Veiled Presence Body and Drapery from Giotto to Titian Paul Hills

Publication date:
16 Oct 2018
Yale University Press
224 pages: 267 x 216mm
147 color + b-w illus.

This wide-ranging book elucidates the symbolism of veils and highlights the power of drapery in Italian art from Giotto to Titian. In the cities of the Renaissance, display of luxury dress was a marker of status. Florentines decked out their palaces and streets with textiles for public rituals. But cloths are also the stuff of fantasy: throughout the book, the author moves from the material to the metaphorical. Curtains and veils, swaddling and shrouds, evoke associations with birth and death.
The central chapters address the sculpture of Ghiberti and Donatello, focusing on how they deployed drapery to dramatic effect. In the final chapters the focus shifts to the paintings of Bellini, Lotto, and Titian, where drapery both clothes the figures and composes the picture. In the work of Titian, the veiled presence of the body is absorbed within the materials of oil-paint on canvas: medium and subject become one.

Paul Hills is professor emeritus of the Courtauld Institute.

“This thought-provoking study, with its ravishing illustrations, made me long to book the earliest flight to Italy, to drown myself anew in the masterpieces of Tuscany and Venice. It is a model of erudition and attentive looking, and of intelligent book design.” —Ariane Bankes, The Spectator