2015 Balzan Prize for History of European Art (1300-1700)
For his remarkable contribution to the study of the visible and the function of images in the Western world. For the originality of his approach to interpreting works of art at the junction of cultures and periods. For his commitment to the study of artistic languages and its impact on contemporary artistic creation.
Hans Belting was
born in 1935 in Andernach (Germany). He has taught at the universities of
Hamburg, Heidelberg and Munich, and at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung
in Karlsruhe, of which he was one of the founders. He has also been invited to
teach at, among other institutions, Harvard, Columbia and the Collège de
France, where he held the European Chair from 2002 to 2003. He is a member of
the “Ordre pour le Mérite” and of a number of other academies, including the
Heidelberg Academy of Sciences. In 2013 he received the Mongan Prize from the
Harvard University Center for Renaissance Studies (Villa I Tatti) in Florence.
He is the author of an impressive body of works, marking a turning point in the
history of art. His books have been translated into at least ten languages.
Belting has devoted
his attention to the function of images in European societies, and to the
relationship of the cult image to the development of pictorial art. He has made
a considerable contribution to the understanding of figurative culture by
forging links between the study of the Middle Ages with modern times, between
the Byzantine world and Western Art, and more recently, between theories of
vision in the Arab world and the birth of the image in perspective duringthe Renaissance. His field of research ranges
from the Byzantine icon and ‘cult images’ to the triumph of the ‘cult of art’
that characterises Western modernity. The appearance of the secular image, and
most notably the development of the European portrait, has been one of the main
areas of his research.
In one of his
recent studies, Florence and Baghdad.
Renaissance Art and Arab Science, he masterfully succeeds in identifying
the role of the visible in the paradigm shift marked by the Renaissance,
circumventing the longstanding theory of perspective as ‘symbolic form’ in
favour of perspective as ‘cultural technique’.
In Hans Belting’s
studies, the hermeneutics of the image and the analysis and interpretation of written
sources are united with great mastery to a profound knowledge of historical
contexts and careful, sensitive consideration of means of transmitting
knowledge. His work has had a major impact on recent research in art history. A
rarity in the context of university studies, his writings have had an equally important
influence upon the creations of some leading contemporary artists.