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Dr Simona Valeriani

Research Interests: 

Renaissance and Early Modern material culture, with a focus on architecture and connected technologies. History of Knowledge, in particular the interface between artisanal and learned culture, different epistemic systems, including importance of embodied knowledge in art, craft and natural philosophy. Europe in a global context.


After graduating in Architecture and attending the first year of the Scuola di Specializzazione in Restauro dei Monumenti at the University of Genoa (Italy), Dr Valeriani was awarded a grant by the Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft to pursue a PhD programme in History of Art, Building Archaeology and Theory of Conservation (TU Berlin-University of Bamberg). During this period she developed further her expertise in the field of building archaeology and participated in collaborative, interdisciplinary projects.

After completing her PhD, on Historic Carpentry in Rome and its contribution to church building from late antiquity to the baroque era - published as Kirchendächer in Rom: Zimmermannskunst und Kirchenbau von der Spätantike zur Barockzeit (Imhof, 2006) - she moved to the London School of Economics (LSE).

At LSE’s Economic History Department, she widened her intellectual horizons, both disciplinary and geographically, acquiring experience in the field of the history and philosophy of science as well as in global history and developing further her interest and expertise in the history of technology. She worked on two projects:

  • Travelling knowledge: Building techniques in Europe between the 16th and 18th centuries, part of the Leverhulme Trust funded Project How Well Do Facts Travel?
  • Usefulness, Mechanical Arts and Education in Early modern Europe, part of the ERC funded project Useful and reliable Knowledge in Global Histories of Material Progress in the East and the West (URKEW), some results of which she recently published as a special issue of Technology and Culture.

In 2012 She joined the Victoria and Albert Museum, where she works in the V&A Research Institute (VARI) as Senior Tutor in the History of Design (V&A/RCA History of Design postgraduate programme) and Head of Early Modern Studies.

Her recent thematic research has covered different historical periods focussing, among other things, on the long history of architectural models. Outputs of this work include the article Models and Knowledge Production: Mechanical Arts, Natural Philosophy, and the State in Early Modern Europe, for the Encyclopedia of Early Modern Philosophy and the Sciences (Springer, 2020); the exhibition Shaping Space: Architectural Models Revealed (Building Centre, September 2021-March 2022), the book An Alphabet of Architectural Models (Merrell, 2021).

Through a Leverhulme Trust research fellowship Dr. Valeriani had the opportunity to devote time to writing a cultural history of the construction of the Royal Albert Hall, where she discusses, inter alia, the reception of the Renaissance in 19th century British architecture.

Current Research Project:

Her current research project is devoted to the history of Mosaic. This ancient technique was favoured during the Renaissance for its durability, which made the work of art ‘eternal’. Its relationship with paintings, however, is complex and multifaceted. While fifteenth century mosaics tend to imitate painting -seen as a higher form of artistic expression- some painters try to create the illusion that their frescos are, in fact, mosaics. This example of reciprocal material mimesis is part of a larger trend, as discussed by Marta Ajmar in her work. A similar phenomenon can be observed within the 19th century British rediscovery of the art of mosaic, part of a wider Renaissance revival. The project will provide an overview of existing examples of mosaic-painting mimesis, unearthing technical, metaphorical and aesthetic ‘borrowings’ across media, time and space.