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Benedetta Pacini

PhD Thesis: Navigating the Canals: Making and Moving Venetian Renaissance Paintings



Dr. Louise Bourdua and Dr. Giorgio Tagliaferro (University of Warwick),

Dr. Matthias Wivel and Dr. Susan Foister (National Gallery, London).


My PhD is a Collaborative Doctoral Award project between the University of Warwick and the National Gallery of London. My research focuses on the large-scale Venetian Renaissance paintings in the National Gallery of London, in order to shed light on how they were transported from the painter’s workshop to their destination. Handling a large painting, in fact, must have been particularly challenging in Venice, since the city's unique physical environment posed special practical problems to painters and artisans. I investigate Venetian paintings dated to the fifteenth and sixteenth century: in this timeframe the binding agent evolved from egg to oil, and the support shifted from wood to canvas. I investigate whether these technical changes were made to minimise practical problems during transport or installation.

Previous Training

I took my BA and my MA in History of Art at the University of Florence, supervised by professor Andrea De Marchi (History of Medieval Art).

In my BA thesis I studied the fifteenth-century frescoes in the ‘Oratory of the Virgin’ in Serravalle Pistoiese, near Pistoia (Tuscany). In particular, I considered the Oratory as an expression of the penitential movement known as ‘Battuti Bianchi’, that was active in that area at the time. I put the frescoes’ iconography in relation to the features and the function of the building.

For my Master’s Thesis, I worked on miniatures. I studied Marino Sanudo the Elder and the Liber Secretorum Fidelium Crucis, in particular ms. Tanner 190, Bodleian Library, Oxford. I identified and analysed the work of two different painters who worked on the manuscript, relating the peculiarities of the Tanner 190 to other examples of the Liber that I inspected in various European libraries.

Work Experience

(Dec. 2018) Teacher in Italian Public Secondary School “Istituto Comprensivo Statale Bernardo Pasquini” in Pistoia (Italian Literature and Grammar, History, Geography).

(July - December 2014) Research Assistant, Villa Lante Project, Oxford: I was part of a team devoted to organise an ancient Italian archive (the Lante family), preserved in the Bodleian Library.

(Jan-Mar 2013 ) Internship in the Diocese Offices, Pistoia: I conducted archival research, inspections of religious buildings, assessment of historic and artistic relevance.

  • Samuel H. Kress Conference Travel Grant to participate to RSA 2020, Philadelphia
  • Selected by University of Warwick and Johns Hopkins University to attend Venice Summer School (27 May - 7 June 2019) on the theme ‘Cultural Exchange in Renaissance Europe: Texts and Objects’
  • Grant from The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, "Commonwealth Grants for Venetian Research" (June 2018), for research in Venice and the Veneto and other territories of the former Venetian Republic
  • Getty Foundation Scholarship to attend Visualizing Venice Summer School (June 2016) on Digital Technologies for Historical and Cultural visualization, jointly promoted by Duke University, Università Iuav di Venezia, Venice International University, Università degli Studi di Padova
  • Among the 10 winning entries of the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Student Essays Competition 2016
  • Centre for Arts Doctoral Research Excellence Doctoral Award - CADRE - (2016)
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Award (2015)

Selected Talks

(April 2020) Participation to the conference RSA 2020 in Philadelphia. I will present my doctoral research about the National Gallery's collection of Venetian Renaissance Paintings.

(April 2019) L’Oratorio della Madonna di Serravalle Pistoiese e i suoi Affreschi, talk and guided tour for the cycle ‘La Forteguerriana Racconta Pistoia. Conversazioni con Visita’, (Biblioteca Comunale Forteguerriana, Pistoia).

(September 2018) Making and Moving Venetian Renaissance Paintings: my interviews with chief restorers in Venice, London and Florence, and archival records about Tintoretto’s transport strategy, 'New Dialogues in Art History' Conference (The Warburg Institute, London).

(May 2018) Making and Moving Venetian Renaissance Paintings: My Interview with a Venetian Chief Restorer, and Archival Records about Tintoretto’s Transport Strategy, Coventry University-University of Warwick Second Joint Visual Arts-History of Art Post-Graduate Research Symposium (Coventry University).

(October 2017) Reading Renaissance Paintings as Physical Objects: what can they tell us about their Packing and Transport, Material Matters Study Day "The Place of Objecthood in Academia and the Museum" (National Gallery, London).

(July 2017) Tintoretto’s Transport Strategy, National Gallery CDP Student Forum (National Gallery, London).

(July 2016) Navigating the Canals: Making and Moving Venetian Renaissance Paintings, National Gallery CDP Student Forum (National Gallery, London).

(May 2016) Navigating the Canals: Making and Moving Venetian Renaissance Paintings, University of Warwick Postgraduate Conference (University of Warwick).

(May 2011) The “Deposition from the Cross” by Benozzo Gozzoli and workshop, Seminar of History of Medieval Art at Università di Firenze (Horne Museum, Florence).



Visualising Venice Summer School 2016, Certificate issued by professor Caroline Bruzelius.