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An online conference (via Zoom) organized by Donato Verardi (Warburg Institute) with John Tresch (Warburg Institute).

The notion of “magic” holds a range of elusive; it is an equivocal, complex, and liminal term, often attached to other tricky terms, such as natural, mathematical, and theurgic. The purpose of this conference is to examine magic from a limited, precise, but by no means reductive point of view. It explores the idea of “natural magic” promoted by Giambattista Della Porta (1535-1615), a leading figure of the Italian Renaissance in natural philosophy. Della Porta was harassed by the Inquisition after publishing his first book, Magia naturalis (1558), which proclaimed that marvels could be created naturally by deploying empirically knowable occult qualities. In the seventeenth century, Della Porta’s views became widely known among avant-garde intellectuals and his work impacted European scientists and inventors into the nineteenth century. The extraordinary diffusion of Magia naturalis — especially its second edition, published in twenty books in 1589, and translated into English in 1658 — contributed significantly to Della Porta’s fame and influence.  

This conference brings together contemporary scholars working on Della Porta, to consider his work and legacy from new perspectives, including his use of hieroglyphics, recipes, and experiments, his approach to sound, and his reputation as “Wizard of Naples.” A keynote paper by Professor William Eamon (New Mexico State University) will follow four talks: by Sergius Kodera, (University of Vienna), Rebecca Cypess (Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey), Arianna Borrelli (Leuphana Universität Lüneburg and Technische Universität Berlin), and Dana Jalobeanu (University of Bucharest). Each talk will be followed by a Q&A, and there will be additional time for informal discussion and exploration of this crucial figure in early modern intellectual life.

Programme [all times British Summer Time: GMT +1]

2.30pm: Welcome & Introduction by Donato Verardi and John Tresch


2.40pm: Sergius Kodera: 'Encrypted Images. Della Porta on Hieroglyphs and Natural Magic'

3.00pm: Q&A

3.15pm: Rebecca Cypess: 'Metaphors of Sound in Natural Magic'

3.35pm: Q&A

3.50-4.00pm: Break 


4.00pm: Arianna Borrelli: 'The evolution of the "Magia Naturalis" (1558, 1589): recipes as tool 
of knowledge construction'

4.20pm: Q&A

4.35pm: Dana Jalobeanu: 'Enacting recipes and the emergence of experiment: transformations of the "recipe format" in the Magia naturalis'

4.55pm: Q&A


5.10pm: William Eamon: '"The Wizard of Naples"'

5.40pm-6.00pm: General discussion and closing comments


image: Portrait of Giambattista Della Porta, Flemish school (post 1611 - ante 1618). Milan, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Italy.