Renaissance Modern – Behind the scenes

Renaissance Modern reflects a collaboration between students and staff at The Courtauld Institute of Art and at University of Manchester. Bringing together academics, curators, and students at all levels of university study, this exhibition, and the process leading to its creation, deepened ties across institutional and disciplinary boundaries to shed new light on understudied Renaissance drawings at the Courtauld Gallery.

Stephanie Buck, Martin Halusa Curator of Drawings at the Courtauld Gallery, first suggested that we might use the new Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery to display a selection of drawings from the Courtauld collection which in one way or another could help to answer our questions about the shifting meanings of the term modern in the Renaissance. Four BA students from Manchester, and seven MA and three PhD students from the Courtauld enthusiastically signed up to undertake this project and began to look at the Courtauld collection of sixteenth-century drawings. As a first step, Stephanie suggested a range of sheets which might feature in the display, and we gathered in the Print and Drawing Room to look at them and discuss together the basic principles of the exhibition. Beginning in early October 2014, we began to meet to discuss themes, engage with primary sources and recent scholarship, and, crucially, to look at works of art together in the intimate setting of the Courtauld Gallery. Each student selected drawings and began to research them, probing the ways in which works of art might encapsulate ideas of which sixteenth-century artists and their publics may have seen as modern.

To facilitate discussion and bridge geographic distances, students posted their preliminary findings and observations on a blog; then we had the extraordinary opportunity to analyse the drawings closely in small groups with Kate Edmondson, conservator of works on paper at the Courtauld, gaining new insights into techniques, state of preservation, watermarks, and working methods. In December, we gathered again in the Print and Drawing Room to present our findings and ideas. This was an important moment of exchange and discussion, which eventually fed into the writing of academic essays and dissertations for the BA and MA students. As a next step, the students and their tutors condensed their findings into 700-word entries for the present online catalogue, while Stephanie Buck and her team expertly guided us in the subtleties of writing wall text and labels. It was extremely exciting for all of us to re-convene for the installation and the finishing touches in the gallery, before the opening and the well-deserved celebrations!

About us

Guido Rebecchini read History of Art at the Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”, before taking a Master degree at the Università degli Studi di Siena on the “Tradition of the Antique in the Middle Age and the Renaissance”. In 2000, Guido obtained his PhD at the Warburg Institute and has subsequently taught at the Università di Siena from 2001 until 2009 and at the New York University and Syracuse University in Florence in the years 2010-2013. He joined The Courtauld Institute of Art in Autumn 2013 as Lecturer in Sixteenth-Century Southern European Art. His research interests and publications focus on art, politics and urbanism in the Rome of Clement VII (1523-1534) and of Paul III (1534-1549), the patronage of the Medici family, the court of Mantua, and the artistic output of Giulio Romano in particular. He has held fellowships awarded by the British Academy (1998-2000), Villa I Tatti (2004-2005) and CASVA (2007), among others.

Edward Wouk is lecturer in Art History and Visual Studies at the University of Manchester, where he teaches classes on early modern European art and artistic theory, the history of printmaking and the global Renaissance.  Edward received his doctorate from Harvard University in 2010 with a dissertation on the Flemish painter, draftsman and etcher Frans Floris, which appeared in the New Hollstein series (2011).  His research addresses questions of identity, materiality, print culture, and cross-cultural dialogue in the early modern period.  He has published widely on the graphic arts, with a particular focus on the rise of printmaking in the Low Countries, and has held post-doctoral fellowships from the University of Zurich, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Courtauld Institute.

BA3 students, Manchester University

Laura Alderson
Joanna Dawson
Matilda Roberts
Hannah Weston

MA students, The Courtauld Institute of Art

Ludovica Brais
Amelia Brown
Lucy Chiswell
Chiara Giulia De Leo
Emma Gagnon
Cecilia Ruggeri
Genevieve Verdigel

PhD students, The Courtauld Institute of Art

Tatiana Bissolati
Bryony Bartlett-Rawlings
Alexander Noelle