Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Artists figure fairly frequently in novelle, so it is not unreasonable to suppose that they may have taken more than a passing interest in the genre. Although much scholarly effort has been dedicated to the task of exploring how Horace’s adage “ut pictura poësis” affected the course of the visual arts during the Italian Renaissance and vast scholarly effort has been assigned to the study of Boccaccio’s literary efforts (much more so than the efforts of his successors), relatively little effort has been spent on the dauntingly interdisciplinary task of estimating how the development of prose literary imagination may have affected habits of perception and may also have augmented the project of integrating quotidian observations into pictorial compositions. In contrast to these issues of “realism”, the essay also addresses questions of how the literary conventions of novelle, although they may have been created in deliberate defiance of current social norms, may eventually have helped to shift those norms. More specifically, the gender norms of the novelle offer intriguing precedents for characterizations that we find in the visual arts, from Botticelli to Leonardo to Michelangelo, ones that rarely match what we know of societal expectations of the day. The argument, though necessarily speculative, is addressed as much to the question of how readers and viewers might have had their thinking shaped by their combined aesthetic experiences as by the more traditional question of identifying artists’ sources. Did theorizing about style, or simply thinking about what made for vividness or impressiveness, shift readily between the verbal and the visual, and perhaps more easily then than now? Can we create a history of art that seeks evidence from the whole literary record rather than consistently prioritizing poetry and the “poetic”?


Art and Art History

Publication Date


Journal Title




Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Document Type



This is an article published by MDPI in Humanities in 2016, available online: