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Dr Louise Bourdua's Research Interests

Research Interests:

  • Giotto's Legacy especially in Padua (and the re-discovery of Trecento art)
  • Artistic patronage in 14th-century Venice: doges, Procurators of St Mark, and other magistracies
  • 13th/14th century-sculpture in Venice including Andriolo de'Santi
  • Religious orders (patronage and iconography) during the later middle ages/renaissance
  • Intersections between the Veneto and Northern Europe during later middle ages/renaissance

Graduate Students:

Current or recent PhD/M.Phil supervision includes iconographic studies such as the Labours of the Month, the cult of the Magdalen in the pre-Alps, the Sybils in Flemish art, the interest in Bacchus and other mythological figures during the Renaissance; Duecento & Trecento studies (throughout Italy including Siena and Genoa); aspects of patronage (in the diocese of Grosseto); and Venetian topics such as the transport of large paintings and material considerations, Bartolomeo Montagna's marketing strategies, Venice's visual culture following the Catholic Reform, sculptural portraits from the 14th to the 16th century, marionettes from the middle ages to the 18th century, and the business of art under Napoleon. See Student Research.

Current Research Projects:

1. Giotto's Ghost. Painting in Padua Before and After the Arena Chapel

Writing in 1396, the Paduan humanist Pierpaolo Vergerio recommended that colleagues "should do what the painters of our own age do; although they diligently observe quality paintings executed by others, nevertheless they follow the models of Giotto alone." This begs the question of what constituted Giotto's legacy in Padua, and if and why only Giotto, like a "letter form book" was to the followed. Padua is associated with Giotto more than with any other painter by art historians and popular perception because of the survival of the frescoed chapel commissioned by the banker Enrico Scrovegni on the site of the Roman Arena, and the role its wall and ceiling frescoes have played in the history of Italian art and the western canon. Yet, Padua preserves numerous fresco cycles painted soon after the Arena chapel right up to the end of the 14th century by Guariento d'Arpo, Giusto de' Menabuoi, Jacopo d'Avanzo and Altichiero, to name only the best documented of eighty-four painters traceable in the archives. Giotto’s Ghost provides a reevaluation of the craft of painting in Padua and its environs, before, during and after Giotto’s time in the city. By documenting the contours of the ‘ghost of Giotto’ in one region as a model for studies elsewhere, my book answers Hayden Maginnis’ 1997 call that we should “rethink the history, the meaning and the character” of trecento art.

2. What Petrarch Saw. Art and Patronage in Fourteenth-Century Venice

At present, I am drafting articles on topics as diverse as a radical reconstruction of the tomb of Enrico Scrovegni, and the shopping habits of Doge Giovanni Dolfin. Ultimately there will be a book-length study of artistic production in Venice during the fourteenth century combining what we know with new evidence from the archives, in particular from the Procuratoria of San Marco, a state institution whose responsibility in artistic decision-making was central and unusual. As representatives of the state and testamentary executors for all citizens of Venice they engaged in virtually every architectural and artistic commission in the city and beyond, from public to private. Venice presents a rare example of a governmental, bureaucratic approach to patronage that is ripe for investigation. Numerous questions arise: how did the input of the procurators affect the production of art? How did it measure against the input of the individual patrons whose trusts the Procurators of San Marco administered? Was there ever an aesthetic imposed by the Venetian government? If so, could this be responsible for what is often termed conservative and “byzantinizing” aspects of painting in the city until the middle of the century? Was the decision to “import” foreign artists such as Guariento, a result of a shift within the Procuratoria itself? Might too much control of artistic commissions by the Procuratoria be what drove Andriolo de’ Santi and Paolo Veneziano to seek work beyond the Venetian territories? How did Venice’s artistic patronage differ from its neighbours? Was it Venice’s unusual business of art that was responsible for shaping it into the unique “other world” seen by Petrarch?

Past Projects:

My previous work has focused on the artistic patronage and iconography of mendicant orders in late medieval/early Renaissance Italy and I am often invited to return to these Orders. The Franciscans and Art Patronage in Late Medieval Italy (Cambridge University Press, 2004; paperback edition 2011) explored how the art of this Order’s churches and convents in the Veneto c.1250-c.1400 was conceived, reflected on the historiography of patronage studies, and tested whether there was a central Franciscan artistic policy or indeed a regional one. It constructed a multiform model of patronage, revealing fundamentally complex processes of production and also demonstrated how the sensitive use of archival documentation can extend our discipline.

Art and the Augustinian Order in Early Renaissance Italy, edited with Anne Dunlop, is a co-edited collection of ten essays on the art, iconography and patronage of the Augustinian Hermits with works ranging from Simone Martini to Raphael (Ashgate Press, 2007). This was the result of a collaborative venture between UK and Canadian-based scholars which led to a conference and was augmented by specially commissioned essays.

A Wider Trecento. Studies in 13th - and 14th- century European Art presented to Julian Gardner (Brill, 2012) is a co-edited collection of essays written by twelve former students of Warwick's Foundation Professor, focusing on themes dear to our former maestro.

Discovering the Trecento in the Nineteenth Century: 2013-2017. Louise Bourdua led the Warwick team in a joint initiative with IESA (Adriana Turpin), the National Gallery, London (Dr Susanna Avery-Quash) and the University of Swansea (Dr John Law). The final event was held in partnership with our Venice partners, Ca' Foscari through the Scuola dottorale interateneo in Storia delle Arti on November 15-16 at Warwick in Venice. Previous events included a conference at the National Gallery and the Wallace Collection (1 March; 2 March), a bridging lecture by Professor Rosemary Sweet (Leicester) at the Italian Cultural Institute (15 May). This initiative brought together Warwick's strengths in Trecento art, British art and the history of collecting, and provided a platform for the dissemination of new research including that of our own postgraduate students. Carly Collier, a final-year candidate gave a paper at the March conference entitled: "...A monument of the spirit of the early artists...": the first monograph on Giotto’s Arena Chapel. Twenty-two papers are now published in the Italian journal Predella.(2019)

Warwick-Newberry Initiative 2009-2011: 'Family Values: Locating the Family in the Early Modern Italian Workshop. Louise Bourdua and Vicky Avery led the Italian Art History strand of a cycle of Warwick-Newberry Library initiatives on "Renaissance and Early Modern Communities in a Transatlantic Perspective", generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Scheduled events included two workshops (at Warwick on Friday and Saturday 30-31 October 2009, and Warwick in Venice on 6-7 April 2010. The programme culminated with a residential summer school for doctoral students and early career scholars at Warwick in Venice, 19-31 July 2010. It was staffed by numerous experts from the Newberry Consortium of North American universities and other invited guests. The programme continued in 2011 with the appointment of two Fellows, Dr Megan Moran and Emily Price, who conducted research in Venice during the autumn term.

Most recently my research has been generously funded by the Center for Advanced Research in the Visual Arts (NGA Washington), The Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, and The British Academy. Earlier support was provided by the British School at Rome (Balsdon and Rome Scholarship), the Leverhulme Trust, the British Academy/Association of Commonwealth Universities, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation for Venetian Research, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the CVCP (UK).