Bounamico Buffalmacco. Triumph of Death (fresco detail), c.1330s. Camposanto cemetery, Pisa. Photograph: Dr John Renner.

study days

The Last Things: Buffalmacco’s ‘Triumph of Death’ frescoes in Pisa

  • Friday 10 March 2023
  • Lettsom House, First Floor, 11 Chandos Street, London W1G 9EB (NB: There is no lift in this building)
  • Lecturer: Dr John Renner

Pisa’s monumental cemetery, the Camposanto, was adorned in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries with a magnificent array of frescoes, the most famous of which are the large and densely-populated depictions of death, judgement, heaven and hell (the Four Last Things that so obsessed the Middle Ages), and scenes from the lives of early Christian hermits. Little is known about their production, but they are generally attributed to the enigmatic artist Buffalmacco and dated to the late 1330s. They have variously been interpreted as reflecting the penitential sermons of the friars, a new cultural pessimism under the shadow of plague, and contemporary visions or allegories of the afterlife such as Dante’s Divine Comedy. The day is devoted to close consideration of these complex and intriguing paintings, newly legible after a painstaking restoration, and to asking what they can teach us about the functions and meanings of art in the Tuscan Trecento.


  1. The Camposanto of Pisa: Medieval Deaths and Modern Renaissances
  2. The Triumph of (and over) Death
  3. The Desert Fathers: Trials in the Wilderness
  4. The Last Judgement and the End of History


Dr John Renner is a specialist in late-medieval Italian art, with a PhD from The Courtauld. He lectures at The Courtauld, the V&A and elsewhere, while researching and publishing on the art of the mendicant orders. He has given two previous courses for the London Art History Society.

Members only

Places available

Book places