Paragone: The Contest of the Arts – Der Wettstreit der Künste
An Interdisciplinary Symposium
The contest of the arts – the “paragone” – has been recognized as a paradigmatic aspect of early modern discourse. Protagonists of that discourse competitively tried to define what arts could achieve. To the extent that artists themselves led that discourse, their definitions of art can be seen also as attempts at self-definition. Ancient comparisons of poetry and painting were extended in the Italian renaissance; Leonardo’s ideas about a contest between painting and sculpture are notable. Such discourse participated in the project of elevating visual arts so far considered as ‘mechanical’ to the status of ‘liberal’ arts. Exploration into the powers of the individual arts through the idea of a contest was taken up in the Enlightenment, now bringing literature to the fore in a new way (e.g., in Lessing).
Enquiry into the contest of the arts has focused mostly on the relations between the visual and verbal arts. The art of music and sound has been often excluded. This symposium will attempt to redress this lack by exploring the agonistic role of both the art of music and of concepts pertaining to music. Arts of mixed media, such as opera and dance, are considered, as are the more singular arts of the symphony, the painting, and the poem.