Giosuè Fabiano

PhD candidate

Thesis: ‘Natural Light, Religious Time and Mural Painting
in Late Medieval Italian Churches (c.1250-1450)’

Supervised by Prof Joanna Cannon

PhD funded by CHASE/AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership and Stavros Niarchos Foundation

My PhD project investigates the making and meaning of special luminous phenomena occurring in the frescoed interiors of late-medieval Italian churches. On significant dates of the Christian calendar, expertly directed light beams could be observed as descending dramatically from designated apertures on the churches’ walls, illuminating symbols and bringing out sacred figures in painted scenes. This project provides the first systematic study of such phenomena as considered in their material realisation, their connections with liturgy, contemporary optical and astronomical sciences and their role in shaping the function and appearance of devotional artworks. Multiple case studies comprising works by Giotto, Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti will be investigated alongside less familiar examples to establish patterns and specificities in the diffusion of religious timed lighting in Italy. The core questions will be: How did late-medieval artists cooperate with intellectuals to incorporate light as an artistic medium? Which sectors of the population were witnesses to scheduled spectacles of light? How did light-phenomena relate to Christian performances and rituals, e.g. the ‘liturgy of the hours’? What sensorial implications did light events entail for individual and public piety?

Research Interests

  • Italian Painting and Architecture (1200-1500)
  • Light (depicted, manipulated, experienced)
  • 13th and 14th-century observational sciences (Optics, Astronomy, Meteorology)
  • Environment, Vision and Temporality
  • Liturgical space and performances
  • Cross-cultural transfers


  • PhD Candidate, The Courtauld Institute of Art (2018-present)
  • MA in Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture, The Warburg Institute (2016-17)
  • BA in Art History, Sapienza University of Rome (2012-15)

Teaching Experience

  • Autumn 2022 – The Courtauld Institute of Art, Occasional Lecturer, Art, Travel and Imagination in the Middle Ages (Lecture: ‘Moveable Buildings’) (BA2)
  • Autumn 2022 – The Courtauld Institute of Art, Teaching Assistant, Foundations Lecture Series (B1)

Conferences and Workshops

  • ‘A Saint, the Sun and a Cloud: Sacred Meteorology in Santa Maria Novella,’ ICMA sponsored session: Art Historical Approaches to Medieval Environments, ICMS Kalamazoo 2021 (10 May 2021).
  • ‘Optical Rays, Sunlight and Experience in an Architectural Drawing by Giovanni Gherardi da Prato’, Session: Diagrams and Experience in Late Medieval and Early Modern Sciences, RSA 2021 (15 Apr 2021).
  • ‘Sunlight as an Artistic Medium,’ Working Materials and Materials at Work in Medieval Art and Architecture – Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London (07 Feb 2020).
  • ‘Demonstratio Horologica,’ Time/Les Temps – Symposium of the International Medieval Society, Paris (8-10 July 2019).
  • ‘Timely Illuminations: light beams, space and duration in late-medieval Italian frescoes,’ Light & Darkness in Pre-modern Visual Cultures, Research Forum, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London (23 Nov 2018).
  • Chair of the session ‘Architectural Miniatures,’ Scaling the Middle Ages: Size and Scale in Medieval Art – Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London (08 Feb 2019).
  • Chair of the session ‘New Light on the Renaissance Body’, Re-telling the Renaissance – Renaissance Postgraduate Symposium, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London (3 May 2019).

Fellowships and Other Academic Activities

  • Junior Fellowship, University of Hamburg, Research Group: ‘Imaginarien der Kraft’, May-Sept 2022.
  • Pre-doctoral Fellowship, Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Rome, Research Group: ‘Visualizing Science in Media Revolutions’, 2020-21.
  • NIKI Fellowship, Nederlands Interuniversitair Kunsthistorisch Instituut, Florence, November-December 2019.
  • Postgraduate Research Assistant, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut für KunstgeschichteJuly-September 2019.
  • Associate Editor, immediations, the peer-reviewed postgraduate journal of The Courtauld Institute of Art, 2019.