Janna Israel

Janna Israel

CRIA Fellow
The Nature of Ores: Vannoccio Biringuccio and Early Modern Metallurgy


Janna Israel is completing her first book, ‘As Though another Byzantium:’ Ruins, Artifacts, and Conflict in Renaissance Venice, which examines the appropriation and exchange of art and cultural artifacts between the Venetians and the Ottomans. Her research has been supported by the Center for Advanced Research in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, the American Academy in Rome, the Renaissance Society of America, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. She has taught art history at Virginia Commonwealth University and is currently the manager of academic programs at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.

Project Summary

“The Nature of Ores: Vannoccio Biringuccio and Early Modern Metallurgy” investigates a fundamental moment in the history of material culture: the quest for precious metals in early modern Europe and the New World. Through an evaluation of legislation, diplomatic reports, and treatises about metalwork, this project aims to generate a broader understanding of the political, cultural, economic, and scientific implications of mining and metallurgical activity during the sixteenth century as the industrial arts expanded. “The Nature of Ores” focuses on one of the first printed treatises on metallurgy, De Pirotechnia, written by the Sienese polymath, Vannoccio Biringuccio (1480-1539). Employed by politicians throughout Tuscany, Biringuccio positioned himself as an expert in identifying and extracting ores from the ground, defensive artillery, bell casting, and typecasting. Locating De Pirotechnia in a flourishing textual discourse about mining and metallurgical processes enables an exploration of larger issues such as patronage, casting techniques, empiricism, fraud, artistic identity, and the control of natural resources in the formation of state power.