Newsletter Archive: Spring 2008
Neopolitan Topics: Focus on a Neglected Field
Neapolitan topics have curiously been neglected by British scholars
of art history. The Research Forum decided to address this issue
by organising a visit to Naples from 30 January to 2 February
for Courtauld researchers to meet staff and students at the University.
Napoli-phobia was not an option for our intrepid group, which
consisted of Dr Joanna Cannon, Dr Georgia Clarke, Professor Paul
Hills, Dr Susie Nash, Professor Patricia Rubin, Dr Peter Stewart
and PhD student Edward Payne. Coordinated jointly by the Research
Forum and Professor Francesco Caglioti of the University of Naples
Federico II, the trip was designed to explore resources, make
contacts and encourage research in Naples by Courtauld staff
For four days, we took part in an intensive programme of lectures and
site visits – conducted entirely in Italian – ranging from
antiquity to the nineteenth century and spread out across the city.
Discussions touched on a variety of artistic media, ranging from bronze
horse heads to painted fresco ceilings. Our skills as linguists were
put to the test, and the bar was set high by Patricia Rubin, who kicked
off the programme with an engaging lecture on Parmigianino, delivered
in fluent Italian. Equally stimulating lectures were given the next
day by Francesco Aceto on Simone Martini, and by Francesco Caglioti
Our first site visit, led by Carlo Gasparri, explored the sculptural
treasures and ancient artefacts from the Farnese Collection at the Museo
Archeologico Nazionale. This was followed by an examination of an array
of churches led by research students, some of whom were graduates of
The Courtauld! From San Lorenzo Maggiore and San Domenico Maggiore,
to the Cappella Pontano and the Duomo, students enlightened professors
about the physical structure, interior decoration and elaborate history
of these buildings. We watched with awe as the exponents of Italy’s
oratory tradition spoke passionately and tirelessly – for as long
as two hours – without glancing at notes or pausing to draw breath.
These site visits not only tested our ear for Italian and our stamina
for art history, but also the strength of our bladders, as no talk was
interrupted by even the call of bodily functions!
On the final day we were transported from the myths of Virgil’s Tomb and the depths of the Crypta Neapolitana, to the heights of the Certosa di San Martino, with its breathtaking view over the bay of Naples. As we bid farewell to our Neapolitan friends and colleagues, who treated us with grace and hospitality every step of the way, a London exchange was mentioned. Many of us still remain in close contact with our hosts, and this research trip no doubt points to future Courtauld-Naples collaborations.
Edward Payne, PhD student
Research students managing their Napoli-phobia
Certosa di San Martino in Naples, with panorama of the city and Mount Vesuvius