 2011.
- St. Peter in Rom. Medien und Gattungen seit 1506, in: Ortwin Dally, Tonio Hölscher, Susanne Muth, Rolf Michael Schneider (eds.), Medien der Geschichte - Antikes Griechenland und Rom, Berlin/Boston 2014, pp. 330-358.
Research project: Anagnorisis. Problems of tradition and the forms of recognition in paintings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
Leon Battista Alberti at a crucial point in his treatise on painting, completed in an Italian and a Latin version in 1435 and 1436 respectively, deals with the powerful effect of the "face of a well-known man", which appears among "other faces and figures in a history painting". Although, unlike the others, it is "less outstanding for its artistry", "it nevertheless captures the eyes of all beholders". So much "power" is contained in what is "drawn from nature". Portrait and non-portrait in the same painting! Two types of effect, the incomparably stronger one, however, in the "face of the well-known man"! The distinction of Alberti, which is sharpened to an antithesis, originates, in ways of communicating and transfering, which to my knowledge has not yet been attempted to reconstruct, from a passage in Aristotle's "Poetics" formulated with extreme brevity. Its appearance in Alberti's work may be seen as an indication of a hitherto hidden prehistory of the impact of "poetics" in the West, preceding by decades its broad reception from the first third of the sixteenth century onwards. A second indication, the reference to "recognition", the "anagnorisis" of the theory of tragedy in Aristotle's "Poetics", should emerge when Alberti bases the impact of the portrait in the painting on the "recognition" of the face of a "known man", which is already "known" to the viewer from reality. "Anagnorisis/recognitio/recognition" in the painting serves as a reference point for a series of case studies of 16th and 17th century painting that are currently being prepared.
Research results: Anagnorisis. Problems of tradition and the forms of recognition in paintings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
“Anagnorisis. Problems of tradition and the forms of recognition in paintings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries” is the title framing a series of art-historical case studies. “Anagnorisis. On recognition as an issue in a work by El Greco” is the title of a first part of the project.
Questions of intertextuality formed a first introductory part, i. e. evidence that the theory of the special “forcing effect” of portraits contained in Leon Battista Alberti’s treatise De Pictura/Della Pittura, completed in 1435 and 1436, is based on an interpretative reading of Artistotle’s Poetics. The body of the work, however, is concerned with an analysis of El Greco’s painting The Burial of the Count of Orgaz of 1586-1588 in the church of Santo Tomé in Toledo. The objects of study were the specifically post-Tridentine iconographic features as well as the portraits interspersed among the numerous eyewitnesses to the event. One of the most important questions is focused on the “authorial presence” of El Greco in the painting, which is not answered by the assumption, that one of the faces “looking out of the painting” is to be interpreted as his inserted self-portrait. A reading of the signature, however, written in Greek and structured in an ironic, ambiguous way, shows that El Greco’s “authorial presence” is of a different nature. It is clear to the Greek reading viewer that the “bearer” of the signature, the boy who is directing his gaze out of the painting towards him, should be recognized as a portrait of Jorge Manuel, the illegitimate son of El Greco. In the vivid metaphor of the painting, he is "the son who bears his father's name". What is to be perceived, then, is a legitimizing of the illegitimately born on the one hand, and an "authorial presence" of El Greco through substitution on the other.