Prof. Dr. Francesca Borgo

Visiting scholar

Francesca Borgo is Assistant Professor in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews. She specializes in Renaissance art, with a focus on intersections between visual, literary, and scientific culture, and on the work of Leonardo da Vinci in particular. Her current book project explores the emergence of an art critical discourse surrounding the representation of war during the Cinquecento. A second project, The Fragile Image in the Renaissance, looks at the early modern perception of vulnerable, decaying, and lost artworks.

Francesca Borgo received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Art History with a minor field in Italian Studies from Harvard University in 2017. She previously studied in Italy and Spain and holds a B.A. and an M.A. from Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. Prior to coming to St Andrews, Francesca was a Fellow at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles (2017-18), the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut (2013-17), Villa I Tatti – The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies (2015), and the University of Hamburg (2016). Her work has been supported by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the Max Planck Society, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Renaissance Society of America, the Italian Art Society, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others. 

From Battleground to Pictorial Field. Representing War in the Italian Renaissance

This study aims to restore the centrality that battle painting held in the Cinquecento, when artistic practice and theory first articulated its modes of depiction. Contemporary treatises on art describe military scenes as a privileged venue for exploring fundamental pictorial problems and manipulating the dynamics of visual perception. While recommending the use of an exceptionally forceful style, they regard battle scenes as the embodiment of artistic excellence, both ancient and modern, and as the prototype of the powerfully affective image. Focusing on the nature of representational practice itself, this project foregrounds the perceptual and rhetorical implications of images of conflict. It explores the vital role that the genre played in the art-critical discourse of the time and investigates how the formal qualities of battle scenes engaged with broader issues of meaning, use, and reception.


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