Conference: Visual Poetry: The Politics and Erotics of Seeing, Titian and Beyond


Friday, April 8, 2022 (All day)


Lower Level Lecture Hall, 485 Broadway

Conference: Visual Poetry: The Politics and Erotics of Seeing, Titian and Beyond

April 7-8, 2022


"... interim che metto al ordine le poesie..."

"...while I work on the Poesie..."


Poetry: this is how Titian referred to his mythological paintings in a now famous letter written from Venice in 1553 to his patron, Philip II. Titian’s use of the term speaks of the humanistic culture that modelled an approach to an art of vitality and power, one of mythology and the nude intertwined in painting. Both artist and patron collaborated in its creation and in the construction of the erotic gaze, understood as “visual poetry”.


Treasured behind curtains hanging in the private apartments of Madrid's Royal Alcázar, Titian’s paintings comprised one of the most exquisite collections of erotic painting of the early modern period. The paintings’ force was felt. Admired by a select number of visitors, the poesie were copied and widely interpreted by painters, such as Peter Paul Rubens. As their steward and custodian, Diego Velázquez carefully studied them, arguably becoming the inheritor and innovator of this tradition.


Taking the poesie as a point of departure, Visual Poetry: The Politics and Erotics of Seeing will investigate the invention and significance of erotic visual culture in early modern Europe, reflecting on its artistic afterlife. The conference will address the diverse relationships of the humanistic tradition and Antiquity with erotic painting since the Renaissance. Papers will consider pressing questions of the representation of sexuality and violence in the art of this period, the nature of their spectatorship, and the political dimension of Titian’s poesie at a time of territorial conquest and the building of a global Empire.


Please join us for this two-day international conference.


Thursday, April 7 at 6pm: Keynote by Miguel Falomir (Museo Nacional del Prado)

In person & streaming. See details here.


Friday, April 8: Full-day conference. In person only.




  • Stephen Campbell (Johns Hopkins University)
  • Jodi Cranston (Boston University)
  • Aneta Georgievska-Shine (University of Maryland)
  • Christine Göttler (Universität Bern)
  • Shawon Kinew (Harvard University)
  • Jeremy Melius (Oxford University)
  • Jennifer Nelson (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
  • Felipe Pereda (Harvard University)
  • Gianfranco Pocobene (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum)
  • Nathaniel Silver (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum)

Organized by Shawon Kinew & Felipe Pereda with the support of the Department of the History of Art + Architecture, and contributions by Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Renaissance Studies, Harvard Art Museums, Cervantes Institute, and the Provostial Fund for the Arts and Humanities.


Part I of this conference—“Titian the Poet,” a lecture by Leonard Barkan & “Thick Paintings,” a response by Maria Loh—took place on October 28, 2021.



visual_poetry_schedule.pdf88 KB