National Gallery of Art - CASVA

Research Projects
Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts

Three long-term research projects are in progress:

Early Modern Sources in Translation | American Landscape Design | Accademia di San Luca

Early Modern Sources in Translation: Carlo Cesare Malvasia's Felsina pittrice

Image: Figure representing Bologna, from Carlo Cesare Malvasia, Felsina pittrice (Bologna, 1678). Department of Image Collections, National Gallery of Art Library, WashingtonCarlo Cesare Malvasia's Felsina pittrice, published in Bologna in 1678, is one of the most important early modern critical texts on Italian art. The Felsina provides a history of painting in Bologna that both imitates and challenges Giorgio Vasari's Lives (1550/1568). Indeed, it may be considered the seventeenth-century Bolognese equivalent of Vasari's Tuscan-Roman account of Italian painting. The Felsina has never been translated into English in full, and has not been published in its entirety in an Italian edition since 1841. An annotated English translation, with accompanying historical notes, is in preparation under the direction of Dean Elizabeth Cropper. This translation, undertaken by a team of scholars, will appear in a series of individual monographic volumes. Each volume will include transcriptions of relevant manuscript notes by Malvasia now in the Biblioteca dell'Archiginnasio, Bologna, as well as a modern edition of the Italian text, making the series valuable not only for teaching purposes, but also for specialists. With the exception of material related to the Carracci, which will be edited by Giovanna Perini of the Università degli Studi di Urbino, the text and notes will be transcribed and edited by Lorenzo Pericolo.

The focus to date has been on the first part of Malvasia's text and on providing basic tools for the translators, annotators, and editors of subsequent volumes. The annotated edition of the first volume will include accompanying essays by Elizabeth Cropper on Malvasia's treatment of the "primi lumi" of Bolognese painting and by Carlo Alberto Girotto on the history of the various early printings of the Felsina. Historical notes will be provided by Elizabeth Cropper, Lorenzo Pericolo, Giancarla Periti, and Jessica N. Richardson, with the assistance of Alexandra Hoare. Identification and new photography of works to be illustrated has produced an important archive for the art of Bologna in the fourteenth century.

Subsequent volumes will include Malvasia's important survey of Bolognese printmakers, with an English translation by Naoko Takahatake; the life of Domenichino, with a translation by Anne Summerscale and historical notes by Summerscale, Lorenzo Pericolo, and Alexandra Hoare; the lives of Francesco Francia and his followers, with a translation by Alessandra Galizzi Kroegel; the lives of Alessandro Tiarini and Giacomo Cavedone, both translated by Philip Sohm; and the life of Guido Reni, translated by Lorenzo Pericolo. 

Research Associate: Alexandra Hoare
Assistant to the Program of Research: Hayley Plack

Keywords in American Landscape Design

Image: Robert Mills, Picturesque View of the Building, and Grounds in Front, 1841, depicting the Smithsonian Institution. National Archives, Washington, DCThe publication of Keywords in American Landscape Design (National Gallery of Art and Yale University Press, 2010) concluded the first phase of a project to compile a photographic corpus and historical textual database documenting landscape design in North America during the colonial and antebellum periods. This historical and visual reference work has received two book prizes: the 2011 J. B. Jackson Book Prize and the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries 2011 Award for a Significant Work in Botanical or Horticultural Literature. The book has been adopted for coursework at Harvard University, Yale University, and University of Maryland.

Through texts and images, the book traces the changing meaning of landscape and garden terminology as it was adapted from Old World sources and transformed into an American landscape vocabulary. The goal is to map the evolution of a regional vocabulary of design and the transformation of features within the changing environmental and cultural traditions of America, as defined by the current boundaries of the United States. Under Associate Dean Therese O’Malley’s direction, researchers compiled descriptions of, and references to, gardens and ornamental landscapes from a wide variety of sources, both published and manuscript, and a corpus of images comprising more than eighteen hundred reproductions. One thousand of these illustrations and hundreds of citations are collected in the volume. Each of one hundred keywords is accompanied by a short historical essay, a selection of images, and a chronologically arranged section of usage and citations. Three longer interpretive essays provide a broader historical and cultural context for terms, sites, and images. Several additional reference tools have resulted from this research, including an extensive bibliography and a database of images that represents a comprehensive photographic archive of antebellum American garden and landscape design.

The next phase of the Keywords project is to make available all the research material gathered to date, which far exceeds what could be presented in the printed publication. A digital database of images, people, places, texts, and terms will offer a comprehensive and extensively cross-referenced compendium of information on the social and geographical history of gardens in the early period of US history. The existing database of image information is currently the basis of what will become a system of relational databases. Project staff members are updating and correcting data; adding missing information; making clear associations of image files with image information; scanning nondigital images in the Keywords corpus; and upgrading image files as necessary. They are also exploring model digital image database and research websites.

Research Associates: Malcolm Clendenin (to February 2011) and Kathryn Barush
Robert H. Smith Research Associate: Emily Pugh
Assistant to the Program of Research: Jessica Ruse

The Early History of the Accademia di San Luca, c. 1590–1635

Image: Pierfrancesco Alberti, A Painter's Academy, c. 1625. Research Library, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, California (2007.PR.29)The aim of the project, under the direction of Associate Dean Peter M. Lukehart, is to create the first institutional history of the foundation of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome. Drawing from original statutes, proceedings of meetings, ledger books, and court records, the project brings together a large number of new and previously unpublished documentary materials with relevant secondary sources. Conceived as two complementary tools, a database of documentation on the National Gallery of Art website and a printed volume of interpretive studies shed light on the foundation, operation, administration, and financial management of the fledgling academy from its origins in the late sixteenth century to its consolidation as a teaching institution in the 1630s.

The searchable database and website, "The History of the Accademia di San Luca, c. 1590–1635: Documents from the Archivio di Stato di Roma," provides access to a complete diplomatic transcription of every extant notarial Accademia-related record in the Archivio di Stato identified by the project team, as well as a digital image of the original document, the two viewable side by side. Transcriptions of the documents are tagged in Extensible Markup Language (XML) following the guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative ( Thus the user can select from multiple search parameters that connect to all related documents, which are scalable for line-by-line comparisons. The user will also find summaries in English and Italian of the original documents. Search results for artists yield bibliography and a growing database of related images, the majority from the collections of the National Gallery of Art.

Since its official launch in 2010, the website has been presented in universities and research institutes abroad, including Paris, London, Cambridge, Oxford, Toronto, Pisa, Florence, Genoa, and Fontainebleau, in a broad outreach initiative made possible by a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. In addition, the site has been enhanced through the incorporation of additional features and materials. Plans are currently under way to integrate a geotagging feature that will allow place names mentioned in the database documents to link to their respective locations on interactive maps of Rome. This will provide a powerful research tool for scholars interested in placing the academy's early history within its greater urban context. These and other new features will play an important role in the Accademia website's future growth both as a valuable resource for historians of the visual arts and as an exemplar of the potential for digital initiatives in the humanities to foster scholarly exchange.

The printed volume, The Acccademia Seminars: The Early History of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, c. 1590–1635, was published in 2009.

Funding for the Web project was provided by the Center's Andrew W. Mellon Endowment and by a grant from the Getty Foundation. Funding for the seminars and the volume was provided by a grant from Robert H. Smith.

Research Associates: Daniel McReynolds (to July 2011) and Guendalina Serafinelli
Robert H. Smith Research Associate: Emily Pugh
Text Encoder: Emma Millon (to April 2011)
Text-Encoding (TEI) Consultant: David Seaman