Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2019
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Art History/Architecture
Encountering Antiquity in Renaissance Rome: the Social and Economic Origins of the Classicizing Style, 1400-1550

The rediscovery of ancient sculpture is considered a key influence on the style of Italian Renaissance art, and yet very little has been written about how artists encountered antiquities in the first century of the Renaissance. Though valued by artists and scholars for their aesthetic and historical value, in the economy of building antique statues were valued as raw material to produce lime. Many were excavated only to be sold to lime manufacturers and destroyed. Thus, the access of artists to antiquities is a phenomena that should not be taken for granted. Focusing on Rome and its environs as the primary source of antiquities unearthed in the Renaissance, my dissertation will examine the excavation, destruction, and display of antiquities over the period roughly 1400-1550 as the material foundation for the development of the classicizing style of Italian Renaissance art. The rediscovery of antiquities in Renaissance Rome must be understood in the complex economic and social context that determined the selective destruction and preservation of these works—that is, the industry of speculative excavation and the intervention of artists, collectors, and antiquarians in this industry in efforts to halt destruction. This entails investigating the economic, social, and professional networks which determined which sculptures survived, how they were displayed, and who had access to them. Using archival, written, and visual sources to trace and spatially map these networks, this project will illuminate previously overlooked connections between artists, antiquarians, collectors, and speculative excavators—distinct groups drawn together by mutual interest in antiquities. Excavating this context will show that the essential form of Renaissance aesthetics, and indeed that of classicizing intellectualism at large, was shaped by these local economic and social networks, and will reframe the narrative of how artists and scholars learned about the past from these works.