Nicholas Herman

Nicholas Herman

Craig Hugh Smyth Fellow
“Il surpasse aujourd’huy tous les citramontains”: Jean Perréal and Franco-Italian rivalry at the turn of the sixteenth century
2019-2020 (January-June)
Portrait photo of Nicholas Herman


Nicholas Herman is Curator of Manuscripts at the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on manuscript illumination and its intersection with other media in fifteenth- and early-sixteenth-century Europe. Before arriving at Penn in 2016, he held fellowships at the Université de Montreal, The Courtauld Institute of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He also worked at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York (2007-10). He has contributed to numerous catalog and exhibition projects in Europe and North America, and his articles have appeared in Word and Image, Burlington Magazine, and Manuscripta. His book, Le livre enluminé, entre représentation et illusion was published in 2018.

Project Summary

This project explores the experience of French transalpine expansionism through the lens of Jean Perréal (c. 1460–1530), the most celebrated French painter and illuminator of his day, valet de chambre to Charles VIII, Louis XII, and Francis I, and de facto artistic ambassador of the Valois house under the French occupation of Milan. The core of the project consists of four chapter-length studies that chart Perréal’s deepening engagement with Italian art. These phases correspond with Perréal’s four journeys to Italy accompanying successive French military expeditions. The project harnesses the unprecedented body of archival and literary sources surrounding Perréal in order to reconstruct the artist’s engagement with the dominant political and cultural phenomenon in France at the turn of the sixteenth-century: the attempted conquests of Naples, Genoa, and Lombardy. By recasting this key individual as an active interlocutor, this research aims to transform our understanding of the French reception of Italian art from that of a merely passive absorption to a discourse that induced self-reflexive comparisons by Gallic rulers, humanist commentators, and artists themselves.