Seminar Summary 2014

Summer Seminar participants at I TattiFor the second time, I Tatti hosted a three week seminar in July devoted to the Italian Renaissance.  A dozen young scholars from Greater China –all advanced PhD students or recent graduates— came to Florence to explore the topic “Understanding Space in Renaissance Italy: Art, Architecture, and Urbanism.”  Each week, they spent three days in Florence, and two at I Tatti. The seminar was a great success, due in large part to the enthusiasm and dedication of the participants. One of these, Jing Sun, who teaches in Beijing at Peking University and Tsinghua University, wrote that the seminar was highly significant for her, “not only because I can take this study opportunity to collect related materials for my research, but more importantly I can closely observe and comprehend Renaissance art through a series of fieldtrips in the churches and museums and obtain the first-hand experience and materials for my teaching.”  Seminar participants on tour

To apply for the 2015 seminar, click here.  

For a list of participants, with photos and short blubs, click here.

To view the 2014 seminar schedule,  click here.

Four new aspects of the 2014 seminar facilitated dialogue between Chinese and Western scholars. First, a series of semi-structured discussions around the Berenson collection of both Italian Renaissance and Chinese art provided an opportunity to explore objects in detail, while also giving the seminar participants an opportunity to analyze familiar and less familiar works. Second, Eugene Wang, Professor of Asian Art at Harvard University, gave a lecture and joined several site visits. Prof Wang highlighted the methodological potential and insights to be drawn from cross-cultural perspectives in the study of art works and led to a stimulating discussion. One participant, Jing Xiao, an architectural historian in Hong Kong, wrote that “apart from the perspectives of art and architecture, Prof. Wang brought forward another way of understanding pieces of art work – science and technology. The education of art and architecture needs such kind of new inspiration to refresh our long-kept orthodoxy and paradigms. For Chinese art historians and most of my friends of architectural historians, we need to rethink our methodology of teaching and research in accordance with this new challenge.”

seminar participant A third new feature in the seminar was a reading about teaching the Italian Renaissance in China, followed by a group discussion about teaching art history in China, and in the West. This was extremely interesting and informative for participants and staff. We had the impression most scholars were accustomed to a rather formal academic environment, with defined roles for professors and students; they seemed to find the informal atmosphere of give and take between participants, staff, and visitors to be stimulating. Another innovation was to invite three seminar participants to give five minute presentations on their area of specialization: gardens. We identified the early career scholars –Bing Huang, Guan Liu, and Jing Xiao-- because of their common research interests and in relation to planned visits and lectures about the I Tatti garden and the Boboli garden. Specifically, they addressed the differences, and some similarities, between gardens in Renaissance Italy and Ming China. The presentations and subsequent discussion helped us all to better understand both types of gardens.

On the first week of the 2014 seminar, each participant selected a terms for a list of key words and concepts, such as street corner, threshold, coats of arms or movement. As a result, the scholar focused more attention on this concept. For the final meeting, held on October 15 at the Harvard Center Shanghai, each participant created a poster on his or her theme, and presented this before the rest of the group. The posters were also on view during both days of the conference, held at the Harvard Center Shanghai and Fudan University. At the latter institution, seminar co-directors Jonathan Nelson (I Tatti) and Fabrizio Nevola (University of Exeter) gave a short presentation, and four of the participants presented their posters. To see the posters, and related explanations, click here.

The last word should go to one of the participants.  Haiping Liu, an art historian teaching in Shandong, writes, “The workshop opens a door to me, in Renaissance space, to understand how artworks, architecture, rooms, streets, and different people in the city Florence interacted with each other. The workshop helped us to understand the relation of people, space and artworks in the Renaissance.”

connecting art histories

The seminar, including the Shanghai meeting, was fully funded by a generous grant from the Getty Foundation, as part of its Connecting Art Histories initiative.

Upper photograph, (c) Villa I Tatti; middle and lower photographs, (c) J. Paul Getty Trust

See also: Summer Seminar