Associate Professor & Chair of Art History

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Research Biography

My research focuses on the intersection of public rhetoric, civic identity, and art production in northern Italy between the medieval and the early modern eras, particularly in relation to the semiotics of sculpture, architecture, and urban form.

Recent publications include:

The Italian Piazza Transformed: Parma in the Communal Age (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012), which won the 2013 Marraro Prize (ACHA) for the best book on Italian Catholic history.

“Architecture and Urban Space,” in Dante in Context, ed. Zygmunt G. Baranski and Lino Pertile (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 427–447.

“The Langobard Revival of Matteo il Magno Visconti, Lord of Milan,” 377–414, in ed. Areli Marina, “The Material Culture of the Italian Signori,” special section of I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance 16, no. 1–2 (Fall 2013): 363–523. (160 pp.)

“From the Myth to the Margins: The Patriarch’s Piazza at San Pietro di Castello in Venice,” Renaissance Quarterly 64, no. 2 (Summer 2011): 353–429.

I am currently working on three projects.

The Italian Baptistery Project examines the baptistery construction boom that took place in Italy from the eleventh through the fifteenth centuries, using this distinctive building type to interrogate assumptions about period style, architectural semiotics, the architecture vs. ornament dichotomy, and the relations of centers to peripheries.

The Cultural Landscapes of Upper Italy Project expands upon themes emerging from my work on the architectural and urbanistic cultures of Venice and Parma, published in 2011 and 2012.

The Material Culture of Lordship Project seeks to develop a more expansive yet precise understanding of the ways in which aspirants to lordship in Italy devised a new spatiovisual language to help them imagine, establish, and consolidate a sovereignty based on territorial dominion. It examines the cultural and formal connections between artifacts in various media, from metalwork to relief sculpture to tombs to macroarchitectural phenomena such as road networks.

This work has been made possible by the generosity of Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence, the American Academy in Rome, the Getty Foundation, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Graham Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the University of Illinois's Laing Endowment, Hewlett Endowment, and Campus Research Board, and the colleagues and students with whom I am privileged to work. I am grateful for their support.

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