Seminars, Schools and Summer Series

Studiolo and Kunstkammer: The Renaissance Collector 1430-1560

  • Begins: Wednesday 16 May 2018
    Until: Friday 18 May 2018
    (Wednesday, Thursday 11.00 to 15.30 (Access from 10.30) Friday Visits: 10.15, 11.30, 13.30 or 14.45 (All one hour duration))
  • Brockway Room, Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
  • Lecturer: Clare Ford-Wille

Over three days we will explore the emergence of the collector in the Renaissance period with a combination of lectures and a guided small group visit to the V&A.

During the second half of the fifteenth century the Italian term ‘studiolo’, literally ‘little study’, emerged to describe a private, usually small, room in the palace or large house in Italy of a ruler or other important figure.  These rooms were separate from the bedchamber, which could have a semi-public function, and began as places of private study and contemplation, to which only the owner had access. Later, during the sixteenth century, these rooms became private museums containing the owner’s most valued possessions, which could be small paintings, sculptures, coins, medals, jewels, books and precious objects.  Such studioli served to reinforce the owner’s intellectual qualities and to set him apart from his contemporaries.

The origins may have first emerged in the scholarly settings of paintings depicting Saints Jerome or Augustine by van Eyck, Carpaccio or Botticelli, but by the last quarter of the fifteenth century recognisable studioli emerged in Italy as the private passions of, for example, Lionello de’Este, Federigo da Montefeltro or Isabella d’Este.

By the middle of the sixteenth century the idea had spread across the Alps to Northern Europe and developed into the kunstkammer, a term first used in 1550 in connection with the Emperor Ferdinand I’s collection in Vienna.

On Wednesday and Thursday there will be lectures in the Brockway Room and on Friday the class will divide into four smaller groups of no more than 14 people to make a guided visit to the V&A. Slots will be allocated on first day of the course.


LECTURE 1: Origins in fifteenth-century paintings of Saints Jerome and Augustine

LECTURE 2: The emergence of the early studioli in Italy: Lionello d’Este and the court in Ferrara

LECTURE 3: Federigo da Montefeltro’s studioli in Urbino and Gubbio



LECTURE 1: Isabella d’Este and her collecting obsessions in Mantua

LECTURE 2: Alfonso d’Este and his collections in Ferrara

LECTURE 3: The beginnings of the kunstkammer in Northern Europe



V&A guided visit.


Clare Ford-Wille is an independent art historian, well known to members for her courses at Birkbeck and Morley College as well as a lecturer at the National Gallery, the V&A and The Arts Society groups in Britain and Europe. She has led many tours abroad. Clare is a Vice President of The London Art History Society.

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