Digital research: The Accademia di San Luca

November 18, 2010

Federico Zuccaro’s drawing of his brother Taddeo (left) vividly depicts the material constraints on a Renaissance artist’s life: having to retire early because he was begrudged oil for his lamp, he has leapt out of bed – note the missing slipper – to catch Rome by moonlight. In 1593 a new institution, the Accademia di San Luca, was established to improve artists’ conditions and provide a forum for discussion. Since membership was extended retrospectively, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci featured in the official portraits. At a works in progress session jointly organized by CEMS and the Centre for Visual Studies, 11 November, Peter Lukehart (Associate Dean, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, Washington DC) described his excitement on gaining access to the Accademia’s little-studied archive, a precious source of information for cultural and social history, and finding much fresh material. Now the complete archive for the Accademia’s first 45 years, together with some related materials, has been made public in an easily searchable database, with images and careful transcriptions. Professor Lukehart’s demonstration showed how much the database had to offer, both in the content and its high level of academic and in such technical features as enhanced searching through sophisticated recognition of variant word-forms in Latin texts. Readers needing further guidance through this material can turn to a collection of essays edited by Professor Lukehart, The Accademia Seminars (2009).

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