Louvre visit: seeing Leonardo da Vinci like never before

Director of the Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies, Prof. Tom Henry, led some lucky Kent students on a trip to the Musée du Louvre earlier this week to visit the largest ever Leonardo da Vinci exhibition with its co-curator, M. Vincent Delieuvin.

On Tuesday, when the museum was closed to the general public, Kent students entered the iconic glass pyramid to make their way to the Leonardo exhibition. They then had the privilege of receiving a guided tour through the exhibition, which marks the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death in France in 1519.

Their visit – rendered possible thanks to funding from the School of Arts – was immeasurably enhanced by the generosity of the exhibition’s curator. Delieuvin was on hand to answer every question, to elucidate the decisions taken in mounting the exhibition and to communicate the many new directions in Leonardo research that his ten-year devotion to this project has set in motion.

With these profound insights that only the curator could provide, Kent students were in a prime position to appreciate Leonardo’s art. Given the exhibition’s breath-taking popularity and the scarceness of available tickets, sadly many will not be so fortunate.

Indeed, as Henry argued the evening before the trip in a brief lecture given at the Paris School of Arts and Culture (the Rome School’s sister European centre) Leonardo da Vinci can be considered the founder of the ‘blockbuster.’ Centuries ago, Florentines queued around the block to catch a glimpse of his masterpieces as they were unveiled.

Leonardo runs at the Louvre until late February 2020. It is whipping up a storm in Paris with ripples across the currents of the art world, prompting intense intellectual debate among scholars and art lovers (a conversation in which our students were able to participate).

Given its centrality to our society, History of Art is an exciting and vibrant area of study, upheld by the University of Kent at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. For those eager to gain a master’s in this discipline, our programmes offer students the chance to study in either Rome or Paris as well as Canterbury, drawing heavily upon the artistic wealth of these great cultural capitals.​

Reflections on Raphael: Rome School professor at the centre of celebrations

Prof. Tom Henry, Academic Director of the University of Kent Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies, was in Italy last week for events associated with three exhibition openings.

The quincentenary exhibitions marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Raphael in April 1520 kicked off in the artist’s hometown, with Raffaello e gli amici di Urbino. The Raphael year culminates with a major exhibition at the National Gallery, London (co-curated by Prof. Henry) which opens on 3 October 2020. Celebrations of this anniversary will be the focus of Kent’s MA History of Art teaching in Rome this coming spring.

After Urbino it was onto Mantua, where Raphael’s principal pupil, Giulio Romano, was court artist from 1524 until his death in 1546. Thirty years after the last great exhibition devoted to Giulio, Mantua has again rolled out the red carpet for the artist with two exhibitions: Giulio Romano, Art and Desire at the Palazzo Te and Giulio Romano a Mantova at the Palazzo Ducale.

Last week’s events included a study day to discuss the state of Giulio studies in 2019, and it is anticipated that the opening of these great exhibitions will encourage new study of the artist and spur further interest in his art.

In the enthusiastic words of Prof. Henry, applications to base an MA at Kent on studying Giulio Romano are always welcome!

Photo: Tom Henry studying the Two Lovers from St Petersburg up close and personal at the exhibition Giulio Romano, Art and Desire at the Palazzo Te

Lecture at Galleria Borghese: Professor paints picture of Raphael’s Perugian period

Last week, our very own Academic Director, Professor Tom Henry, presented a lecture at Galleria Borghese, Rome. Sitting on the panel at the prestigious gallery’s ‘Study Day’ focusing upon Raphael, the University of Kent academic highlighted the centrality of Perugia in Raphael’s career.

According to Henry, Raphael’s intense engagement with Perugia in the period 1503-7 has always been noted. Nevertheless, the lasting impact of Vasari’s extensive discussion of the works that the young artist executed in (or for) Florence in the same period is what has come to dominate scholarly debate.

Henry argued that Raphael’s Florentine period – usually described as 1504-8 – has become an entrenched historical fact, accepted without question. However, during Monday’s lecture, he contrastingly pointed out that documents in fact place Raphael in Perugia from 1503, and even describe him as living there from January 1504.

What’s more, Professor Tom Henry claimed the city produced a rich workflow for Raphael running through to 1507 and beyond. This Perugian period saw the renowned painter produce the Oddi Coronation for S. Francesco al Prato in 1503, the Colonna altarpiece for the nuns of S. Antonio da Padova as well as the Ansidei altarpiece for the church of S. Fiorenzo in 1505, and the Baglioni Entombment for S. Francesco al Prato in 1507.

In 1505, Raphael also started the S. Severo frescoes and – acknowledged as the best artist available in Perugia during that epoch – in December of that year he first received the commission to paint the high altarpiece of S. Maria di Monteluce. In addition to these major works, a group of smaller pictures can likely be traced to Perugia, including: the St Sebastian now in Bergamo, the Madonna of the Pinks in London and the Conestabile Madonna in St Petersburg.

While these extant works alone are eloquent testimony to Raphael’s close engagement with the city, lost or unexecuted commissions such as Saint Jerome – evidenced by a drawing in the Ashmolean Museum which Sylvia Ferino demonstrated to have a background view of Perugia – supply further clarification.

Add to all this the Siege of Perugia (which could have only been commissioned by a Perugian patron) and, Henry argues, it is abundantly clear that the city of Perugia embodied a vital source of work, looming larger than Florence in Raphael’s early career.

Reflecting on the talk, Tom Henry, Academic Director of the Rome School says:

“It’s always a privilege to be invited to speak at events like these and to be given the occasion to share my expertise in the field of History of Art, particularly in such beautiful surroundings. Raphael is an intriguing area of study and is one which students of the Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies will further delve into over the course of the academic year ahead.”

New role for Catherine Richardson

Professor Catherine Richardson has been appointed as the academic Co-Director for our Institute for Cultural and Creative Industries.

Catherine brings a wealth of experience to the role, including past experience of the cultural and creative industries and her work as Associate Dean (Research and Innovation) for the Faculty of Humanities.

Catherine said: ‘I’m really excited to be taking on this new challenge, working with colleagues across the University and beyond to develop a clear and very distinctive vision for our research and education in the cultural and creative industries, and helping to ensure that our creativity spreads more broadly, right across the University, into every part of what we do at Kent.’

She will start in the role this summer, working with our other Co-Director, Liz Moran. Plans will be formed through Autumn 2019 with more announcements made in due course. We anticipate that the Institute will be a major catalyst for Kent as we build to our 60th anniversary in 2025, with work in education, research and innovation.

Professor Simon Kirchin | Dean of Humanities

Konstantinos Gravanis wins internship in the Vatican’s Raphael Rooms

Kostas Gravanis, who is undertaking a PhD in History and Philosophy of Art in the School of Arts, has just been accepted for a six-month internship in the Vatican Museums.

The Vatican Museums offer an education and training programme for young specialists and students in restoration techniques. Each intern is assigned to a specific project involved in the museum’s activities.

Beginning in April, Kostas will be working in the area of the Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael Rooms). The internship is directly related to Kostas’ PhD research, as his project is provisionally entitled ‘Sources, Functions and Meaning of Imagery in the Vatican’s Raphael Rooms’. His PhD supervisors are Professor Tom Henry and Dr Ben Thomas.

The Stanze are a series of reception rooms in the Vatican Palace, famous for their beautiful frescoes painted by Raphael and his workshop (1508-24). The internship will give Kostas the opportunity to get involved with projects for the forthcoming 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death in Rome as well as with on-going restoration work in the Sala di Costantino.

Commenting on the internship, Kostas said: ‘Working in the Stanze at this specific time is a great honour and privilege. The anticipation of Raphael year 2020 is a thrill beyond words while the restoration projects are revealing fascinating new aspects of Raphael’s art’.

Professor Tom Henry, Director of the Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies, also commented on Kostas’ achievement: ‘Kostas stood out on our MA in History of Art in Rome and developed his PhD topic while there. It is a tremendous achievement for him to now be offered this highly prestigious internship back in the Vatican Museums and at such an exciting moment.’

For more details on the Vatican Museum internships, please see the page here:

The University of Kent Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies in conjunction with the American University in Rome presents ‘Chaucer in Italy’

We are very excited to announce that on 1 April 2019 at 19:00 our very own Peter Brown, Professor of Medieval Literature and Academic Director of the Paris School of Arts and Cultures, will be delivering a talk on ‘Chaucer in Italy’ at the American University of Rome.


Geoffrey Chaucer (1343–1400) was ahead of his time. Having visited Italy twice on diplomatic missions he modeled a significant number of his narratives on works by Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch, long before these writers were ‘discovered’ during the English Renaissance. My lecture will consider Chaucer’s encounter with Italian culture and how it prompted a rebirth of his creative outlook.

Biography of our speaker:

Peter Brown is Professor of English Medieval Literature at the University of Kent and Academic Director of its Paris School of Arts and Culture. He has recently edited A New Companion to Chaucer (Wiley–Blackwell, 2019) and is the author of Geoffrey Chaucer (Oxford University Press, 2011). He has published on a wide range of topics to do with the cultural and historical context of medieval literature. 

Please go to https://aur.edu/events/chaucer-italy to register!

Photo: Portrait of Geoffrey Chaucer from the Regiment of Princes by Thomas Hoccleve. London, British Library, MS Harley 4866, f. 88 (1411–12).

An Exciting Year Ahead!

Happy New Year everyone!

Tom Henry writes:

Next year’s MA History of Art in Rome (2019-20) will be built around two great anniversaries and the exhibitions that will accompany them. 2019 marks the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death in France, and will be marked by a great exhibition at the Louvre in Paris (opens October 2019). 2020 is the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death in Rome and there are going to be great exhibitions in Rome (spring 2020) and in London (autumn 2020, I am co-curating this exhibition). Kent’s Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies is putting these anniversaries at the centre of our events and our teaching. I will be teaching first Leonardo (autumn 2019) and then Raphael (spring 2020), and have been asked to give a major lecture linking Raphael and Leonardo. It should be an exciting year.

Looking forward to a very busy and exciting 2019! For more information about our Rome programs, please visit our website: https://www.kent.ac.uk/rome/

Tom Henry delivers Think Kent lecture

Tom Henry [1], Professor of History of Art in the School of Arts [2] and Director of the Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies [3], has delivered an online lecture for the Think Kent [4] series entitled ‘Men in Black: How to Interpret Raphael’s Self-Portrait with a Friend in the Louvre’, which is now available on YouTube [5].

The Think Kent lectures are a series of TED talk-style lectures produced with the intention of raising awareness of the research and teaching expertise of Kent academics and the international impact of their work.

The lecture follows on from Tom’s curation of an exhibition held at both the Louvre [6] in Paris and the Museo del Prado [7] in Madrid, entitled ‘Raphaël à Rome: les dernières années‘, focusing on the final years of the renaissance painter and architect.

The lecture discussed one painting, Raphael’s Self-Portrait with a Friend (c.1519-20), completed shortly before the artist’s death in 1520. Tom argues that to interpret the picture, it is necessary to understand the range of the painter’s activities in his last few years.

In particular, the identity of the second figure in the painting is unknown; however, Tom argues that he is the Italian painter and architect Giulio Romano, a pupil of Raphael, and he develops this argument with a discussion of the role of cloak-giving in artistic adoption and inheritance in the Renaissance period.

The talk may be viewed below or on YouTube via the link:

The Colosseum: Reclaiming Rome from Nero

Students on our Ancient History and Archaeology masters degrees in Rome have written blog posts as part of their assessments due as part of their studies. One student has shared her blog with us, read on to find out more about the Colosseum and its environs:

“As one of the most recognised buildings in Italy, the Colosseum is a well known symbol of the city of Rome, however not many people know the history of this great monument. Nestled in the valley between the Palatine, Esquiline, and Caelian hills1 at the head of the modern Via dei Fori Imperiali (fig 1),2 the Colosseum was used for public spectacles. Built by Vespasian, Titus and Domitian in the 1st century AD, it was an attempt to return the land taken by Nero to the people. This blog will discuss the history and construction of the Colosseum and the origin of its name.

In AD 64, during the reign of Nero, a fire swept through Rome, destroying much of the city.3 Nero took some of the land that had been razed and built the Domus Aurea, his Golden House,4 an expansive luxury complex that would become his imperial palace, which Suetonious describes in detail.5 The place was so large that Martial records that a single house now stood in all the city.”6 After his suicide in AD 68, the city of Rome went through a period of civil war, the Year of the Four Emperors, until Vespasian secured his rule in AD 69.7 A few years later, in AD 70, Vespasian and his son Titus suppressed the Jewish revolt in Jerusaleum which had begun in AD 66, and returned to Rome in AD 71 to celebrate a joint triumph over the Jews,8 which is commemorated on the Arch of Titus.


Seeing the state of Rome, a damaged city after the civil war10 and being dominated by the Domus Aurea, Vespasian sought to return the city of Rome from Nero to the people. This move was well within the Flavian approach, basing their rule on “returing to ‘popular’ and ‘Republican’ values.”11 They did this by draining and building the Flavian Amphitheatre12 on the site of the private pool that had been part of the Domus Aurea complex.13 A recently discovered inscription is thought to state that the Emperor Vespasian ordered a new amphitheatre to be built from the booty [of the Jewish War],14 further enforcing their attempt to give back to the people by reinvesting the spoils of war into their needs. There is some debate over this inscription: all that survives are the dowel holes that secured the bronze letters in place. Hopkins and Beard express their scepticism on this as a suspiciously appropriate solution to ‘joining the dots’.15 It does seem to be a convenient solution, however with construction beginning in AD 7016 and following the years of the civil wars, surely the largest source of income for Vespasian to fund the Colosseum would have been what he could loot from Jeruasleum.

By AD 79, the Colosseum had reached its second level and was dedicated for the first time before Vespasian’s death that year. Titus continued the project and completed the aphitheatre up to the fourth level (fig 2) and rededicated the monument in AD 80 with lavish inaugural games.17 The dedication of the Colosseum is both recorded on coins of the time (fig 3),18 and in ancient accounts. Dio gives details of these events lasting for 100 days, which included beast hunts, group and single combat, the flooding of the arena for “sea battles”, and horse races. There were also distributions of largesse to the people.19 Titus also opened the baths of Titus to the public, which he had remodeled from the private baths of Nero.20 After this, Domitian is thought to have finished the exterior and installed the subterrainan area under the arena21 (fig 4), which would have been used to house animals and equipment used in the events.


The name of the Colosseum also has its own history. While it has been known by many names, like Amphitheatum Flavium22 and the hunting theatre,23 the one which we call it today may owe its origins to Nero. Near to the Colosseum stood a colossal bronze statue of Nero. Pliny records that it was 110 Roman feet tall,24 around 32m, and is thought to have stood in the atrium of the Domus Aurea.25 However, after Nero’s death, because “of the public detestation of Nero’s crimes, this statue was consecrated to the Sunby Vespasian.26 It had been moved closer to the Colosseum by Hadrian with the help of 24 elephants so that he could build his temple to Venus and Rome.27 On a medalian of Gordian III, the Colossus is depicted next to the Colosseum (fig 5)28 showing that it was still standing in the late empire and that it had become a marker of this area as much as the Colosseum and the Meta Sudans, a monumental fountain near the Colosseum, which is also depicted on the medallion. It is thought that at some point between the 8th and 11th centuries,29 the name Colosseum was first asscribed to the aphitheatre because of its proximity to the Colossus rather than its own colossal size.30

The work carried out by the Flavian emperors in the construction of the Colosseum took the private imperial luxuray that was the Domus Aurea and transformed it into a place of pleasure for the people.31 Their efforts to rework and develop the area attempted to remove the mark that Nero had left on the city of Rome but their efforts only go so far. To this day, the Colosseum is so called because of its proximity to the Colossus of Nero, while ascribed after the fall of the Empire, it is a strong reminder of Neros extravagance and the power of memory in history.

1 Coarelli 2007:164.

2 Fig 1: Coarelli 2007:158, fig.43.

3 National Geographic 2014.

4 Coarelli 2000:9.

5 Suet.Nero.31.

6 Mart.Spec.2.

7 Hopkins & Beard 2005:26.

8 Hopkins & Beard 2005:26-7.

9 Platner 1929:45-47.

10 Hopkins & Beard 2005:28.

11 Coarelli 2000:10.

12 Britannica 2018.

13 Mart.Spec.2. Coarelli 2007:164.

14 Aicher 2004:181.

15 Hopkins & Beard 2005:33-4.

16 Hopkins & Beard 2005:36.

17 Coarelli 2007:164.

19 Dio.Rom Hist.66.25. See also Suet.Tit.7.

20 Coarelli 2000:10-11.

21 Coarelli 2007:164.

22 Benario 1981:256.

23 Hopkins & Beard 2005:21.

24 Pliny.NH.34.18.

25 Coarelli 2007:170.

26 Pliny.NH.34.18. Suet.Vesp.18.

27 Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma 1997:8. (SAR)

28 Fig 5: BMCRM 13, p.48.

29 8th: Coarelli 2007:170. 11th: SAR 1997:8.

30 Hopkins & Beard 2005:34.

31 Hopkins & Beard 2005:31-2.

From Paris to Rome

Students from the University of Kent Paris School of Arts and Culture visited our University of Kent Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies recently and were guided by Academic Director Tom Henry around the Villa Farnesina; find out what they got up to on their blog post here: https://blogs.kent.ac.uk/paris-news/2018/04/24/from-paris-to-rome/