The Stephen K. Scher Lecture

by Robert W. Hoge


Dr. Jeffrey Chipps Smith

The speaker for the ANS’s 2005 Stephen K. Scher Lecture was Dr. Jeffrey Chipps Smith, Kay Fortson Chair in European Art at the University of Texas, Austin. The presentation’s title, “Suddenly Mad About Portraits: Creating a Taste for German Renaissance Medals and Sculptures,” expressed Dr. Smith’s interest in how the phenomenon of portraiture seized the public’s fancy during the first half of the sixteenth century. In his presentation, Smith examined the simultaneous emergence of German portrait medals and portrait sculptures in a chronological range from the late 1510s until about 1550, considering the relationship between medal, relief, and printed portraits of this time, and addressing known works by the masters Schwarz, Gebel, Hagenauer, Reinhart, and Weiditz.

Arrestingly, these earliest medalists often began by carving wooden or stone models and, unlike in Italy, what we consider to be models were frequently the finished products. A significant number of the medallic works from the 1520s were one-sided and likely never were intended to be cast. Smith analyzed the dialogue between obverse and reverse when the medal is two-sided and found that Daucher’s small-scale portrait reliefs offer nice comparisons. Smith’s approach expanded his survey to consider the innovative placements for early medals, such as in a goldsmith’s cup, in sculptures, and in the rise of backgammon and other gaming pieces that mimic medals.

In addition to his work on the flowering of German Renaissance medallic portraiture, Smith has been recently working on two commissioned books: a focused study on a south German silver Virgin and Child statuette of 1486 in the Kimbell Art Museum and a monograph on Albrecht Dürer for Phaidon Press. Meanwhile, he is also engaged in preparing articles with the themes, among others, of “Dürer and Sculpture”; “The Pictorial Languages of German Art, 1400-1650”; and “Albrecht Dürer, Cardinal Matthäus Lang, and the Throne of Invention.” His historiographic introduction to a reissue of Erwin Panofsky’s The Life and Art of Albrecht Dürer (Princeton University Press) is appearing this September.

A popular speaker, Smith has lectured at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Frick Collection, the Kimbell Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Walters Art Gallery, Arizona State University, the University of Bonn, Boston College, Case Western Reserve University, Cornell University, the College of the Holy Cross, Trinity University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, the Graduate Theological Union, Florida State University, and the University of Minnesota.

He has been a participant, commentator, or chair for a number of professional academic conferences and committees, including the College Art Association, the Frühe Neuzeit, the Historians of Netherlandish Art, the Renaissance Society of America, the Institute of International Education, and the Sixteenth-Century Studies Society and Conference. Smith has also been recognized, through numerous grants, awards, and honors, by the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung; the American Council of Learned Societies, Summer 1984; the College Art Association; the Dallas Museum of Art; the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany; the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities; the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board; the United States Information Agency; the J. Paul Getty Grant Program; the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation; the Kimbell Art Foundation; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Renaissance Society of America; the Sixteenth-Century Studies Conference; and the University Cooperative Society.

Some of Dr. Smith’s publications include Nuremberg, A Renaissance City, 1500-1618 (Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1983); German Sculpture of the Later Renaissance, c. 1520-1580: Art in an Age of Uncertainty (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994); Sensuous Worship: Jesuits and the Art of the Early Catholic Reformation in Germany (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002); and The Northern Renaissance (London: Phaidon Press [Art & Ideas Series], 2004). He has also published over one hundred articles, reference essays, catalogues, and reviews on Netherlandish and German artistic topics, including “The Art of Salvation in Bavaria,” in John W. O’Malley et al., eds., The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540-1773 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999).