IAS/Kress Lecture Series

The Samuel H. Kress Foundation and the Italian Art Society jointly sponsor a series of lectures intended to promote intellectual exchanges by offering established North American scholars the opportunity to present their research to the international community of scholars living or working in Italy. Through the generous assistance of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the IAS has received a continuation of funding to support annual lectures through 2018. Suggestions for locale should be directed to the IAS President.

We are delighted to announce that Professor Megan Holmes (University of Michigan) will deliver the seventh annual IAS/Kress Lecture, in Florence at Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, on 1 June 2016. Her lecture is titled “New Perspectives on the Reception of Florentine Panel Painting: Interpreting Scratch Marks.”

This paper will explore an understudied feature of Florentine Renaissance panel paintings: evidence of the intentional scratching, with a sharp implement, of the pictorial figuration and imagery. These scratch marks, found across a variety of genres and formats, and display contexts, can rarely be documented and or dated with any precision. Similar intentional markings can also be found in works of art in other global, historical cultures. I will argue, nonetheless, that these scored Italian Renaissance panel paintings constitute an intriguing body of historical evidence that offers insights into the dynamic and motivated manner in which people interacted with images in daily life in their religious and social practices, in public and private spaces. The practice seems to have been more widely prevalent in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, tapering off in the sixteenth century. I will attempt to theorize and situate these scratching acts, looking at both Renaissance period perspectives and current scholarship on global “iconoclasms.” These deliberate markings are part of what Michael Camille called “the archaeology of the image and its subsequent reception” and they need to be more in evidence in collections, photographic reproductions, and the art histories that we write. See the flyer. See the announcement of the lecture on the College Art Association news page.


To date, the IAS/Kress Lecture in Italy has been held in Rome (May 2010 and 2013), Florence (June 2011), Venice (June 2012), Pisa (May 2014), and Naples (April 2015). Suggestions for future host cities should be directed to the IAS President.

2013 IAS/Kress Lecture, Fondazione Marco Besso, Rome. Photo Credit: Olga Posazhennikova.

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