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A Discussion of della Francesca’s 'Flagellation of Christ'

Braniff Salon Discussion of della Francesca’s ‘Flagellation of Christ’: A Follow-up

The Western intellectual tradition was birthed in dialogue, the consideration of a topic or problem from all angles and the exhaustive discussion among interested parties of every facet of every angle. In the spirit of this tradition, the Braniff Salons were created, envisioned as a way to bring together not only current faculty and students but the entire Braniff community, including alumni, to engage in the type of dialogue that invigorates this tradition and sets UD apart.

The most recent Braniff Salon on Sept. 18 featured a faculty panel discussion of Piero della Francesca’s early Renaissance painting “Flagellation of Christ.” The event was a success by all accounts, attracting various faculty members, Braniff Graduate School students and alumni. In the interest of continuing the dialogue, some of these attendees share a few of their thoughts on and impressions of the evening.

  1. How did you feel about the choice of subject for this salon (the painting), especially as opposed to a text?

“Discussing a painting was welcoming and helped lower any barriers to entry. Anyone could show up and engage and participate in the discussion. It was impossible to ‘be lost,’ as one can in a discussion of a book one hasn't read.” - Christopher Haley, MA (Philosophy) ’16

“While I initially worried that the choice of a painting rather than a text would lead to unwarranted speculation from both the audience and the panelists, that worry proved unnecessary. Each speaker kept his or her talk close to the image, resisting the temptation to draw quick conclusions.” - Natalie Smith, PhD (Politics) ’18

“It was such a treat to have a room full of people talking about a work of art from so many perspectives with so many possibilities of how to interpret it, all of them valuable perceptions. It was such a good choice -- an artist's dream wrapped in a conundrum wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a conundrum wrapped in a dream.” - David Sweet, Associate Professor and Department Chairman of Classics

2. How well did you think the panelists did in directing the discussion and covering all angles?

“Most speakers took up the implied duty to analyze the work from the perspective of their own normal field of study, which gave the audience several different aspects to consider. Since I do not have a background in art or in any of the fields represented by the panelists, it was helpful to have insight from an art historian, a painter, a statistics professor, a philosopher, a theologian and a literature critic.” - Natalie Smith

“Only at a place like UD would I learn as much about a painting from a professor of statistics as I did from professors of art, literature and philosophy. The painting was analyzed from a variety of viewpoints, many of which I would not have considered on my own, or within my own field.” - Christopher Haley

3. How much were you and the other nonpanelists able to participate?

“Q&A and discussion was perhaps a bit limited, but it always is—and it's a good sign that there are more thoughts than time. I think that if the talks had been a bit shorter with more time for Q&A and discussion, it might have gone better still.” - Christopher Haley

“The discussion period after the panelists spoke turned out to be one of my favorite times of the evening. The event drew some of the university's best faculty, so the audience's questions and comments were thoughtful and intriguing from the start. Students and alumni also felt free to contribute as they desired, which made what is often a stuffy ‘question and answer period’ feel much more like a group discussion. Both of the Braniff Salons I’ve attended have been marked by this freedom in conversation and openness to the interests and insights of both audience members and panelists.” - Natalie Smith

4. How did you feel about the experience overall?

“The size of the crowd and venue were just right for this sort of informal conversation. I had a lovely time learning about and discussing Piero della Francesca's the ‘Flagellation of Christ.’” - Natalie Smith

“All of us are grateful for this kind of evening. As a small graduate program within a small university, we have the chance to meet all together, more or less, on such occasions, as no other university that I know does.” - David Sweet

“The salons are a most welcome, open and public re-commitment to what UD is all about. It’s good and prudent to host such events for students and alumni. I saw many people there whom I had not seen in many years; it was good to see that we were all still drawn together by the same interests, concerns and loves.” - Christopher Haley

5. What are some other thoughts on the painting?

“The mentioned criticism at the panel about the disinterested expressions and detached attitudes of the right three figures can be understood in the neoplatonic horror of emotion and the irrational. Piero is at the border of emotional action of later depictions, however up through Michelangelo over the turn of the century, the proper disposition is of a withdrawal, or even a languor, rather than emotional display. Plato was suspicious of art which allowed the imagination to engage the unseen, unknown and irrational.” - Lyle Novinski, Professor Emeritus of Art

“Some or all of you have been to the ducal palace in Urbino and seen the symbolic disposition of the two libraries, almost adjoining each other at the top of the two cylindrical towers that define the facade, one classical and one Christian, and then a single room above them, as if it were where the two came together, the ‘studiolo’ of Federigo. So that is my understanding of the final sense of the title, ‘they came together into one.’ I take the opportunity to trouble you with this codicil to our discussion because I think the painting is about UD.” - David Sweet

The next Braniff Salon will take place in spring 2016 and will be in conjunction with the Haggery Art Gallery’s exhibition “Marc Chagall: The Bible Prints,” which runs Feb. 6 - April 22.