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Writing on Walls in Early Modern Italy

Online Event
coverThis event is part of the Urban Governance and Civic Participation in Words and Stone Lecture Series.
Thursday, October 14, 2021, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

This event is part of the Urban Governance and Civic Participation in Words and Stone Lecture Series.

It is well known that classicizing inscriptions were widely used in Renaissance Italy to mark elite domestic buildings with the authority and identity of their patron-owners. Previous studies have tended to discuss these textual interventions on the designed surfaces of the palazzo as personal statements of a given patron’s erudition and desire for memorialization. Instead, this paper moves between better-known monumental ‘private’ inscriptions of individual palaces and the often-overlooked ‘public’ texts that were widely affixed to both private and public sites. The latter were often mundane statements that legislated behaviour, professed civic cohesion, claimed sponsorship of public amenities or quite simply indicated the ownership of rental property by a third party. By considering both textual forms in conjunction, Fabrizio Nevola will argue that the blurred and contested boundaries between domestic and public urban space were literally inscribed on the walls of the streets of the Renaissance city. Comparisons will be drawn between evidence from various Italian cities, and the proposal will be advanced that through the sixteenth century wall inscriptions came increasingly to be used as an instrument of government control, as they functioned as visual markers of how authorities sought to manage the everyday uses of public space.

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About the speaker

Fabrizio NevolaFabrizio Nevola is Professor of Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Exeter (UK). His research focuses on urban and architectural history of early modern cities, with a particular attention for public spaces in Italy on which he has written and published extensively.  His most recent book, Street Life in Renaissance Italy (Yale UP, 2020) accompanies several edited collections involving comparative work on urban space and his first book, Siena: Constructing the Renaissance City (Yale UP, 2007) was awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner International Book Award for Architecture.  Through several grant-funded research projects, including the 'Hidden Florence’ and ‘Hidden Cities’ apps and the new Florence4D website, he has developed digital humanities spatial approaches using geospatial, 3D modelling and GPS technologies.