Peter Fane-Saunders

Peter Fane-Saunders

Rush H Kress Fellow
Ancient Greek Accounts of Lost Architecture and their Influence, from the Renaissance to the Romantic Age


Peter Fane-Saunders is an art historian whose work explores how classical descriptions of long-lost works of art and architecture influenced Renaissance thought and practice. He received his PhD from the Warburg Institute, London. His research has been variously supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, British Academy, Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and Leverhulme Trust. His monograph, Pliny the Elder and the Emergence of Renaissance Architecture (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016), won the Society of Architectural Historians/Mellon Author Award and the Renaissance Society of America’s Phyllis Goodhart Gordan Prize for the best book in Renaissance Studies.

Project Summary

From the Renaissance onwards, artists and scholars had three main sources of information about ancient architecture – material remains; the architectural treatise of Vitruvius; and descriptions scattered throughout classical literature. The significance of the latter has been largely overlooked, despite the fact that such accounts – if taken together – constitute a considerable source of information. Particularly notable in this respect are the reports of ancient Greek historians and geographers that refer to numerous structures around the Mediterranean basin and farther afield, from Wonders of the World to idiosyncratic landmarks, memorials and other monumental statements of power. This project addresses the omission by asking two key questions: How was architecture known only from authors such as Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, Strabo and Pausanias, translated into the images, texts and buildings of the Renaissance and beyond? And how did these interpretations of a plurality of architectural forms fit into a broader creative dialogue with antiquity?