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Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011)

Miklós Boskovits completed his university studies in his native Budapest, graduating in 1959 with a thesis on the theory of Renaissance perspective. His doctoral thesis, defended in 1961, continued to focus on the fifteenth-century origins and interpretation of perspective (the thesis was published in English translation with the title Quello ch’e dipintori oggi dicono prospettiva in 1962/1963). However, after a year of volunteer work at the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts, he began to take an interest in questions of stylistic criticism and was powerfully stimulated to improve himself in this field when he was asked to edit the entries on the fourteenth- and early fifteenth-century Italian paintings in the catalog of the Keresztény Múzeum in Esztergom.

In 1963, he was afforded the opportunity to visit Italy for the first time. He returned to Italy in the following years, always for brief visits, and was able to meet and associate with established scholars working in the field of fourteenth-century painting. The young Boskovits was principally in contact with disciples of Roberto Longhi, but also with Klara Steinweg, who, after the death of Richard Offner, led the monumental enterprise A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. By this time, Boskovits had begun to investigate specific problems related to fourteenth-century painting in Florence and beyond, pursuing branches of research independent from paintings in Hungary. After relocating to Italy in 1968, he conceived, with the encouragement of Carlo Volpe and Mina Gregori, the ambitious project of reconstructing the history of Florentine painting in the last thirty years of the fourteenth century.

Concurrently, and by virtue of three consecutive fellowships that permitted a lengthy period of research at the Villa I Tatti in Florence, Boskovits extended his range of interest into the painting of Siena, Umbria, and the Marches region, along with the art of the thirteenth century. However, he focused primarily on the volume that would be released in 1975 with the title Pittura fiorentina alla vigilia del Rinascimento—an extensive study of the personalities of painters and illuminators active in Florence at the turn of the fourteenth century—which he accomplished by cataloging about a thousand paintings. In the following years, he published studies of the art of Florence and northern Italy in the fifteenth century, as well as research on the medieval painting of Lazio.

In 1977, Boskovits was appointed professor in the department of medieval and modern art history at the Università della Calabria, and from 1980 to 1995 he taught at the Università Cattolica del S. Cuore in Milan. His direct knowledge of multiple areas of central-southern and northern Italy inspired him to further broaden his field of specialization into understudied regions such as Puglia-Basilicata, Liguria, the Veneto, and especially Lombardy. Nevertheless, Tuscan painting of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries remained his central concern.

Much of Boskovits’s career was devoted to the Corpus of Florentine Painting. In 1979, he edited a volume dedicated to the art of Andrea Bonaiuti (Section 4, vol. 6), which was temporarily suspended due to the death of Steinweg in 1972. In 1984, he assumed direction of a new series of this fundamental resource for the study of Florentine painting in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Throughout the late 1980s, and with increasing dedication after he became professor of the history of medieval art at the Università di Firenze, a position he held from 1995 to 2008, Boskovits devoted himself to the Corpus. He edited the revised edition of five volumes, including Medieval Panel Painting in Tuscany (forthcoming).

In addition to the Corpus of Florentine Painting, Boskovits cataloged thirteenth-, fourteenth-, and fifteenth-century Italian paintings in multiple public collections (Gemäldegalerie Berlin…, 1988; Italian Paintings of the 15th Century, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 2003; Cataloghi della Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, volume 1, 2003, and volume 2, 2010; Italian Paintings of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 2016) and private collections (The Martello Collection, volume 1, 1985, and volume 2, 1992; Dipinti italiani…, 1987; The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection…, 1990; La Collezione Cagnola…, 1998; Dipinti italiani…, 2000; The Alana Collection…, volume 1, 2009, volume 2, 2011).

For several years, Boskovits was absorbed in the preparation of an inventory of twelfth- and thirteenth-century Tuscan paintings that would have integrated studies on this subject that already had been published in the Corpus of Florentine Painting, and which was almost ready for publication at the time of his death on December 20, 2011.

This biography is based on one that appeared in Arte Cristiana, vol. C, nos. 870–872 (2012): 169–176.