Start » Koope­ra­tionen » HistAnt­ArtSI

ERC Project: Histo­rical Memory, Anti­qua­rian Culture, Artistic Patro­nage: Social Iden­ti­ties in the Centres of Southern Italy

From the twelfth century, southern Italy was overrun by foreign rulers, who were constantly engaged in battles for dynastic succes­sion. In a time of frequent poli­tical uphe­aval, local urban commu­ni­ties found them­selves faced with the constant need to legi­ti­mate and recon­firm their status through nego­tia­tions with the king, or with local barons. In this context, methods employed by these commu­ni­ties in the cons­truc­tion of specific local iden­ti­ties, as well as  tech­ni­ques used by indi­vi­duals and fami­lies to affirm their social posi­tion, assume parti­cular importance. On the level of the indi­vi­dual and the commu­nity, the central elements in such processes appear to have been the re-use of the past and allu­sion to civic and family origins.

During this ERC Starting Grant project of 2011–16, an inter­di­sci­pli­nary team inves­ti­gated the use of textual sources (both archival and lite­rary) and local anti­qui­ties in methods of self-repre­sen­ta­tion adopted by elite indi­vi­duals and local commu­ni­ties in the Regno di Napoli between the medieval and early modern period. In parti­cular, the project sought to iden­tify the self-conscious, stra­tegic use of histo­rical sources and of the antique in the compo­si­tion of new texts and in the commis­sio­ning of artistic and archi­tec­tural works, begin­ning with Campania and then exten­ding to Puglia, Cala­bria, Basi­li­cata, Molise and Abruzzo.

A data­base acces­sible on the Internet was created to gather toge­ther data rela­ting the anti­qui­ties and their local reuse, inclu­ding works of art and archi­tec­ture as well as the local scho­larly histo­ries in southern conti­nental Italy between the four­te­enth and seven­te­enth centu­ries. The data­base has been an essen­tial tool for project parti­ci­pants, while also provi­ding an instru­ment for rese­arch that opens new avenues of inves­ti­ga­tion for the scho­larly commu­nity world-wide. Data on the anti­qui­ties of southern conti­nental Italy is also being inte­grated into the mate­rial already present in the Census, thus expan­ding upon this signi­fi­cant inter­na­tional resource.

The project’s aim was to estab­lish a balanced view of southern conti­nental Italy between the late medieval and early modern period, a histo­rical context has been judged with inter­pre­ta­tive  methods, such as those of centre and peri­phery, deve­lo­p­ment and under­de­ve­lo­p­ment. Its aim was to rein­tro­duce to the study of Euro­pean history a time and place which has in effect been ‘lost’. It has provided both the know­ledge and the tools needed for efforts to conserve, develop and manage of artistic and archi­tec­tural heri­tage of southern Italy by local, national and inter­na­tional insti­tu­tional bodies. Above all, at a time when Italy’s national heri­tage is being incre­asingly commer­cia­lised, the project has aimed at incre­asing Italians’ aware­ness of their own cultural heri­tage, so that Italy’s citi­zens can become its primary guardians.

Keystone Figure, Amphi­theatre at Capua

Prin­cipal Inves­ti­gator:
Bianca de Divitiis

Host Insti­tu­tion:
Univer­sità degli Studi di Napoli Federico II

The Warburg Insti­tute — School of Advanced Study, Univer­sity of London

Census of Antique Works of Art and Archi­tec­ture Known in the Renaissance

Project website: