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Giorgia Mancini

Thesis: ‘Italian Altarpieces in Context: Spatial and Material Environments for Sacred Art in the Renaissance Church Interior’

Supervisor: Dr Donal Cooper

Research summary
A new collaboration with the National Gallery, London, this doctoral project, fully funded by the AHRC, aims to identify and analyse the historic conditions of display for painted altarpieces in Renaissance Italy. It will clarify a range of perceptual factors that regulated viewing for Renaissance audiences (natural and artificial lighting, veiling practices, and the surrounding colours and textures of the Renaissance church interior). It will also investigate the broader spatial arrangements of church interiors in order to address fundamental issues of visual and physical access: who could see what, under what conditions, and when.

My doctoral research centres on three case studies selected from the National Gallery’s uniquely rich holdings of large-scale Italian altarpieces from the second half of the fifteenth century. By combining a thorough technical analysis of these works of art - all from northern Italy - with an in-depth investigation of their original architectural settings, I will shed new light on artistic intention as well as public reception: for example, how awareness of the setting and likely audience determined fundamental decisions regarding scale and shape, composition, pigments and general colour schemes, the application of gold leaf or relief work.
Working at the National Gallery for regular periods of time, I will draw on the specialist expertise of staff from the Curatorial, Conservation and Scientific Departments. I will also benefit from access to primary and secondary literature in the Gallery’s extensive library and archive. The research undertaken for this collaborative doctorate will feed into a range of events including a dedicated section of the National Gallery website.

I completed my BA degree in History of Art at the University of Udine. After obtaining a MA degree in History of Art at the University of Bologna I was awarded a two-year fellowship by the Fondazione di Studi di Storia dell’Arte ‘Roberto Longhi’, Florence. In 2002 I moved to London for the Victoria and Albert Museum/ Royal College of Art MA programme in the History of Design (Renaissance Decorative Arts and Culture), supported by the Sylvia Lennie England Scholarship. After graduating in 2004 I was employed as Curatorial Assistant at the National Gallery, London. From 2006 to 2008 I returned to the Victoria and Albert Museum, as Assistant Curator of Sculpture. From 2008 to 2012 I was Research Fellow at the National Gallery, writing the catalogue of sixteenth century paintings from Bologna and Ferrara (co-author Nicholas Penny). Sifting through archives of religious orders and notarial acts I made several discoveries on altarpieces once in Faenza, Bologna, Lucca and Pavia, finding new elements about their commissions, their donors and their original location.

Research interests
Late fifteenth and sixteenth century painting from Emilia Romagna; History of collecting (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries)


  • The Sixteenth Century Italian Paintings. Ferrara and Bologna, National Gallery Catalogues (with Nicholas Penny), forthcoming
  • ‘History of a fake: The Virgin and Child with an angel after Francesco Francia in the National Gallery, London’, The Burlington Magazine, 155, no. 1325 (August 2013)
  • Entries and chronology in Velázquez, exhibition catalogue, ed. D. Carr, London 2006, pp. 180-181, 186-191, 198-199, 210-211, 222-227, 234-235, 245-247
  • ‘Nicolò dell’Abate. Dagli esordi alla prima maturità tra Modena e Parma’, in Nicolò dell’Abate. Storie dipinte nella pittura del Cinquecento tra Modena e Fontainebleau, exhibition catalogue (Modena), ed. S. Béguin, Milan 2005, pp. 47-55
  • ‘Una collezione romana nel 1564: i dipinti del cardinale Rodolfo Pio da Carpi nell’ ‘Inventarium picturarum’ compilato da Daniele da Volterra’, Paragone, 51 (643), September 2003, pp. 37-59
  • Gli inventari dell’eredità del cardinale Rodolfo Pio di Carpi, in collaboration with C. Franzoni, T. Previdi, M. Rossi, Pisa 2002
  • ‘Indagine sul collezionismo estense’, in La natura morta in Emilia e in Romagna. Pittori, centri di produzione e collezionismo fra XVII e XVIII secolo, ed. D. Benati and L. Peruzzi, Milan 2000, pp. 209-217
  • ‘Mattia Preti a Modena (1651-1652)’, Nuovi Studi. Rivista di arte antica e moderna, 5, 1998, pp. 139-146
  • ‘“Il mio viaggio sin qui è stato tutto sul pensiero delle pitture”. Geminiano Poggi e altri agenti di Francesco I d’Este’, in Sovrane Passioni. Studi sul collezionismo estense, ed. J. Bentini, Milan 1998, pp. 139-164
  • ‘Documenti e fonti sui ritratti di Francesco I d’Este di Gian Lorenzo Bernini’, in I. Lavin, Bernini e l’immagine del principe cristiano ideale, Modena 1998, pp. 53-77
  • ‘Domenico Carnevali e la pittura a Modena nella seconda metà del Cinquecento’, in Pittura a Modena e a Reggio Emilia tra Cinque e Seicento. Studi e ricerche, Modena 1998, pp. 13-40
  • ‘Sulle tracce di un Raffaello per la Galleria di Francesco I’, in Pittura a Modena e a Reggio Emilia tra Cinque e Seicento. Studi e ricerche, Modena 1998, pp. 153-166