Study paints picture of 16th century arts patron

Thursday 17 December 2015


New research, led by academics at the University of St Andrews, has provided fresh insights into the life and work of one of the greatest intellectuals of the 16th century.

A two-year study into the man painted by Titian and Veronese, Renaissance writer and patron of the arts Daniele Barbaro (1514-70), has shed new light on the one-time Ambassador to the UK.

Co-ordinated by St Andrews art historian Dr Laura Moretti, the international research collaboration Daniele Barbaro (1514-70): In and Beyond the Text provides a reassessment of the Italian who translated and commentated on the writings of Roman author Vitruvius, and whose work on perspective helped teach artists and architects of the period how to draw. The study was launched in 2013 to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Barbaro’s birth.

A culmination of the two-year study is a major new exhibition at the Marciana Library in Venice. The event features some never seen before items, and offers a glimpse into the print processes, at a time when Venetian printmakers were at the forefront of the new industry.

Items from Barbaro’s archive reveal how he was at the heart of the burgeoning printing industry, showing how his own painstaking methods involved early ‘cut and paste’ techniques that sometimes took around fifteen years of work to complete.

Dr Moretti, a senior lecturer in Art History at the University of St Andrews, has been studying the life and work of Barbaro since 2009. Using a wealth of previously little-known archive material, Dr Moretti says the project has resulted in a better picture of this complex and multi-faceted intellectual: a man who published several books and left unpublished writings on a range of subjects, including philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, optics, history, music and architecture.

Barbaro-Venice-mainbody-2Dr Moretti (pictured far right) said: “One subject he never wrote about, however, was himself, leading to a dearth of material on the man behind the manuscripts. We hope that our research, and this exhibition of his books and manuscripts, will allow researchers today to reconsider his life and career in a new light.”

In the course of the study, the research team made a number of important discoveries, including an entire 16th century mass hidden in the binding of one of Barbaro’s books, once in the possession of the English painter Matthew Goodricke (1588-1645) and now preserved in the Special Collections of the University of St Andrews.

Barbaro, following a trip to Scotland, made clear his view of the country while serving as an ambassador to the court of Edward VI in 1549-1550.

Network Facilitator Dr Lenia Kouneni, also from the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews, explained: “Following the trip, in his diplomatic relazione of April 1551, Daniele described Scotland as ‘marvellously mountainous, sterile, rugged and marshy’. He admired the extremely safe natural harbours, but thought that the people were ‘treacherous, having no regard for truces or peace’.

“He also said that ‘Scots had more reason to attack England than had the English to attack Scotland, for the Scots were very poor with an aversion to industry, delighting in robbery rather than apply themselves to labour’.”

The new exhibition, which runs until 31 January, includes thirty printed books and manuscripts from the Marciana Library’s own collections. The exhibition catalogue includes ten essays written by specialists on various aspects of Barbaro’s life, offering perspectives from the fields of history of literature, art, science, architecture, music and religious studies.

The Venetian event – which follows an exhibition of Barbaro’s books last year in St Andrews – is the result of an interdisciplinary collaboration involving almost 50 academics, non-academics and librarians across Europe funded by a Leverhulme TrustInternational Network Grant.


‘Daniele Barbaro (1514-70). Letteratura, scienza e arti nella Venezia del Rinascimento’ runs at the Marciana Library, Venice, until 31 January 2016.

The exhibition programme (in English, Italian and French) is available online.

Notes to news editors

The researchers are available for interview:

Dr Laura Moretti – email [email protected] or tel 01334 462404.

Dr Lenia Kouneni – email [email protected] or tel 01334 462361.

The project was funded by a Leverhulme Trust International Network Grant.

Captions for images

News thumbnail: Paolo Veronese, Portrait of Daniele Barbaro, c. 1560 (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum)

Top: Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Salone Sansoviniano, display of the exhibition Daniele Barbaro (1514-70). Letteratura, scienza e arti nella Venezia del Rinascimento, 10/12/2015-31/01/2016.

Centre: Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Salone Sansoviniano, curators of the exhibition Daniele Barbaro (1514-70). Letteratura, scienza e arti nella Venezia del Rinascimento: Susy Marcon (left) and Laura Moretti (right).

Bottom: Maser, Villa Barbaro, designed by Andrea Palladio, c. 1556-8, with input from Daniele Barbaro and his brother Marcantonio.

Issued by the Press Office. Contact 01334 462530 or email [email protected]

Ref: Barbaro 17122015

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