Peace and Prosperity – both conditions for political stability and economic prosperity always determined the lifestyle of the upper middle classes and are reflected visually in the ceiling
frescoes of the 18 th. century. A speedily executed and therefore affordable medium, ceiling painting was apt for representations of complex subject matters supported by its vast surfaces.
The free imperial city of Augsburg provided ideal conditions. The trade in textiles or silver products flourished as well as banking. In Augsburg, the centre of publishing houses and printing, a rich supply of iconographic and compositional possibilities was available. The bi-confessionally ruled academy attracted many fresco painters from the surrounding territories. Therefore, Augsburg seems to be the ideal place for an interdisciplinary symposium on ceiling paintings in bourgeois houses within a European context.
A central interest of research focuses on the following question: Where did commissioners of upper middle class citizens and lower nobility place themselves between distinction and adaptation. On one hand, there were concepts originated by their own proud standing, based on civic virtues like hard work (Industria) or good planning (Providentia), on the other hand, the orientation following the concepts of princely residences. One of the new iconographic
topics in the early modern period is their enrichment through differentiated representations of trade and handicraft in their role as foundations of growth and well-being of a country. How did these changes take place in fresco painting and in print? Which were the resulting artistic effects? How did iconography reflect changing mercantile developments from the middle of the 18th century in other artefacts (for instance in business cards with illustrating prints? In how far is the familiar and commonly used iconography of deities and heroes reflected within the new imagery?
Centre oft he second section is the socio-historical approach. In civic houses of bi-confessional Augsburg, the religious confession of the owners is a specific element in the fresco decoration; it places them into one of the two Christian communities of the city. For the symposium, it will be interesting to compare this with decorations in other, one-confessional (imperial) communities. The symposium has a special interest in exploring specific local features concerning the self- representation of the upper middle class. This topic is particular importance today, since local identity as a momentum strengthening society within European middle classes remains an open question. Comparison could be offered, amongst others, by the rich material in affluent middle class houses in the Hanscatic cities of Lübeck and Hamburg or the wide ranging traditions in the Netherlands and Italy.
Another focus is places on the issue of social history of the artist and the relation to their civic commissioners. For which circles of artists were civic commissions attractive, and why? Could civic commissioners get sought-after painters to work for them? Were there fresco painters active for both, courts and private citizens? What made orders from private citizens attractive for artist and how were they paid in comparison with artists in continuous service of a ruling prince? How were iconographic programs established without the help of a court scholar or a highly educated cleric? And last but not least, there is the problem of the topography of these monuments in question. Where are houses with ceiling paintings,
commissioned by rich citizens and lower nobility, located in the individual towns, and what was the social surrounding of them? Which social networks resulting from the individual commissions can be reconstructed?
The fourth and last topic of the symposium will be the analysis of the historic handling of ceiling paintings originating from private ambitions and connected inseparably with civic buildings. This encompasses the question of rediscovery and inventorisation of such not easily accessible objects of cultural testimony as well as the question of their history of reception or transfer and their ideological appreciation. The question of the appreciation of this cultural heritage that conveys identity consequently leads to middle-class self-conception in the 21st century.
Venue: 14–15 May 2020, Augsburg, Maximilianmuseum
Organisers: Universität Augsburg, Lehrstuhl für Kunstgeschichte (Prof. Dr. Andrea Gottdang / Dr. Angelika Dreyer) in cooperation with Städtischen Kunstsammlungen und Museen Augsburg (Dr. Christof Trepesch)
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