A Dialogue on Raphael: ‘New Perspectives on the Stanza di Eliodoro’

On the 11th February 2020, the University of Kent’s Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies, in collaboration with The American University of Rome, is hosting a discussion of new perspectives regarding the decoration of the Vatican Palace’s Stanza di Eliodoro. Part of a sequence of four rooms in the Vatican Museum, this Stanza’s frescoes display the magnificent artistry of Raphael and his workshop.

The conjoined event, drawing upon the academic expertise of both institutions, fits into the wider fabric of 2020’s celebrations marking 500 years since Raphael’s death.

Throughout the evening, short papers will be presented by Professor Tom Henry (Director of Kent’s Rome School and co-curator of the National Gallery’s future Raphael exhibition), Dr Claudia La Malfa (Visiting Lecturer at the University of Kent and Adjunct Professor of History of Art, The American University of Rome) Kostas Gravanis (University of Kent PhD and former Rome School MA student), alongside Professor Paul Gwynne (Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, The American University of Rome). Those speaking will provide new insights relating to the date and iconography of the most beautiful of Raphael’s Vatican Stanze.

A chance for Art Historians and other interested parties to deepen their knowledge of Raphael, this event also provides the perfect opportunity to learn more about the academic offerings of Kent’s Rome School.

For further event details and to register your attendance, visit: https://aur.edu/events/new-perspectives-raphaels-stanza-di-eliodoro?fbclid=IwAR028Pj8bYRcS1JpLSf_ctUeHLK1Si13polM_vqtPHbBaOyfvr8TAYFszPw

2019 a successful year for Rome School student

Having secured a six-month internship with the Vatican Museums earlier this year, former University of Kent in Rome History of Art MA and current PhD student, Kostas Gravanis, has now also been awarded the Renaissance Society of America Samuel H. Kress Research Fellowship in Renaissance Art History.

With just 14% of applicants selected to receive funding, the RSA identified Kostas’ project submission as ‘one of the very best advancing our knowledge of Renaissance studies’. The $3000 stipend will enable him to undertake research in the Sala di Costantino, one of the Raphael rooms in the Vatican Palace upon which his PhD focuses. Kostas’ project is an iconographic investigation and chronological reconstruction of works within their historical and physical context.

With this recent achievement rounding his 2019 off even more positively, the Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies’ alumnus reflected on his interning experience in the Vatican Museum earlier this year – from April through to mid-autumn. In direct relation to his PhD, this internship also focused on the Vatican’s Stanze di Raffaello (the sequence of four rooms decorated by Raphael and his workshop between 1508 and 1524).

Kostas’ internship was predominantly research-based, with work mostly taking place in the famous Hertziana Library in Rome. With Raphael’s paintings in the Vatican as the focus, the interning responsibilities included: creating bibliographies of existing sources and analytical chronologies for all works, producing lists of relevant drawings, and attempting reconstructions of original decorations and events.

The role also involved repeated visits to Raphael’s frescoes in the Vatican, engagement with the museums’ restoration teams, discussion on photographic collections, and the privilege of climbing the scaffolding in the Sala di Costantino – a famous large hall undergoing restoration. The context of celebrations planned in Rome for 2020, revolving around the quincentenary of Raphael’s death, enhanced the interning experience.

Kostas Gravanis, former Kent in Rome MA student, said: “This amazing internship gave me an unrivalled opportunity to study the work of Raphael and his workshop from close angles and to learn from people who are experts in their field. The experience also proved greatly beneficial to my PhD. It allowed me to collect and organise a large body of relevant sources, expand my range of research methods, and generally improve as a researcher. Coupled with my recent fellowship news, this internship has made 2019 a real highlight.”

“Had I not done the Master’s with Kent’s Rome School back in 2015-16, these incredible opportunities would not have come about. I had never been to Rome before studying with the University of Kent. My fascination with the city and the Vatican all started then, and those three intensive months studying abroad with countless artworks right in front of me really gave me the practical knowledge and motivation to get to where I am now.”

Despite his previous background in marketing and communications, a future in academia related to the interdisciplinary field of Renaissance art is now the mature student’s ambition, something which the RSA’s fellowship award should help fulfil.

Tom Henry, Director of Kent’s Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies, said: “Kostas has been a committed student since day one. He’s a great example of the exciting places our MA programmes, with their term in the monumental setting of Rome, can lead. We congratulate him on his outstanding achievements and continue to wish him every success in his academic endeavours.”

Exploring the Eternal City: students prep for study in Rome

This month, MA students from the Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies were led on a three-day university-funded visit to Italy’s capital, their future destination of study.

The purpose of this annual taster trip, a fundamental part of the School’s specialist programmes and the unique student experience they propose, is simple; prepare students as fully as possible for their term in Rome. Knowing what to expect from the outset means students are ready to embrace life and study abroad in all its fullness, making for an enriching academic chapter ahead.

As in previous cycles, the trip’s colourful itinerary saw students (accompanied by school teaching and administrative staff) visit monuments, tour the study facilities on offer to them through the American University of Rome and the American Academy, and enjoy a hearty Roman meal together – quite literally giving a taste of ‘la dolce vita’ to come.

This year’s guided tours of Castel Sant Angelo and the Capitoline Museums given by the department’s lecturers and in the latter instance, somewhat exceptionally, also by the curator herself of the ‘Luca Signorelli and Rome: Oblivion and Rediscovery’ exhibition, resembled the hands-on teaching to be expected from term two.

In keeping with the rest of Kent’s European centres, the Rome School prides itself on its matchless education model that transforms the city into the classroom. While a continuum from the teaching (delivered in English) experienced in Canterbury, this embellished spring term framework tangibly takes advantage of Rome’s ancient heritage and abounding history.

Uprooting cities and countries and heading somewhere unfamiliar for study purposes can sometimes seem a big step. Given that more than half of this year’s MA cohort had never visited Rome before, the chance to trial the capital’s transport, explore its neighbourhoods, witness its rich culture and set up accommodation viewings in advance of moving made the November trip a precious preparatory tool.

Much more than a simple study perk, this induction to life in Rome is another means through which Kent supports its students’ transition abroad and helps them feel at ease as, individually and collectively, they enter into new and exciting academic terrain.

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/