Francesca Fiorani Receives $80,000 Grant From the Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Francesca Fiorani, an art history professor in the University of Virginia’s College of Arts & Sciences, will receive an $80,000 grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation in support of the “Leonardo da Vinci and His Treatise on Painting” digital archive.

This is the project’s second grant from the Kress Foundation. The work will focus on creating comparative structures that can analyze Leonardo da Vinci’s original manuscripts on the theory and practice of art.

The archive documents da Vinci’s legacy on the science of art via his “Treatise on Painting,” a disorganized, fragmented and misleading text compiled by one of da Vinci’s pupils, but long considered an authoritative record of his thoughts.

Da Vinci’s own manuscripts are exceedingly difficult to read, Fiorani said; not only did he write backward, but he never brought any of his writings to completion. His writings are a series of incomplete and repetitious drafts across different notebooks written throughout his life. The “Treatise on Painting,” while known to be a compilation created after da Vinci’s death, is much more accessible for most readers, she said.

In the digital archive, each chapter of the “Treatise on Painting” can be analyzed across manuscripts of different periods and across selected printed editions. The next phase of work will relate chapters to pertinent texts in da Vinci’s original manuscripts that have been identified as either the direct source or the most similar surviving text.

This will make it possible to search the original manuscripts comparatively – while da Vinci’s original manuscripts are available digitally elsewhere, they can be consulted only as individual manuscripts and cannot be analyzed comparatively – and, for the first time, digital images of the original manuscripts will be related systematically to the “Treatise on Painting,” Fiorani said.

This will include facsimile images of da Vinci’s original manuscripts and pertinent additional materials in English, thus extending the scope and coverage of material in the existing archive. The addition of crucial English-language materials, as well as the continuation of the archive’s free and worldwide access, will enhance knowledge of Leonardo’s original writings well beyond the restricted group of da Vinci specialists, Fiorani said.

The work aims to adopt new representational and interpretive methodologies that integrate traditional art historical scholarship with new research tools in information technology. It includes more than 40 manuscripts and printed editions of the “Treatise on Painting” provided by Italian, French, Russian and U.S. repositories.

The archive is a collaboration with U.Va.’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities .

Read more about the digital archive here.

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