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Journal of Early Modern Studies Vol. 12, Issue 2, Fall 2023 Call for papers: “The Caravaggio Experience”, edited by Vlad Alexandrescu (University of Bucharest) and Olivier Dubouclez (Université de Liège)

Recent art historical scholarship has enriched and renewed our understanding of Michelangelo Merisi’s work in its historical as well as technical and iconographical aspects. All these studies have also made it possible to advance our knowledge of the early modern cultural and artistic context – a context that the Lombard painter contributed to transform at the turn of the 1600s, as he initiated an important shift in the pictorial art of composition, by promoting a “specular naturalism” (Ch. Dempsey), which spread throughout Europe in the first half of the 17th century.

Building on this renewal, this special issue of the Journal of Early Modern Studies would like to address an important as well as puzzling aspect of Caravaggio’s painting, namely its effect on the viewer—his or her subjective experience when looking at a picture: what we might call the Caravaggio experience. Both personal and intimate, such an experience is often described in terms of attraction and fascination, shock and appeal, contact and physical presence, as if Caravaggio’s images had a grasp on the beholder, forcing him or her to relate in some way to the represented figures. From D. Freedberg to M. Fried, many scholars have emphasized this aspect of the Caravaggio experience, but how shall we make sense of it, especially in the light of the recent scholarly advances? Does this phenomenon have formal, technical or dramaturgical causes? What exactly is happening between the painting and the beholder who finds himself or herself called and to some extent caught by the image? How does this experience vary from one painting or from one pictorial theme to another? What is the place of the religious and spiritual dimension in this matter? For obvious reasons, reflecting upon the subjective experience of art will require to pay particular attention to the historical issue of aesthetic reception. Is the Caravaggio experience only ours or is it something that we may share with the painter’s contemporaries? Is the particular effect of these images only the fruit of a particular point of view or does it belong to the Caravaggian image as such? How is such an experience prepared or prefigured by earlier painters in the Italian or Flemish traditions? How far can this experience be extended to the 17th Century Caravaggian movement?

Submissions may consist in a commentary on a work or a group of works by Caravaggio, in the exploration of a particular theme or pictorial motif, in a broader study considering Caravaggio and its reception within early modernity, or in any other kind of approach shedding light on the relationship between painting and beholder. Contributors are encouraged to take an interdisciplinary approach and to make room for the plurality of interpretative paradigms as well as for accounts of the relevant technical, historical and cultural backgrounds.

JEMS is an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal of intellectual history, dedicated to the exploration of the interactions between philosophy, science and religion in Early Modern Europe. It aims to respond to the growing awareness within the scholarly community of an emerging new field of research that crosses the boundaries of the traditional disciplines and goes beyond received historiographic categories and concepts.

JEMS publishes high-quality articles reporting results of research in intellectual history, history of philosophy and history of early modern science, with a special interest in cross-disciplinary approaches. It furthermore aims to bring to the attention of the scholarly community as yet unexplored topics, which testify to the multiple intellectual exchanges and interactions between Eastern and Western Europe during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Deadline for submission: March 1, 2023:

The Journal of Early Modern Studies is edited by the Research Centre “Foundations of Modern Thought,” University of Bucharest (, and published and distributed by Zeta Books (

Categories: Journal of Early Modern StudiesJournals

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