Smuggling the Renaissance: The Illicit Export of Artworks from Italy, 1861-1909
Joanna Smalcerz works on the history of collecting and the Italian art market in the late nineteenth century, with a focus on the reception of the Italian Renaissance art both in Italy and abroad, as well as on the Italian policies of cultural heritage protection. She holds a BA from the University of Warsaw, an MA from the University of Warsaw and the Free University Berlin, and a PhD from the University of Bern. She published on the fourteenth-century sculpture in Cieszyn Silesia before focusing on Wilhelm Bode and the Italian art market as Scherbarth Fellow at the Bibliotheca Hertziana. She is currently Research Assistant and Lecturer at the University of Bern, having previously held a fellowship at the Getty Research Institute.
This project explores a complex historical struggle between collectors and dealers smuggling artworks out of Italy, on the one hand, and the Italian State’s attempts to deliver innovative legislative and administrative measures to prevent these losses, on the other hand. It investigates the illicit art export out of Italy after the unification of the country in 1861 until the introduction of the new law protecting Italy’s cultural patrimony in 1909, by proposing an interdisciplinary study that draws together art historical, legal and social analysis. Such an approach reconstructs the phenomenon, in all its historical complexity, of an international collecting boom for Italian Renaissance art and the gradual formation of patrimony protection laws in the young Italian State. The project focuses on the nineteenth-century reception of Italian Renaissance art both in Italy and abroad and delves into historical methods and routes of clandestine art export out of Italy, the role of social networks in collecting and the social agency of artworks.