Goffen, Rona 1944-2004
GOFFEN, Rona 1944-2004
PERSONAL: Born June 7, 1944, in New York, NY; died of ovarian cancer, September 8, 2004, in Princeton, NJ; daughter of William (an attorney) and Stella (Friedman) Goffen. Education: Mount Holyoke College, A.B. (cum laude), 1966; Columbia University, M.A., 1968, Ph.D. (with distinction), 1974.
CAREER: Indiana University—Bloomington, lecturer in art history, 1971-73; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, lecturer, 1973-74, assistant professor of art history and archaeology, 1974-78; Duke University, Durham, NC, assistant professor, 1978-80, associate professor, 1980-86, professor of art history, 1986-88, chairman of department of art and art history, 1983-88; Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, distinguished professor, 1988-98, chairman of department of art history, 1990-96, member of board of governors, 1998—. Visiting scholar at American Academy in Rome, 1976; visiting associate professor at Barnard College, Columbia University, 1980, visiting scholar, American Academy at Rome, 1976, Institute for Advanced Study, 1999-2000; Robert Sterling Clark visiting professor, Williams College, 1997; visiting professor, University of California—Los Angeles, 2001, and École des Hautes Etudes, 2002.
MEMBER: College Art Association of America, Renaissance Society of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fellow of Committee to Rescue Italian Art and Ford Foundation (Venice, Italy), 1970-71, American Council of Learned Societies, 1976-77, and National Humanities Center, 1986-87; fellow at Villa i Tatti, 1976-77; grants from American Philosophical Society, 1979, G. K. Delmas Foundation, 1980, and National Endowment for the Humanities, 1986-87; Guggenheim fellow, 1986-87.
The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon: Museums Discovered, Shorewood Fine Art Books (Norwalk, CT), 1982.
Giovanni Bellini: Il Trittico della Basilica dei Frari, Arsenale Editrice (Venice, Italy), 1987.
Franciscan Florence, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA), 1987.
Spirituality in Conflict: Saint Francis and Giotto's Bardi Chapel, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA), 1988.
Giovanni Bellini, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1989.
(Editor, with Marcel Tetel and Ronald G. Witt) Life and Death in Fifteenth-Century Florence, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 1989.
Titian's Women, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1997.
(Editor and contributor) Masaccio's Trinity, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1998.
(With Giovanna Nepi Scirè) Il colore ritrovato: Bellini a Venezia (exhibition catalog), Gallerie dell'Accademia (Venice, Italy), 2000.
Renaissance Rivals: Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2002.
Contributor to books, including Small Paintings of the Masters, Volumes 1-2, edited by Leslie Shore, Woodbine House (Bethesda, MD), 1981; Small Paintings of the Masters, Volumes 1-2, 1981; Renaissance Studies in Honor of Craig Hugh Smyth, Volume 2, [Florence], 1985; Venezia e archeologia, edited by Gustavo Traversari, [Venice, Italy], 1990; Art and Politics in Late Medieval and Early Renaissance Italy, edited by Charles M. Rosenberg, [Notre Dame, France, and London, England], 1990; The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art History, edited by N. Broude and M. D. Garrard, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992; The Taft Museum: European and American Paintings, edited by Edward Sullivan, [New York, NY], 1995; Tiziano Vecellio: Amor sacro e amor profano, edited by Maria Grazia Bernardini, [Milan, Italy], 1995; Desire and Discipline: Sex and Sexuality in the Premodern West, edited by Jacqueline Murray and Konrad Eisenbichler, [Toronto, Ontario, Canada], 1996; and San Marco: Aspetti storici ed agiografici, edited by Antonio Niero, Convegno Internazionale di Studi (Venice, Italy), 1996. Contributor of articles and reviews to art journals, including Art Bulletin, Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Source, Renaissance Quarterly, Artibus et Historiae, Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and Art Dossier. Member of editorial board, Art History and Venezia Cinquecento.
SIDELIGHTS: Art historian Rona Goffen was a specialist in Italian art of the High Renaissance period. She often wrote about the Venetian artists Giovanni Bellini and Titian, but has also written about such other prominent artists of sixteenth-century Italy, including Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.
Goffen wrote several books about Bellini. The most recent of these, Giovanni Bellini received considerable praise. Renaissance Quarterly critic Norman E. Land called the work "yet another manifestation of Rona Goffen's broad and deep knowledge of Venetian history and of Christian culture and iconography, a knowledge that serves as a background and support for sensitive, often perceptive descriptions and interpretations of Giovanni Bellini's works."
Goffen's interpretation of the Titian nudes in her Titian's Women prompted some critical controversy. In this book the historian argues vehemently against some scholars' interpretations of Titian's nudes as "little more than high class pornography," as Renaissance Quarterly writer Loren Partridge explained the issue. Instead, Goffen declares that the artist was sincerely trying to capture the paragon image of female beauty, which she places within the context of Venetian culture at the time. But Goffen's insistence on her feminist theme blinds her to a broader interpretation of Titian, according to some reviewers. As Anne Hollander stated in New Republic: "Since her main theme about Titian is his deep respect for women's sexuality, she can never read him as veering over even for a minute into any of the sixteenth-century sexual attitudes that she now anathematizes." Similarly, Partridge felt that Goffen's "emphasis on the paragone is reductive and repetitive," causing the author to overlook some of the paradoxes and Christian allusions in Titian's art. Despite this flaw, both Partridge and Hollander saw much to admire in Titian's Women. For instance, Partridge called the "discussion of Titian's Paduan frescoes . . . excellent," and Hollander calls it an "interesting book" that unfortunately lacks some balance.
In Renaissance Rivals: Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian, Goffen maintains that these four giants of the Italian Renaissance were rivals rather than friendly comrades in the arts. While this is not an entirely original thesis, critics felt that Goffen sheds some new light on the subject. "Her larger goal," pointed out Werner Gundersheimer in his American Scholar review, "is to provide a new, psychologically compelling narrative showing how the egocentric if anxiety-ridden competitors produced revolutionary changes in the scale and style of painting in early modern Italy." The critic went on to call the "massive, discursive chapter on Titian" the "most interesting and revisionary section." Gundersheimer added that Goffen draws on "careful research" to enable "readers to track [Titian's] . . . growing awareness of Michelangelo's work and its utility," noting that the author also "demonstrates in a new and utterly convincing way . . . that for Italian artists working in the first half of the sixteenth century . . . there was always an elephant in the room," Michelangelo. Gundersheimer concluded that Renaissance Rivals is a "lively and appealing book" that is "an important achievement."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, October, 1987, Gail L. Geiger, review of Piety and Patronage in Renaissance Venice: Bellini, Titian, and the Franciscans, p. 991.
American Scholar, winter, 2003, Werner Gundersheimer, "Duking It Out," review of Renaissance Rivals: Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian, p. 140.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, summer, 1990, Samuel K. Cohn Jr., review of Life and Death in Fifteenth-Century Florence, p. 144.
Library Journal, February 15, 1990, Robert Cahn, review of Giovanni Bellini, p. 183; April 1, 2003, Martin R. Kalfatovic, review of Renaissance Rivals, p. 94.
New Republic, March 12, 1990, David Rosand, review of Giovanni Bellini, p. 30; October 5, 1998, Anne Hollander, review of Titian's Women, p. 34.
New York Review of Books, July 16, 1987, Felix Gilbert, review of Piety and Patronage in Renaissance Venice, p. 37; March 18, 1999, Ingrid Rowland, review of Titian's Women, p. 14.
New York Times Book Review, March 4, 1990, Lawrence Gowing, review of Giovanni Bellini, p. 28; March 1, 1998, Garry Wills, review of Titian's Women, p. 11.
Renaissance Quarterly, summer, 1992, Andrew Ladis, review of Spirituality in Conflict: Saint Francis and Giotto's Bardi Chapel, p. 370; summer, 1997, Norman E. Land, review of Giovanni Bellini, p. 633; summer, 1999, Loren Partridge, review of Titian's Women, p. 52; winter, 2000, Patricia Meilman, review of Masaccio's "Trinity," p. 1215.
Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 2003, review of Renaissance Rivals, p. 69.*