Nicole Boyd

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First Year
Italian Baroque Art

Nicole Boyd studies early modern visual culture, with an emphasis on the art and theory of seventeenth-century Italy. She first became interested in this area as a freshman at Wesleyan University, when she took a course that focused on Italian Baroque art and culture; however, her passion for the subject was cemented in the fall of her junior year, during which time she studied abroad in Bologna at the Italian branch of the Eastern College Consortium and was afforded the opportunity to scrutinize many of the works that had fascinated her in the flesh. At this point, Nicole supplemented her observations by reading Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects (1568) and Carlo Cesare Malvasia’s Felsina pittrice. In these texts, she noted a sense partiality that has greatly shaped postmodern perceptions of the distant art historical past. (Vasari, a Florentine, and Malvasia, a Bolognese, harnessed the genre of biography to promote the reputations of artists from their native cities, many of whom are ubiquitous today.) She grew motivated thereafter to investigate figures relegated to the sidelines of early modern, and particularly Baroque, art history. 

This objective, among other concerns, compelled Nicole to write her undergraduate thesis on Guido Cagnacci, a seventeenth-century painter from the provinces of northern Italy who has only recently been welcomed into mainstream scholarship and whose personal history has thus far been overgeneralized by art historians. This project - titled Genio Bizzarro: Guido Cagnacci and the Refashioning of Painterly Identity in Seicento Italy - ultimately received High Honors from Wesleyan’s Art History faculty and argued, in brief, that Cagnacci spent much of his career attempting to reinvent his artistic reputation through a systemized array of signing practices and compositional choices. Its foundations were laid in the summer before Nicole’s senior year when, after winning the John T. Paoletti Fellowship, she traveled to the Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy regions of Italy to view many of Cagnacci’s touchstone works on-site. Building upon her undergraduate studies, Nicole hopes to explore the following themes and methodologies in her future research: the concept and historical investigation of “style,” artistic practice and intentionality, identity and self-inscription, the language of art writing and historiography, and themes of imitation, originality, and invention in early modern art theory. She also hopes to investigate notions of theater, theatricality, and performativity in Baroque visual representation.