A search for the source of the whirlpool of artifice : an exploration of Giulio Camillo's 'idea', through the lens of his writings and contemporaries.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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Giulio Camillo (1480-1544) was a poet, a scientist and an image-maker. He saw the birth of printing in his home-town of Venice, the fruit of the Renaissance in Rome, Paris and Padua and he witnessed the seeds of the Reformation. Renowned throughout Europe, he was acquainted with, amongst others, Erasmus, Titian, King Francis 1st and Pope Julius II. Three months before he died, Camillo dictated the text of his most important and secret, work to his agent, Girolamo Muzio. Muzio's transcription of L'idea del Theatro was eventually published in Florence in 1550.
Camillo's secret, revealed in L'idea, is about man's relationship to the heavens. Camillo envisaged a living, tangible network of relationships that holds the cosmos in being. Heavenly influences, in the form of 'celestial streams', rain down on the earth. Man is as much a part of the earth as he is made up of the stars. Rocks and stones, earth, flowers and trees are alive and sentient of their holy origin. The very skin and hair of man is receptive to the flows of heavenly love. But this is not all that is contained in L'idea del Theatro. For Camillo believed that it is the sun, and not the earth, which has pride of place in the universe. He knew that the sun is the centre.
Camillo dictated L'idea del Theatro a matter of months after Copernicus's Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres. Unlike Copernicus, however, Camillo did not use mathematics to prove his theories. Instead, Giulio Camillo's conception of the universe is made of a vast array of images. The pantheon - or Theatre - of the earth and heavens is described, by Camillo, in terms of the visual sign.
Arising out of a dialogue with contemporary conceptual art, the aim of this work is to look at the connection between language and the art of science in the sixteenth century that was able to produce such a man as Giulio Camillo. His ideas are explored through the lens of some of his contemporaries. His letters through Erasmus; his imagery through Francesco Colonna; and his science through Copernicus. Using Camillo's images as a guide, a Virtual Reality Model of the Theatre forms the final part of the work.
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