I Tatti at Fifty

June 9, 2011
Musicians performing during an event at I Tatti



The Deborah Loeb Brice Loggiato and the Harvard University Center at Fifty

Click here or above for images of the event.

Read the speeches here:

When Bernard Berenson died in 1959, he dreamed that his alma mater, Harvard University, would turn his home, I Tatti, into a center for learning and reflection. Since its first academic year in 1961-62, the Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies has welcomed almost one thousand scholars from the United States, Australia, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, and wherever the Italian Renaissance is studied. They have come to do their own research on any aspect of the Italian Renaissance–history, the history of art and architecture, music, and literature. Forged by the often life-changing experience of I Tatti, they have formed an academic community that stretches over much of the globe and has influenced generations of new scholars. 

In June 2011, we celebrated the Harvard Center’s first fifty years. Lino Pertile, I Tatti’s seventh director, and his wife Anna Bensted welcomed some three hundred guests over the two days of celebrations, including the keynote speaker Don Randel, President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, outgoing chairman of the I Tatti Council Debby Brice, incoming chairman Susan Roberts, and dozens of former Fellows, Council members, well-wishers, and staff, all, as we call them, members of the I Tatti family.

The celebrations started in the Myron and Sheila Gilmore Limonaia, named after I Tatti’s second director and his wife. In his welcome address, Lino Pertile imagined Bernard Berenson walking up the cypress allée today and marveling at the changes that have taken place over the last half-century, as well as at the things that have remained constant. But while he acknowledged past successes he also spoke of the efforts we must make to ensure that there is a future for Renaissance studies. Don Randel spoke about the importance of the arts and humanities, how their stock has fallen in government today, and how vital places such as I Tatti thus remain. 

The fiftieth anniversary coincided with the inauguration of the new Deborah Loeb Brice Loggiato, a magnificent addition to the infrastructure at I Tatti. It provides fifteen beautiful studies with views over the Tuscan countryside, and a superb lecture room, the Florence Gould Hall. Designed by Baltimore architect Charles Brickbauer, this handsome building was part of Walter Kaiser’s dream when he was Director of I Tatti (1988-2002). Unfortunately, Professor Kaiser was unable to join us, but Bill Hood (VIT'85,'86,'90,'00) read his address. Charles Brickbauer spoke of his design and the inspirations that guided him, while Joseph Connors spoke about the progress made during his directorship (2002-2010) and thanked all those whose hard work and support had finally brought the project to a close.

The guests then moved up the new staircase to the Anne Pellegrino Garden for their first view of the Brice Loggiato. Lino Pertile thanked all those whose generosity made the building a possibility, in particular Debby Brice, after whom the building has been named, the trustees of the Florence Gould Foundation, Joseph Pellegrino, Melvin R. Seiden, Jean Bonna, Victor Atkins, Walter and Virgie Klein, Mary Gibbons Landor, Arthur Loeb, Mandy and Edna Moross, Fred Koontz, Gabriele Geier, Bill and Julie Thompson, Guillaume Malle, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the Ahmanson Foundation, the Billy Rose Foundation, the Booth Heritage Foundation, the Bunge Corporation Foundation, two anonymous donors, and numerous former I Tatti Fellows. After Debby Brice added thanks of her own and cut the ribbon, a band (Funk Off) appeared out of nowhere and began to play, and the marvelous garden party took off. The guests were able to visit the new addition to the I Tatti complex, mingle with old friends, and enjoy the beautiful evening.

The following day, Florence Gould Hall was filled to capacity for a half-day conference on “The Material Culture of the Italian Signori, 1200-1600." Organized by Fellow Areli Marina (VIT'11), the conference explored how visual and material evidence illuminates aspects of Italy’s secular and ecclesiastical lordship in ways that textual sources alone cannot. The afternoon was devoted to short papers describing a number of publication and library projects currently going on at I Tatti. These include: the project in memory of Council member Melvin R. Seiden to produce an online catalogue of the Berenson Art Collection; the scholarly print catalog of the Art Collection currently being put together by Carl Strehlke and Machtelt Israëls; the project to digitize and catalog some 17,000 photographs of works of art whose whereabouts are unknown; the creation of online finding-aids or inventories of manuscript collections held by the Berenson Library, chief among them the Bernard and Mary Berenson Papers; and an online exhibition on the close ties between Harvard and Mary and Bernard Berenson, both of whom were students there in the 1880s. 

The celebrations concluded with an extraordinary concert by "Le Poème Harmonique" whose program, entitled Venezia: dalle calli ai palazzi, provided a splendid musical cross-section of early 17th-century Venice, from street songs and opera, to instrumental works da camera. The resounding applause at the end of the evening was, of course, for the players and singers, but also for the Harvard Center at I Tatti as it celebrates its first half-century, and sets out on its next.