Areas of Teaching and Research
Italian Renaissance painting, sculpture, architecture, and gardens of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; early modern prints, both Italian and Northern European; and some seventeenth-century art. My emphasis is on understanding art and material culture in a social, political, and religious context, as well as through the artistic aims of the period. Gender issues, the role of images in constructing identity, and the uses of the past are themes of both teaching and research.
Overview of Research
Much of my scholarship has focused on gardens, particularly of the Italian Renaissance, and on related issues, from rural architecture to sculptural representations of the natural world, whether animals or personifications of aspects of nature. In my book on Renaissance gardens, I provided a synthetic overview of Italian Renaissance gardens, including the little-studied aspect of planting, and presented some of the most famous and enduring examples as manifestations of a larger understanding of nature, gardens, and the relationship of nature and culture, art and science. Later studies framed these aspects in cultural, political, and social terms. In different forms, I have addressed the parallel between assumptions about nature and those about human gender differences and roles, with significant political implications in Fascist Italy. I have mined prints and views of gardens for information about the design and planting, the experience of the garden, the social hierarchy contained within it, and much more. In a series of articles, I have traced the changing understanding of the Italian garden as a representation of “Italy,” as that entity changed from a geographical designation freighted with cultural ideas to a modern political state, and as the gardens themselves underwent transformations in taste and through time.
My current research builds on these concerns and on my investigation of the strategies for constructing a shared national identity in Fascist Italy, but now focused on sixteenth-century Florence. My concern in particular is with some of the ways that a collective identity could be visualized across various media, the uses and appropriations of the past and the participation of both rulers and private citizens in this dynamic process. This study reflects the variety of my teaching and encompasses the many kinds of images and issues that preoccupy me, including gardens and ideas of nature, but also ranging much more widely.
A book-length study, “Visualizing Florence in the Sixteenth Century: The City, its Ancient Origins, Personifications, Heroes, and Individuals” – with thematic chapters on Florence’s ancient Roman origins; making classical antiquities Florentine, notions of the city embedded in city views and maps; the celebrated beauty and fertility figured in personifications and their political and private uses; Florence as a collectivity of illustrious Florentines; and the self-representation of individual Florentines in portraits.
Recent Courses Taught
ARTH 2400 Introduction to Renaissance & Baroque art
ARTH 3443 Art and Society in Early Renaissance Italy
ARTH 3440 Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael
ARTH 4440/6440 Constructing the Self in the Sixteenth Century
ARTH 4450/6450 Women in the Italian Renaissance
ARTH 4451/6451 Prints and Visual Culture in Early Modern Europe
ARTH 4445/6445 Nature, Cultural Landscape, and Gardens in Early Modern Italy and France
Donatello among the Blackshirts: History and Modernity in the Visual Culture of Fascist Italy, ed. Claudia Lazzaro and Roger Crum, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005.
A collection of fourteen essays, including two of mine, in addition to the introduction and epilogue:
“Forging a Visible Fascist Nation: Strategies for Fusing Past and Present,” 13-31;
“Politicizing a National Garden Tradition: The Italianness of the Italian Garden in Fascist Italy,” 157-69;
The Italian Renaissance Garden: From the Conventions of Planting, Design, and Ornament to the Grand Gardens of Sixteenth-Century Central Italy, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1990.
Eighteenth-Century Italian Prints, Stanford University, 1980.
Selected Recent Articles
“Figuring Florence: Gendered Bodies in Sixteenth-Century Personifications and their Antique Models,” in Receptions of Antiquity, Receptions of Gender in European Art, 1300-1600, eds. Alison Poe and Marice Rose, Leiden: Brill Press, forthcoming.
“River Gods: Personifying Nature in Sixteenth-Century Italy,” Renaissance Studies, special issue: ‘Locus amoenus: Gardens and Horticulture in the Renaissance,’ ed. Alexander Samson, 25.1 (February 2011), 70-94.
"Collecting Animals in Sixteenth-Century Medici Florence,” in Grasping the World: The Idea of the Museum, eds. Donald Preziosi and Claire Farago, Ashgate, 2004. 500-526.
The Italian Garden: Two Different Concepts”/ “Il giardino italiano: due differenti punti di vista,” in Ville e giardini italiani: I disegni di architetti e paesaggisti dell’ American Academy in Rome, ed. Vincenzo Cazzato, Rome: Istituto Poligrafo dello Stato, 2004, 17-30.
“Representing the Social and Cultural Experience of Italian Gardens in Prints,” in The Changing Garden: European and American Gardens, 1550-2000, ed. Betsy Fryberger, exhibition catalogue, Berkeley: University of California Press and Cantor Center for the Arts, Stanford University, 2003, 29-39.
"Italy is a Garden: The Idea of Italy and the Italian Garden,” in Villas and Gardens in Early Modern Italy and France, eds. Mirka Benes and Dianne Harris, Cambridge University Press, 2000, 341-346.
“The Sixteenth-Century Central Italian Villa and the Cultural Landscape,” in Architecture, Jardin, Paysage, ed. Jean Guillaume, Paris: Picard, 1999, 15-24.
“Gendered Nature and its Representation.” in Looking at Italian Renaissance Sculpture, ed. Sarah McHam, Cambridge University Press, 1998, 246-273.