0084 Mechanical Disegno

  • Marta Ajmar (Author)
    Head of V&A/RCA History of Design Postgraduate Programme, Research Department, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

    MA and PhD (Warburg Institute), BA, Art History, University of Pavia, Diploma in Mandarin, Language and Culture University, Beijing (北京语言文化大学)/ISMEO.

    Her research focuses on the material culture of Renaissance and Early Modern Italy and the Mediterranean, in a global context. Her current book project explores questions of artisanal practice, materiality and the epistemology of materials, proposing a re-assessment of the understanding and global connections of the so-called ‘mechanical arts' in the Renaissance.

    Book-length publications: At Home in Renaissance Italy (London, 2006); Approaching the Italian Renaissance Interior: Sources, Methodologies, Debates (Oxford, 2007); Approaches to Renaissance Consumption (Oxford, 2002).

    Principal funded research projects: - 2002-2006 lead scholar and co-curator, supported by Getty Collaborative Research Grant and AHRC, for the major V&A exhibition At Home in Renaissance Italy. - 2014- Co-PI, V&A Research Institute Pilot Project, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Identifiers (Article)


The article argues that the debate around Italian Renaissance disegnohas tended to overemphasize the rhetoric promoting a separation between design and execution, mind and body, and asserting a hierarchy of the arts constructed on the friction between intellectual andcorporeal engagement in the making of artefacts. Building on written sources such as so-called "technical treatises" and on objects taken as evidence of the design process, it is suggested that we should consider instead a more integrated, organic, technologically engaged and "mechanical" notion of disegno, in which design might be seen to grow within a physical environment from the interconnection of human action and materials. Using Renaissance pottery as a case study, and exploring its understanding within different linguistic, literary and material contexts, the article proposes an epistemology allowing for greater fluidity, overlap and communality between supposedly distinct arts.


Disegno, Design, Renaissance, Mechanical arts, Minor arts, Pottery, Technology