Peter M. Lukehart – The Accademia di San Luca between educational and religious reform



Event Date: 17 – 18 September 2011
British Library Conference Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB

The Italian Academies 1525–1700 Project presents:


This major international conference is being hosted as part of the AHRC funded research project The Italian Academies 1525-1700: the first intellectual networks of early modern Europe.

Academies represent a vital and characteristic dimension of early modern culture.
There were ca. 600 Academies in Italy in the period 1525-1700. Frequently international in membership, and in correspondence with scholars across Europe, they were fundamental to the development of the intellectual networks later defined as the ‘République des Lettres’, and to the dissemination of ideas in early modern Europe. Their membership included pioneering scientists, writers, artists, political thinkers, and representatives of both sexes and all social classes. The interests of the Academies ranged from the humanities, to the figurative and performance arts, natural sciences and medicine; many were interdisciplinary in their outlook and activities.

However, the social and cultural phenomenon of the Italian Academies has hitherto attracted relatively little research due in part to the wide range of their interests and difficulties in accessing relevant information.

The conference aims to explore research questions raised by the activities of Academies in this period.

Peter M. Lukehart paper read by Lucy DavisThe Accademia di San Luca between educational and religious reform

The Accademia di San Luca had a fraught and prolonged period of establishment.  First proposed in a brief from Pope Gregory XIII in 1577 as an academy for painters and sculptors, the artists were meant to dissolve their respective guilds and unite themselves in a single institution under papal authority.  The brief stated that art in Rome had declined owing to lack of instruction and opportunity for the giovani.  Pope Gregory suggested remedies in the form of organized training in the excellent examples of art that Rome had to offer, as well as through education in Christian doctrine, piety, and good manners.   Moreover, he saw the need for a hospice for the young artists who arrived in the eternal city without family or support.  In 1585 Pope Sixtus V reiterated the need for an Accademia in which the most gifted and experienced men would instruct the youths in the “arts” of piety, Christian doctrine, and good manners, as well as in the fine arts.  And yet, it still took  approximately sixteen years for the institution to inaugurate a pedagogical program or establish its social.   When the members of the new Accademia met to discuss their mission on 7 March 1593, they recorded their intention that the institution serve “for the benefit and instruction of youths and all those who wish to embark on the esteemed road to the study of painting.”  They added that members should practice this profession that was noble and worthy of free men… [but that practitioners] “must refrain from charging dues and entrance fees, and other mechanical obligations.”  While admitting that painters should create images that inspire piety and devotion, they were equally worried that it was indecorous to hang sacred images and secular paintings for sale in the windows of the workshop, or in any public places.  Thus, the first manifesto emphasizes teaching and the nobility of the profession, and only obliquely addresses the notion of Counter-Reformation piety or subject matter.

The recent publication of the Accademia Seminars (Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, 2009) and the launch of the website, The History of the Accademia di San Luca, c. 1590-1635: Documents from the Archivio di Stato di Roma (, in 2010, has brought new primary material and interpretive strategies to the study of the Accademia.  It is now possible, for example, to know who the members of the Accademia were and to assess their relationships both to one another and to the papal and civic authorities who were responsible for governing them.  At the same time, by reassessing the early publications of the Accademia–the Trattato della nobiltà della pittura (Rome, 1585) and the Origine, et progresso dell’Academia del Dissegno, de’ pittori, scultori, & architetti di Roma (Pavia, 1604)—one can compare the pedagogical and Counter-Reformatory goals of the Accademia to the evolving social, political, and cultural climate of late sixteenth-century Rome that has been revealed in recent studies of Renata Ago, Laurie Nussdorfer, and Thomas and Elizabeth Cohen, among others.



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