Session at the RSA 2020 Philadelphia

In light of the fact that artists from the Renaissance to the present day have used piccolo libretti for sketching and libri disegnati to explore and develop ideas (the definitions are, respectively, those used by Leonardo Da Vinci and by Giorgio Vasari), a new way of looking at drawing and a new historical/critical approach are needed. The drawings and other signs, lines, marks made in a book in fact form a graphic continuum made up of cross references, interweavings, intersections, series, sequences, progressions and regressions. Every page on which a drawing is made, and each drawing (whether considered in isolation or in relation to the pages that precede or follow it), forms part of a broader graphic ‘discourse’ which the book, as an indivisible whole, records – if not always in linear order. The artist’s ideas (figures, imaginings, concepts and designs) flow freely – as we learn from Vasari’s anecdote regarding Leonardo and the Last Supper – but page after page they become clearer, above all to the artist himself, rendered intelligible via a singular form of ‘written’ language: the drawing. As full pages alternate with blank pages, a complex and stratified relationship with time emerges in this continuous/discontinuous language of notes, comments, recollections, quotations, ideas, notions, concepts, projects, pauses, silences and indecision.


  • The artist, the creative process and drawing-books from the Renaissance to the twentieth century
  • Drawing as the ‘written’ language of artists
  • A comparative history of drawing in the context of sketchbooks, notebooks, workshop books or copy books of painters, sculptors, architects and designers
  • Theory, history, interpretation and case studies of drawing-book as a continuum or as a ‘discourse’
  • Materials, contents, languages and aesthetics of the drawing-book
  • Taxonomy, validity and value of the accumulations of multiform drawings, signs, marks, lines on the pages of drawing-books: preparatory drawings, sketches, rough drafts, projects, diagrams, doodles, experiments, notes, numbers, crossings out, etc.

Proposals should be submitted by August 16th, 2019 until 3.00 am (USA) in the form of a title (maximum 15 words), an abstract (maximum 150 words) and a short CV (including full name, current affiliation and email address), to be sent to [email protected] and to [email protected] for the attention of Vita Segreto and Francesco Moschini.

Organizers: Francesco Moschini, Secretary General and Professor of Art and Architecture History, Accademia Nazionale di San Luca, Rome; Vita Segreto, Professor of Early Modern Art History, Accademia di Belle Arti, Rome.