September 25, 2003 Swann Fellow Sandra Cheng to Discuss Early Origins of Caricature

Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Public Contact: Martha Kennedy (202) 707-9115

Swann Foundation Fellow Sandra Cheng, a doctoral candidate in art history at the University of Delaware, will give a public lecture titled “Perfect Deformities: The Carracci, Science and Early Modern Caricature” at noon on Tuesday, Oct. 7, in Dining Room A, on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. Her slide presentation is based on her scholarly research, which has been supported by her fellowship from the Caroline and Erwin Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon.

In her lecture, Cheng will explore the connection between artistic training in the Carracci Academy in Bologna during the 16th century, the contemporary curiosity in the monstrous and the beginnings of caricature in early modern Italy. The art academy established by the artists Ludovico Carracci (1555-1619) and his cousins, the brothers Agostino (1557-1602) and Annibale Carracci (1560-1609), promoted the study of the human form through intense exercises in drawing. In addition to studio sessions, members of the academy attended lectures and demonstrations by local literati and men of science. Bologna’s strong emphasis on a culture of science helped advance research in the medical branches of physiognomy and pathology. Cheng proposes that the proliferation of treatises on physiognomy and monster histories during this period was important to the development of caricature. By examining images by Carracci family artists, she will demonstrate how caricature expresses and reflects specific cultural trends in the visual arts, such as naturalism and the appeal of the ugly, which were manifest in scientific culture.

Cheng's talk will encompass prints and drawings by artists such as the Carracci brothers, Jacques Callot (1592-1635), Guiseppe Maria Mitelli (1634-1718), Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) and Arnold van Westerhout (1651-1725).

In her dissertation,"'Il bello dal deforme': Form and Subject in 17th Century Caricature," Sandra Cheng focuses on the rise of caricature as a distinctive art form in early modern Italy. With support from various institutions, she has traveled abroad to conduct research in England, France and Germany and has spent a summer at the American Academy in Rome.

The Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon and the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress are co-sponsoring this public program on the early history of caricature. This presentation is part of the Swann Foundation’s continuing activities to support the study, interpretation, preservation and appreciation of original works of humorous and satiric art by graphic artists from around the world. Administered by the Library, the foundation is guided by an advisory board of scholars, collectors, cartoonists and Library of Congress staff members. It awards one fellowship annually (with a stipend of $15,000) to assist graduate students in scholarly research and writing projects in the field of caricature and cartoon. Applications for the academic year 2004-2005 are due on Feb. 13, 2004.

More information about the upcoming lecture and fellowship is available through the Swann Foundation's Web site at, by e-mailing, or by calling Martha Kennedy in the Prints and Photographs Division at (202)



PR 03-165
ISSN 0731-3527