Berenson Young and Old

Current long-term research projects at I Tatti include The Berensons and Harvard, a series of online exhibitions based on archival materials from the Berenson Library and other Harvard archives, Villa I Tatti: An Oral History, and the Florentine Drawings Database. In addition, the Biblioteca Berenson has developed a number of research tools for scholars. The Homeless Paintings of the Italian Renaissance, for example, provides access to images in the photo archive for which the location is unknown. I Tatti works with Harvard professors to develop student research projects for undergraduates and graduates. For I Tatti books in progress, often the fruit of research projects, see Forthcoming Publications.

Online exhibition. Berenson and Harvard: Bernard and Mary as Students provides intriguing glimpses of the young Bernard Berenson and Mary Whitall Smith through photographs (see above) and documents. Part online exhibition and part electronic catalog, Berenson and Harvard includes eleven scholarly essays about the two Harvard students, as well as Bernard’s nineteen articles in the Harvard Monthly. Among the unpublished material is Mary’s “Life of Bernard Berenson”, Bernard’s application for a Harvard Parker Fellowship, and his senior thesis on “Talmudo-Rabbinical Eschatology”. The exhibition has sections dedicated to the “Academic Record,” “Intellectual Interests,” and “Writings” of both Harvardians. The “Cast of Characters” offers descriptions and images of the main figures mentioned in the essays.

Villa I Tatti: An Oral History. In this fiftieth anniversary year of The Harvard Center, I Tatti is beginning to compile an oral history of the Center, the first part of which is now online.  Through a series of recorded interviews, the project collects first person accounts of I Tatti, from the last years of Bernard Berenson’s life at I Tatti through the transition of the Villa from private residence to the new Harvard Center in 1961.  Already recorded are the memories and voices of a number of individuals who lived and worked in the Villa in the 1950’s.  Currently interviews are being conducted with the many people who have contributed to the life and work of Villa I Tatti since its foundation as a center of Italian Renaissance studies fifty years ago. For more information please contact Anna Bensted (

Florentine Drawings Database. This project will create the first searchable database of Renaissance drawings by Florentine artists. The point of departure is Berenson’s most important and influential book, The Drawings of the Florentine Painters, first published in 1903. The database will include and update Berenson’s lists of drawings, revising locations and other information. When available, entries will include links to museum databases. For more information please contact Jonathan Nelson (

Student research projects. As an integral part of the Harvard University Library system, the Berenson Library is officially available to all Harvard students and faculty. I Tatti is working to make that availability more of a reality. Our staff is eager to collaborate with professors who want to create research projects for undergraduate or graduate students. We expect most projects to focus on the Italian Renaissance, broadly defined as the arts, history, literature, material culture, music, philosophy, religion, and science of Italy between circa 1250 and 1600. Other possible areas of study revolve around Bernard and Mary Berenson, the art historians who created Villa I Tatti: their studies, the architecture they commissioned in the early 20th century, their installation of Eastern and Western art in the Villa, their collaborations with collectors, and their creation and use of a photo archive.

Harvard University offers several fellowships to Harvard students that could be used for these projects. For example, the Morrill Fellowships granted by the Music Department of GSAS are used for research in Italy on music from the 15th to the 18th centuries, and cover travel and living expenses for appropriate periods of research in Italy. Recipients are invited to avail themselves of the resources of the Morrill Music Library at the Villa I Tatti. I Tatti is prepared to support and help organize events that will be held at the home campus of Harvard University, especially those that engage students. In October 2011, for example, we collaborated with a group of graduate students on Vasari/500 Envisioning New Directions in Vasari Studies, a conference held at Harvard University. Future collaborations could include conferences, lectures, or concerts that take place on the Harvard campus.