Collections, Museums and Museology in Italy, 15th-18th centuries 

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


Course Type
WiSe 2023/24


This seminar will examine the history of collecting and the origins of private and public museums in Italy between the 15th century and the 18th century. We will be exploring concepts of collecting and display with an emphasis on the rise of collecting, the inventiveness and diversity of collecting practices in this era, and the birth of the museum. During the time span covered, collecting tends to move from private or civic contexts, to grand collections by princely patrons, to ambitious public collections that are early forms of today’s national museums, and we will consider these developments and their broader ramifications for the history of art. Themes to be examined include early collecting spaces such as the studioli of wealthy patrons and scholars, as well as the pivotal role of the Medici collections in shaping the culture of early museums and art patronage. In the context of Rome, the seminar will examine early archaeological collections, including those at the Capitoline Museums and the Vatican Belvedere. The seminar considers as well the development of cabinets of curiosities and collections of scientific and natural objects. The role of academies, early colonialism and the arrival of objects from Africa, Asia and the Americas, as well as specialist collections such as libraries and animal menageries will be further topics of investigation. The seminar ends with opening in the 18th century of the Pinacoteca Capitolina, the public painting gallery of the Capitoline Museums, which ushered in an enduring model for the modern museum.