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A Project of the National Gallery of Art, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, in Association with the Archivio di Stato di Roma and the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca

Project Overview

Detail, Novissima et accuratissima Romae, Jan van Vianen

Jan van Vianen, Jan Goeree, and Giovanni Battista Falda, Novissima et accuratissima Romae veteris et novae tabula topographica delineatore, 1694–1699, detail of the Roman Forum with the church of Santi Luca e Martina and Arch of Septimius Severus. Collection of Fredrika and Paul Jacobs

Welcome to The History of the Accademia di San Luca, c. 1590–1635: Documents from the Archivio di Stato di Roma. This site makes available archival documents and other research materials concerning one of the first artists’ academies in Europe. These resources document the breadth of the Accademia’s activities, drawing from the proceedings of meetings, financial and legal transactions, property rentals, and other records. New documents and research materials are added to the site periodically, all cross-referenced to people connected with the academy’s institutional and professional concerns and the places where they interacted.

First launched in 2010, the site was initially created using Extensible Markup Language (XML) within the parameters of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) [1]. In 2014 the site was migrated to the platform used by the National Gallery of Art website to ensure its long-term sustainability and extensibility. Search parameters initially developed in 2010 were enhanced after the 2014 site migration. The site’s original documents and features have been re-edited and updated to correct errors and inconsistencies as well as to incorporate new information.

The current site is driven by the National Gallery of Art's content management and site design platform. High resolution images are managed through the Java Script Object Notation (JSON) file format, compatible with Application Programming Interface (API) viewing applications using the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), specifically Mirador and IIPMooViewer. The site is built on Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and JavaScript Framework (jQuery).

News and Updates

Fall 2023

Our project website now features essays. Published in September 2023, two essays written by Dr. Laurie Nussdorfer and Dr. Antonia Fiori contextualize the role of notaries and legal systems in early modern Rome, paying particular attention to artists affiliated with the Accademia di San Luca. Both essays are available in English and Italian. 

In addition, six short essays, revised by Silvia Tita in 2022, describe churches associated with the Accademia, such as the Church of Santi Luca e Martina, and draw from historical maps and Roman guidebooks.

Please check here for future project updates. For information, please write to: [email protected]

Why Study Academies?


Federico Zuccaro, Taddeo Drawing after the Antique; In the Background Copying a Facade by Polidoro, c. 1595, pen and brown ink and brush with brown wash over black chalk and touches of red chalk. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program

The study of academies of art in early modern Europe has always turned on current perceptions of the role of such institutions in the training and support of artists. Depending on one’s cultural and historical context, the academy assumes the role of hero (ushering in self-governance and the end of the guild system) or villain (opposing the avant-garde) in a continuous drama. This story spans nearly five hundred years, from about 1563, with the founding of the Accademia del Disegno in Florence, to the present day. These debates persist—especially within the fine arts departments of American universities that were modeled, to varying degrees, on European fine arts academies.  

The Roman Accademia di San Luca—as one of the oldest, most influential, and longest lived (it flourishes now)—provides a telling example of the critical fortune of European art academies more generally. When the original members of the Accademia met before the notary and laid out their founding principles in March 1593, the deputies cited the nobility of art, the glory of God, and the honor of their profession as their raisons d’être (see below, “Toward a Documentary History of the Accademia di San Luca”). They also mentioned the importance of the practical education of young artists. Only the last of these points might find resonance in the promotional literature of today’s academies of art.[2] Rather than couching the goals of the profession under the abstract rubrics of nobility or divinity, the Yale University School of Art, on one hand, foregrounds notions of quality, creativity, criticality, and innovation.[3] The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, on the other hand, describes its mission as providing a global education, as well as instruction in history and theory, within a humanistic curriculum. Its stated objective is to encourage diverse and creative students to discover and develop (their) individual excellence in the visual arts.[4]

Toward a Documentary History of the Accademia di San Luca

Three lines of cursive handwriting on paper

Detail of ASR, TNC, uff. 15, 1624, pt. I, vol. 99, fol. 367r (January 24, 1624)

Our understanding of the early history of the Accademia di San Luca has long depended on the initial published accounts, one written at the beginning of the seventeenth century by the academy’s secretary, Romano Alberti, and the other at the beginning of the nineteenth century by then-secretary Melchiorre Missirini.[5] In the two hundred years that separate these chronicles, many of the documents that the Accademia kept for its own records had been lost. We have several anchors—including the brief from Pope Gregory XIII in 1577 and the bull from Pope Sixtus V in 1588 calling for the founding of an academy for the painters and sculptors of Rome, as well as the two earliest publications, both under the authorship of Alberti, Trattato della nobiltà della pittura (1585) and Origine e progresso dell’Academia del Dissegno, de pittori, scultori, et architetti di Roma (1604), referenced above—but there have, until recently, been many gaps in the narrative.[6] The History of the Accademia di San Luca, c. 1590‒1635: Documents from the Archivio di Stato di Roma undertakes as one of its principal goals the restitution of the notarial records of the first 45 years of the Accademia that were once in the institution’s archive.

Whereas many of these documents concern property rentals, collection of dues and alms, appraisals, and internal disputes, in other cases we find evidence of monumental decisions. One of the most important of these is the document that proposes to found an Accademia (formare una Academia) on March 7, 1593, when the six deputies—Giovanni de Vecchi, Tommaso Laureti, Scipione Pulzone, and Federico Zuccaro, as well as possibly Nicolò da Pesaro (il Trombetta) and Jacopo Rocchetti—presented to the members of the “Congregazione delli Pittori di Roma” the principal tenets for the new institution.[7 Among these were the intention that it serve for the benefit of instruction for giovani (young boys) and for all those who wished to follow the correct path of the study of painting. The Accademia also provided support for youths in financial need. Second, the members of the Accademia were meant to be free from a guild and any mechanical or servile obligations. The document further addressed the meaningful work to be produced by the academicians: paintings that would inspire piety and devotion as, it was then understood, the holy church fathers intended. In like fashion, the deputies proscribed, for reasons of reverence and decorum, that members hang paintings of saints or even secular works from the windows of their workshops or in public. Those who practiced painting in workshops (as opposed to private studios) were admitted as members of the Compagnia (confraternity), but not the Accademia. Finally, the deputies pointed to the vile state in which their formerly exalted profession then found itself and offered an alternative vision that would inspire the youths to work hard and imitate the most esteemed artists in order to practice painting nobly.

Raphael-St Luke

Traditionally attributed to Raphael, Saint Luke Painting the Madonna and Child in the Presence of Raphael, second decade of the 16th century?, oil on canvas. Accademia Nazionale di San Luca, Rome

The early years of the Accademia di San Luca bear witness to the fitful growing pains of an inchoate institution. Although statutes were created in the 1590s, they were not officially promulgated until 1607 and were finally published only in 1609.[8] In addition, the teaching curriculum that Zuccaro introduced in 1593‒1594, which faltered after his tenure as principe (prince), was short lived.[9] If Romano Alberti is to be believed, the succeeding principi, one per year from 1595 through 1600, did not focus on education.[10] Unlike the Accademia del Disegno in Florence, where the luogotenente invigilated at the meetings of the artist members, the cardinal protector of the Accademia rarely set foot in the academy or in the confraternal church of San Luca until the 1620s. As argued in The Accademia Seminars: The Accademia di San Luca in Rome, c. 1590‒1635, the first three decades of the institution’s history are not marked by a unified vision; rather, they attest to the relative energy, vision, and engagement of both its princes and its protectors to effect change.[11]


Robert van Voerst, Sir Anthony van Dyck, Simon Vouet, probably 1626/1641, engraving, Rosenwald Collection, 1943.3.8281

A­ series of documents from 1624 chronicles the removal of the principe Antiveduto Grammatica on October 24, 1624 for reasons related in part to his tendency to make consequential decisions through the select group of academicians called the colletta, rather than through the larger body of the Accademia, and in part to his desire to sell their prized possession: Raphael’s (or so it was then thought) Saint Luke Painting the Madonna and Child in the Presence of Raphael.[12] Grammatica was relieved of his duties and replaced by a French painter, Simon Vouet, who remained as prince until June 29, 1627 when he was recalled to France by the king, Louis XIII.[13]

This period also marks important changes to the powers of the Cardinal Protector Francesco Maria del Monte and the transition to the reign of Pope Urban VIII Barberini, who understood how useful the Accademia could be to his cultural agenda. During those nearly three years of service, Vouet reformed the educational program of the Accademia and created a provisional détente between the artists from Northern Europe and their Italian peers.[14]  This was the period, too, when the new cardinal protector, Francesco Barberini, made his (and the pope’s) will known to the Accademia, occasionally through his secretary, the antiquarian Cassiano dal Pozzo.


Filippo Juvarra, Pietro da Cortona's Arms of Urban VIII on the Facade of the Church of Santi Luca e Martina, from Raccolta di varie targhe di Roma, Rome, 1711

The Accademia was henceforth both less autonomous and more financially secure. In 1634 the principe Pietro da Cortona ordered excavations of the crypt of the Church of San Luca, where the remains of Santa Martina and other saints were miraculously discovered. However skeptically we might now view these discoveries, they were sufficiently convincing to elicit a 6,000-scudi donation from Cardinal Francesco Barberini.[15] The building of Cortona’s imposing Church of Santi Luca e Martina, begun in 1635, raised the Accademia’s profile and asserted its presence in the Eternal City.

How to Search

To search archival documents and transcriptions, visitors may select a single search term, combine guided searches in up to six categories, or launch a free-text search across the site from the search page. Indexed names include those of artists and artisans as well as persons constituting a wide swath of the population of Rome who transacted business with members of the Accademia (numbering around 1,450 individuals). The Accademia site includes pages for all of those mentioned in the documents, including references and links to the documents in which their names appear. These pages also indicate the role or roles these individuals played in Roman society and/or within the Accademia, if that information is retrievable. For well-known artists or for artists who contributed significantly to the life of the Accademia, the site incorporates artist pages that include not only links to the documents in which they are named but also selected bibliographies, related images, and in some cases portraits.

The site also includes pages for over 50 places recorded in the documents. Brief interpretive essays focus on five of the most important sites pertaining to the Accademia’s institutional history and business, such as the Church of Santi Luca e Martina, home to the Accademia di San Luca beginning in 1588. These are localized, where possible, within historic maps that represent views of Rome using varying modes of cartographic convention, from the woodcut published in the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493) to the ichnographic plan of Giovanni Battista Falda (1676) and followers.

Bibliographies link either to the catalog of the National Gallery of Art Library (Mercury) or to WorldCat. Many of the works of art represented in the carousels are from the collection of the National Gallery of Art, along with other museums that house the Samuel H. Kress Collection. The carousels additionally provide hundreds of open-access works of art by academicians from museums across the world. More are planned for periodic future updates.  back to top


The Archive and Transcription Conventions


Detail of ASR, TNC, uff. 11, 1593, pt. I, vol. 25, fol. 426v (7 March 1593)

The History of the Accademia di San Luca, c. 1590-1635: Documents from the Archivio di Stato di Roma brings together notarial records from the Trenta Notai Capitolini (TNC) found in the Archivio di Stato di Roma (ASR). It provides access to a complete transcription of extant notarial records of the period from the Archivio di Stato di Roma, identified by the project team, along with images of the original documents. The transcriptions and images are viewable side by side. Many of these documents concerning the institutional history of the Accademia di San Luca were previously thought to be lost. They include rental agreements; transactions with the workers who were charged with the renovation of the Accademia's original, derelict church; inventories of the collections used for didactic purposes; evidence of the institution's increasing control over production and appraisal of works of art; and details of the internal strife that marked the Accademia's first decades of existence.

The transcriptions may be searched by personal name (under all known variant spellings), place name, key term, document type, notary name, and year. The documents included are not only newly available to researchers of early modern Italy but also accessible in a way that promotes their wider use and allows for the identification of additional archival material.

The documents may be accessed from the search page.

Transcription Conventions

General Bibliography

The general bibliography provides sources relating to the history of the Accademia, its most prominent members, the governance of the Catholic Church, and the urban fabric of Rome. The bibliographies of individual artists are found on the artist pages, which may be accessed from the search page.

General Bibliography on the Accademia di San Luca

The Publication

The cover of a book, titled The Accademia Seminars

The Accademia Seminars: The Accademia di San Luca in Rome, c. 1590–1635, edited by Peter M. Lukehart

This volume reexamines the establishment and early history of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, one of the most important centers of governance, education, and theory in the arts for the early modern period and the model for all subsequent academies of art worldwide. Eleven essays by an international group of historians, archivists, and art historians provide the most comprehensive history of the Accademia to be published in more than 40 years, and the first in nearly 200 years to be based almost entirely on primary and documentary material. The authors examine the institution’s founding and development through unpublished documents as well as reinterpretation of technical materials and theoretical treatises. In so doing, they also provide new means for following the progress of the most significant artists—in addition to a host of lesser-known painters, sculptors, and architects—who were working in Rome in the early seventeenth century. Published by the National Gallery of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.  back to top

Project Partners with the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts

The History of the Accademia di San Luca, c. 1590‒1635: Documents from the Archivio di Stato di Roma was conceived and supported by the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, in collaboration with the Archivio di Stato di Roma and the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca. Additional support comes from the Getty Foundation, a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation for a series of education tours dedicated to audience outreach, and a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation for the transcription of archival documents carried out by former research associate Roberto Fiorentini†.

The following online projects have provided technical and scholarly examples of particular significance to this undertaking:

For information, please write to: [email protected]

Special Thanks

The project team of The History of the Accademia di San Luca, c. 1590–1635: Documents from the Archivio di Stato di Roma thanks, in addition to the previous members of the team, colleagues at the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca, including Francesco Moschini, segretario generale, and Elisa Camboni, head of the Archivio Storico, as well as at the Archivio di Stato di Roma, Paolo Bonora, director. Special thanks also to Catherine Sutherland, deputy librarian, Pepys Library, Magdalene College, Cambridge; Vincent Buonanno; and Paul and Frederika Jacobs for their generosity. The project team also thanks Sarah McPhee, Patrizia Cavazzini, and Laurie Nussdorfer, who serve on our advisory board, and Antonia Fiori, associate professor of the history of medieval and early modern law, Università La Sapienza di Roma, who were especially helpful with the most recent updates to the site. The team is equally grateful to colleagues at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts: Steven Nelson, dean; Elizabeth Cropper, dean emerita; Therese O’Malley, associate dean; and Valeria Federici, research associate. In addition, the team expresses its appreciation for the support of William McClure, treasurer; Linda Stone, chief information officer; and Alex Wu, deputy chief information officer, National Gallery of Art. The team is also grateful to the Gallery’s web designers, developers, and systems architects.

Current Team Members

  • Peter Lukehart, Project Director

  • Eli Bhattacharyya, IT Project Manager
  • Carolyn Campbell, Senior Front-end Developer
  • Martín C. Franzini, Chief of Digital Product and Experience
  • John Gordy, Product Manager
  • Alan Manton, Content Producer
  • Magda Nakassis, Editor
  • Memo Saenz, Product Manager
  • Matthew J. Westerby, Digital Research Officer
  • Fulvia Zaninelli, Research Associate
  • Emily Zoss, Managing Editor for Research Publications


[1] Peter M. Lukehart, "The Journey of The History of the Accademia di San Luca, c. 1590–1635: Documents from the Archivio di Stato di Roma into and out of XML," Proceedings of the Balisage Markup Conference, vol. 21 (2018):

[2For a more thorough introduction to the study of academies of art in general and of the Accademia di San Luca in particular, see Peter M. Lukehart, “Introduction,” in The Accademia Seminars: The Accademia di San Luca in Rome, c. 1590–1635, ed. Peter M. Lukehart, CASVA Seminar Papers 2 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2009), 1–21.  Among the innovations that the Accademia introduced was a program of education for young artists, including biweekly instruction in drawing followed by academies (lectures) on topics ranging from perspective to grace and decorum.  This new emphasis on the intertwined importance of theory and practice has remained a constant for all subsequent institutional pedagogy of the arts, from the French Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (1648) to the university-based system that exists in the present-day United States. Reading the mission statements of current art schools and university fine arts departments, we find these two fundamental principles at play; the variations between programs arises from the emphasis placed on one or the other skill.

[3] "The School of Art is founded on the belief that art is a fundamental force in national and international culture, and that one of the primary standards by which societies are judged is the quality, creative freedom, critical insight, and formal and technical innovation of the visual art they produce."

[4From the Art Institute of Chicago corporate charter: "To provide excellence in the delivery of a global education in visual, design, media, and related arts, with attendant studies in the history and theory of those disciplines set within a broad-based, humanistic curriculum in the liberal arts and sciences. To provide instruction for this education in a range of formats: written, spoken, media, and exhibition-based." "Objective: To assemble a diverse body of intelligent and creative students and faculty in an environment designed to facilitate and encourage the discovery and production of significant ideas and images and to provide for the development of individual excellence in undergraduate and graduate programs in the visual and related arts."

[5] Romano Alberti, Origine et progresso dell’Academia del Dissegno, de pittori, scultori, et architetti di Roma (Pavia, 1604); Melchiorre Missirini, Memorie per servire alla storia della Romana Accademia di S. Luca fino alla morte di Antonio Canova (Rome, 1823).

[6] The brief of 1577 and the bull of 1588 are transcribed from Missirini’s Italian translations (1823, 20‒21; 23‒26) in Lukehart 2009, app. 1, 348–349; app. 2, 350–352. Romano Alberti, Trattato della nobiltà della pittura composto ad istantia della venerabil’ Compagnia di San Luca et nobil’ Academia delli pittori di Roma (Rome, 1585). For Alberti’s early history of the Accademia, see note 5. 

[7] For a fuller treatment of the issues discussed in this summary, see Peter M. Lukehart, “The Accademia di San Luca between Educational and Religious Reform,” in The Italian Academies, 1525–1700: Networks of Culture, Innovation, and Dissent, ed. Jane E. Everson, Denis V. Reidy, and Lisa Sampson (Oxford, 2016), 170–185.

[8] Alberti 1604, 6–13; “Statuti originali in tempo di Paulo 5.o," Archivio Storico dell’Accademia di San Luca; published as Ordini dell’Accademia de Pittori et Scultori di Roma (Rome: Carlo Vullietti, 1609).

[9] Alberti 1604, 25–78 (curriculum and accademie [lectures]).

[10] Alberti 1604, 78–80.

[11] Peter M. Lukehart, “Visions and Divisions in the Accademia di San Luca, 1593-1595,” in The Accademia Seminars: The Accademia di San Luca in Rome, c. 1590-1635, ed. Peter M. Lukehart (Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2009): 160-185, esp. 185.

[12] Stefania Ventra, Restauri di dipinti nel Novecento: Le posizioni nell’Accademia di San Luca, 1931–1958 (Università di Roma, La Sapienza, Studi Umanistici-Arti, 2014), esp. 88–108.

[13] Elisa Camboni, “Antiveduto Grammatica: un principe-imprenditore; L’Accademia di San Luca nei primi anni del Seicento,” Annali delle arti e degli archivi: Pittura, scultura, architettura 3 (2017): 211–216 provides an insightful reading of the events; see also Peter M. Lukehart, “The Roman Connection: The Accademia di San Luca as an Exemplum for the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture,” in Accademie artistiche tra eredità e dibattiti contemporanei, ed. Jérome Delaplanche, Sarah Linford, and Francesco Moschini, Conference Proceedings of the Académie de France à Rome—Accademia di Belle Arti—Accademia di San Luca (Rome, forthcoming). For a different interpretation, see R. Ward Bissell, “Raphael and the Accademia di San Luca in Rome,” Artibus et Historiae 32, no. 63 (2011): 55–72.

[14] Peter Lukehart is completing a study of the major educational reforms undertaken by the Accademia from the late sixteenth through the late seventeenth century, in “(Ri)Scrivere ‘l’Origine e progresso’ dell’Accademia di San Luca,” in Storie e controstorie delle Accademie del Disegno fra Firenze, Bologna, Roma, ed. Vita Segreto (Rome, forthcoming).

[15] Karl Noehles, La chiesa di Santi Luca e Martina nell’opera di Pietro da Cortona (Rome, 1970), 99; Joseph Connors, review of Pietro da Cortona e il disegnoJournal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 57, no. 3 (1998): 318–321, esp. 320. See also Silvia Tita's essay on the Church of Santi Luca e Martina.