Seminar: Bella Figura

Rome and the Phenomenology of Display

Date: 2-15 December 2019

Deadline for applications: 15 September 2019

Throughout its history, the city of Rome has been a privileged stage for all kinds of display. Politicians, princes, cardinals and popes, as well as artists, architects and collectors: they all felt compelled to display their own persona, their work or their collections in the highly theatrical setting of the Eternal City, reminiscent of glorious memories covering almost all history of mankind. From William Kentridge’s 2016 murals on the Tiber walls and the monuments, museums and collections established from the 18th century till today, to Petrarch’s staging his own coronation as poet laureate on Capitol Hill in 1341 and Mussolini’s project to impress Hitler during his 1943 visit to Italy: the city of Rome almost compulsively inspires what Italians characteristically define as ‘fare bella figura’: keeping up appearances.
Profiting from the rich supply of collections, cabinets, houses, palaces, museums and exhibitions in Rome, as well as the wealth of primary material on the phenomenon, this course will highlight their history from a contemporary as well as a historical perspective. In lectures and readings, major as well as unfamiliar case studies from the classical past to the present day will be related to recent insights and theories from collecting history, museology and exhibition studies. Excursions and on-site discussions will give the opportunity to explore in-depth the ways in which Italy’s rich past is represented today and how contemporary art is meant to reflect the country’s present. In each case the complex relationships between the intent of owners, collectors or curators, the effectively realized ensembles, displays or exhibitions, and their reception by viewers and public(s) will be discussed. Through this perspective, Italy’s primary role in displaying and exhibiting art and culture in the past will be confronted with its present strategies to connect to international developments in the field.

Dr. Arnold Witte (KNIR), guest lecturer (tbc), dr. Loredana Lorizzo (Salerno; tbc)

Target group and admission
The course is open to 3rd year BA students from NIKI and KNIR partner universities (Universiteit van Amsterdam, Vrije Universiteit, Universiteit Leiden, Universiteit Utrecht, Radboud Universiteit, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen). Applicants have obtained a minimum of 90 ECTS by the time of application and 120 ECTS by the time of the start of the program. A committee of art historians and historians from the six Dutch universities affiliated with the NIKI and the KNIR, together with staff members from the two institutes will carry out the selection of candidates. 

Course format and assignments
Assessment takes place on the basis of preparatory study of course material (30%), active participation and on-site presentation (30%), and the concluding critical entry (30%). Final assignments will be graded individually, but active and equal participation in the lectures and site visits is mandatory for the completion of the course. Criteria for evaluations include: understanding of the subject matter (both on a theoretical and actual level), clarity and structure of argumentation, originality and personal view, critical stance, application of visual and spatial elements, capacity to involve the audience, style and correct usage of the (English) language, both oral and written.

Credits and assessment
The study load is the equivalent of 6 ECTS (168 hours), based on:
a) independent study of course material and preparatory assignment (literature survey) 1 ECTS (28 hours)
b) intensive course in Rome (14 days): active participation, on-site presentation, site analysis: 4 ECTS (112 hours)
c) at the conclusion of the course: individual assignment of max. 2.000 words (excl. footnotes) in which a travel account will be analysed as text and as source: 1 ECTS (28 hours)

Tuition and lodging at the KNIR is free for selected participants from the above mentioned Dutch universities. Personal expenses, including meals, are not included. Students receive a € 100 reimbursement of their expenses for travelling to Rome after submission of their final essay.

Facilities in Rome
All participants will be housed at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome’s Villa Borghese Park. From there, it is only a short walk to the historical center of Rome. The KNIR accommodation consists of shared bedrooms and bathrooms, and includes a living and dining space, a large kitchen, washing machine and wireless internet. All residents have 24/7 access to the library and gardens of the Royal Netherlands Institute.

Apply before
15 September 2019 via the link below, submitting a motivation letter, a recent C.V. and an updated overview of study results.

More info
Phone: (+39)063269621