Linda Mueller

Linda Mueller

Graduate Fellow
Arte-Facts: Drawings as Legal and Juridical Objects in Early Modern Italy
2022-2023 (January-June)
Linda Mueller


Linda Mueller is a PhD candidate in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University. She specializes in Italian Renaissance art, with an interest in the impact of artistic practice, creativity, and visuality on legal thinking and reasoning, as well as in the interplay and fractures between notarization and art creation. Her dissertation studies artistic and notarial drawings in legal and juridical documents in early modern Italy. Research for her project has been supported by the Samuel H. Kress Institutional Fellowship at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence, the Newberry Library, and I Tatti. She holds an A.M. from Harvard University, a M.A. from Utrecht University, and a B.A. from Tuebingen University.


Project Summary

This dissertation studies artistic and notarial drawings in legal and juridical documents––such as contracts, testaments, and court records––in early modern Italy. Only a few of these drawings have survived, and fewer still in their original contexts within notarial archives and files. The investigation begins by illuminating the drawings’ ties to the material culture of medieval legal documents from around 1400 and traces their shifting institutional and theoretical frameworks within notarization practices and legal-humanist discourse through the early seventeenth century. The project addresses the drawings’ impact on processes of decision making and identity formation of civic and religious bodies as well as on the creation of normative and legal spaces, in which visual media played a crucial role. Scrutinizing the drawings’ visual rationales, factual meanings, indexical nature, and fictitious elements, the thesis asks: What do these visuals teach us about the material and aesthetic aspects of the legal world in Renaissance Italy? By mapping out the multifaceted normative legal elements of disegno, the project contributes to a broader and more nuanced understanding of the notions of drawing and its practices in Renaissance Italy.