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


View of the church of Santi Luca e Martina in the Roman Forum, 2009. Photo: Nic Lukehart

Under the direction of Associate Dean Peter M. Lukehart, this project is designed to provide 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proceedings of meetings, ledger books, and court records, the project brings together a large number of previously unpublished documentary materials with relevant secondary sources. Conceived as two complementary tools, the database of documentation on the website and the printed volume of interpretive studies, The Accademia Seminars: The Early History of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, c. 1590–1635, sheds 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 with its own important church designed by Pietro da Cortona in the 1630s.

The database of documents on the website The History of the Accademia di San Luca, c. 1590–1635: Documents from the Archivio di Stato di Roma provides access to transcriptions of extant notarial records related to the Accademia in the Archivio di Stato, as well as to digital images of the original documents, allowing for line-by-line comparisons. A zoom function enables close inspection of the digital images. Visitors can explore the contents of the documents using guided and faceted search by artist’s name, key words, document type, notary’s name, and document date. Summaries in English and Italian of the documents are also provided. Search results for artists yield bibliographies, and a growing number of related images are available both from the National Gallery of Art collections and from themed carousels.


Accademia project team, Washington, 2019: Abby Whitlock, Matthew J. Westerby, Peter M. Lukehart

Since its official launch in 2010, the website has been presented at universities and research institutes, both nationally and internationally, and possible partnerships for further development of the site are being explored. Over the past two years, the project team has been developing a geotagging feature that allows place names mentioned in the database documents to link to their respective locations on interactive, historic maps of Rome. Using new technologies made available through Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the mapping project lends spatial and chronological dimension to the documentary and visual material on the site, placing the academy’s early history within its greater urban context. These and other new features 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 to foster scholarly exchange.

Robert H. Smith Research Associate: Matthew J. Westerby
Research Associate: Fulvia Zaninelli
Assistant to the Program of Research: Abby Whitlock


The Accademia Seminars: The Accademia di San Luca in Rome, c. 1590–1635, edited by Peter M. Lukehart
Seminar Papers, volume 2


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 forty years, and the first in nearly two hundred 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.