Upcoming events

Thursday, October 26, 2017

“The Role of Women in Quattrocento Florentine Arts and Letters” 3:00 PM lecture  for The British Institute History of Art Department, Lungarno Guiccardini 9, Florence, Italy


Fifteenth-century Florence was a rigidly patriarchal society in which women had few legal rights or political power, leading one noted historian to comment that Florence “may well have been one of the worst places to have been born a woman in the Italian Renaissance.” Despite being largely excluded from humanist education and the guild structure, however, women did manage to make their mark on literature, learning, and the visual arts during the Italian Renaissance. In this lecture we will explore women’s patronage of art, literature, and architecture. We will also look at well their original contributions to Florentine culture as writers of vernacular prose and poetry, focusing in depth on two women authors. Lucrezia Tornabuoni de’ Medici (1427-1482) was the mother of Lorenzo the Magnificant and the author of influential poems on biblical themes. Antonia Tanini Pulci (1452-1501) wrote sacred dramas that were popularly performed in Florentine churches and convents. Finally, we will consider the cultural contributions of the large number of educated women who comprised Florence’s population of cloistered nuns.


Friday, July 20, 2017

“Sandro Botticelli: From The Birth of Venus to the Bonfire of the Vanities” 3:00 PM lecture  for The British Institute History of Art Department, Lungarno Guiccardini 9, Florence, Italy


“May you live in interesting times” is said to be a Chinese curse. The paintings of the artist Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, better known simply as Botticelli, reflect the complex atmosphere of philosophical inquiry and spiritual longing which particularly characterized the final decades of the Quattrocento in Florence. The son of a tanner, who apprenticed first as a goldsmith before turning to painting, Botticelli’s extraordinary talent brought him into the heady circle of Lorenzo the Magnificent where he was introduced to poets, musicians, and humanist philosophers of the Platonic Academy. It was under the influence of the ideas of Marsilio Ficino, Angelo Poliziano, and Leon Battista Alberti that the artist created Primavera, Venus and Mars, The Birth of Venus, Pallas and the Centaur, and Calumny of Appelles for patrons within the Medici circle. After the death of Lorenzo in 1492 as Medici political dominance unraveled and military invasion threatened, Florentines increasingly turned to the austere moral reform urged by the Dominican preacher, Savonarola. Botticelli became an ardent supporter of the friar and the artist’s final works are permeated with deep Christian spirituality, in particular his two powerful Lamentations. The student of Filippo Lippi, and a master of linear design, color, and perspective, Botticelli represents the apex of early Renaissance style. With Filippo’s son Filippino Lippi as his apprentice, Botticelli’s work also points the way to new directions that Florentine Renaissance art would take.





Wednesday, December 15, 2016

“The New Jerusalem: Florence, the Medici, and the Jews during the Renaissance” Temple Emanu-el, Skirball Center, 1 E 65th St, NYC

Florence in the fifteenth century was the birthplace of the Renaissance, a time of spectacular developments in the arts, literature, and philosophy inspired by rediscovery of the ancient world. It was also, however, a period of intense political conflict and questioning of moral values, which led to a backlash from the Dominican reformer and prophet Fra Girolamo Savonarola. Throughout all this, the wealthy and powerful Medici family maintained a unique relationship with the Jewish community. In this lecture we will look at the interaction of these social forces and examine the impact of Renaissance cultural developments on the lives of Florentine Jews.


Temple Emanu-el Skirball Center



Friday, November 4, 2016

“Famines, Floods, Madonnas, and Miracles: The response to environmental crisis in Renaissance Florence” 11:30 AM lecture at The British Institute, Lungarno Guiccardini 9, Florence, in commemoration of the 50-year anniversary of the 1966 flood http://www.britishinstitute.it/…/bespoke…/the-arno-unleashed




Monday, March 14, 2016

NADFAS Directory Day

Westminster Central Hall, London


Wednesday, January 27, 2016  6PM

“Nature’s Secretaries: Renaissance women and the art of writing artless letters”

British Institute of Florence,   Lungarno Guicciardini 9

Pietro Aretino (1492-1556) described the process of composing his celebrated letters as being “secretary to Nature herself.” In this Renaissance conceit, with sprezzatura the author simply writes down what she dictates. To a male writer, writing letters that appeared “natural” and effortless could be considered the height of artistry, but how would a Renaissance woman approach the creative process? Was she secretary to Nature or was she Nature herself? Moreover, while a certain appearance of artlessness might enhance a man’s writing, would a woman—considered by society to be naturally impulsive and emotionally volatile—prefer in her writing to manifest elaborate artifice instead? This talk will consider the letters written by Renaissance women and explore how they chose to express themselves in their own words through their correspondence.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015 6PM

“Renaissance Women in Their Own Words” a roundtable discussion

University of California EAP Study Center, Piazza Santo Spirito 10, Florence

Letters—whether personal notes, diplomatic correspondence, or formal epistles—are unique sources of historical information. In this roundtable discussion we will consider how historians can make use of such sources, exploring what they reveal of the lives, thoughts, and feelings of early modern women. The focus will be on letters written between the fourteenth through the seventeenth century by women from all parts of the Italian Peninsula. The women whose letters were selected for inclusion in this anthology were of every social class and exercised a wide variety of professions, among them are: nuns, saints, scholars, singers, actresses, duchesses, wives, wet nurses, poets, painters, and courtesans. Some of the letters deal primarily with personal matters concerning the family, with discussion of business transactions, illnesses, and education of children and so on. Other letters are concerned with the wider world of politics, warfare, and dynastic successions. Whether written deliberately as literary works intended for publication like the familiar letters of Pietro Aretino or as simple private communications, considered together the whole spectrum of early modern women’s correspondence has the potential to reveal aspects of their lived realities, which are often hidden from the historical record.

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