Caroline Hillard

Caroline Hillard

Robert Lehman Fellow
Florence and Etruria: The Etruscan Legacy in the Florentine Renaissance


Caroline Hillard is an art historian whose work concerns the rediscovery of ancient Etruria in Renaissance Italy. She received her PhD from Washington University in St. Louis. Her articles include "Vasari and the Etruscan Manner" (Sixteenth Century Journal, 2013), "Mythic Origins, Mythic Archaeology: The Etruscans in Sixteenth-Century Narratives of the Foundation of Florence" (Renaissance Quarterly, 2016), and “Leonardo and the Etruscan Tomb” (Renaissance Quarterly, forthcoming). She is Associate Professor at Wright State University, where she teaches Renaissance, Baroque, and ancient art.

Project Summary

The early history of Florence is traditionally associated with ancient Rome, but, for Renaissance Florentines, the Etruscans also played an important role in the city’s development. The earliest known Florentine chronicle describes the Etruscans of nearby Fiesole as among Florence’s first inhabitants, and variations on this founding legend are given in Florentine histories from Villani to Machiavelli and beyond. This project is an examination of the Florentine vision of this Etruscan past as expressed in art and literary works from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century. This period witnessed key advances in the study of Etruscan history and culture, giving rise to the first narrative history of the Etruscan civilization since antiquity, the first efforts to decipher the Etruscan language, the first analyses of Etruscan artistic and architectural styles, and the first printed monograph on ancient Etruria. Even as Florentine scholars made significant advances in Etruscan studies, their historical project was driven by civic pride, local mythmaking, and cultural politics. These dynamics gave rise to fluid visions of Etruria that, in turn, informed the broader discourse on Florence’s ancient legacy.