Jacopo di Poggibonsi never existed, except as a figment in the imaginations of seven students at the University of Michigan. His entire life, artwork, and image was created and manipulated by the “Master Forgers.” We even created false sources and poetry from his fictitious lover--all for your viewing pleasure!
Trusted our authority, did you? The point of the project is to encourage viewers to be cautious when approaching information found online.
But that’s not all. The site is designed not only to encourage cautious and critical thinking, but also to serve as an introduction to students approaching the history of Italian Renaissance art for the first time. We have attempted to bring up a number of issues embedded within the study of art: imitation and copies, fakes and forgery, the artistic personality and notions of artistic genius, and the creation of a scholarly work and an authorial voice; as well as some issues raised in recent years by the development of digital technology: how authentic is an image? How might images be altered by digital means? Can we ever really trust the label?
So what can you actually believe on our site? Jacopo di Poggibonsi is a fictitious artist, however, the Renaissance information incorporated throughout the site is completely factual. The timeline of events we compiled on the Renaissance period is accurate and can be used as a resource for students studying art history. In addition, certain information incorporated into Jacopo's life is also factual. For example, Jacopo's place of birth (Poggibonsi) is a real village located in Tuscany. The map and pictures of Poggibonsi on our website are genuine. The historical figures that shaped Jacopo's life really did exist. His master Cennini was a lesser-known artist of the Renaissance period who has no surviving paintings. Jacopo's rival, Lippi, was an actual painter whose works were often copied by other artists during this time. The only characters we created were Jacopo, his parents, and his lover Benedetto.
In addition, Jacopo's paintings, which are posted throughout the website, are actual works of art created during the same time period by anonymous or lesser-known artists. Our bibliography of sources is real except for three sources: the Master Forgers text which reveals our secret, Patrizia Simondo's The Jacopian Renaissance:New Light on an Old but Neglected Artist, and our fake "Brittanica" website on Jacopo.
What indications give away our secret? Perhaps you noticed Jacopo's
Self-Portrait which appears throughout the site. After reading his
biography, you discover that he died at the young age of 31, however, this
self-portrait is clearly of a man in his later years.
In addition, we mention frequently the topic of fakes and fraud throughout
our site. Not only is the topic of forgery hinted at in our introductory
movie, but we also incorporate this in Jacopo's life and add an entire
chapter on forgery under our Analyses section.
Finally, we have created various "links" that point you in the direction of
our fake source Master Forgers. What gave away our secret to you?
This site is a collaborative project created during the Fall of 2000 by students in English 415/516 “Research and Technology in the Humanities” taught by Professor Eric Rabkin, Professor Victor Rosenberg, and Graduate Student James Mitchell at the University of Michigan. The seven “Master Forgers” (featured in the photo above) include: Michelle Folk, Christy Gajewski, Mary Gibson, Shoshanna Kirk-Jegousse, Sarita Kusuma, Deonna Labert, and Marla Parker.
Extra-special thanks to Tim McCall and Sean Roberts, graduate students in the History of Art, for their inspiration and shared wisdom of the Italian Renaissance era, as well as their indefatigable patience.
Also, thank you to Dr. Patricia Simons, Associate Professor of Renaissance and Baroque Art at the University of Michigan, for her fictitious lecture on Jacopo.
Contacts Please feel free to contact us collectively with your comments and suggestions regarding our project:
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