L'imitazione meravigliosa

Translatability and transposition between the art of painting and music
Tímea Nagy

Imitation exists as a result of a translation of the object to be imitated, of its re-codification, whether by means of words, images or sounds. This presentation aims to give some insights and raise questions about how imitation as core concept in an interdisciplinary context could inform research and performance.

Two sources concerned with the topic of imitation will be briefly analyzed: a fragment from Silvestro Ganassi’s La Fontegara (Venice, 1535); and a letter from Galileo Galilei to his friend, the painter Lodovico Cardi da Cigoli (Florence, 1612). Ganassi, himself a painter-musician, compares an instrument’s capacity of imitating words to a painter’s ability to imitate the colors of nature, while Galilei defends the art of painting as being superior to that of sculpture, by forming a parallel between instrumental music and painting as opposed to vocal music and sculpture. Through this striking analogy, Galilei outlines his doctrine of imitazione meravigliosa, according to which the further the means of imitation are from the object to be imitated, the more astounding the imitation becomes.

The introduction of certain notions of translatability and transposition between the arts was a common issue in the Renaissance, after da Vinci’s famous paragon. But how does a dialogue between the art of painting and music inform and inspire research and performance? This presentation aims to demonstrate that a broader understanding of the painting-related vocabulary Ganassi applied in his treatise to detail recorder technique may propose new paradigms of interdisciplinary research that may not only contribute to the construction of the identity of mimetic arts per se, but also to the framing of our historical imagination.