Professor Speaks at National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

By Catherine Szilagyi, Student Intern of CHASS College Computing

Professor Steven F. Ostrow of the Art History Department was invited to speak as one of four academic experts on Italian sculpture at a Study Day weekend for the National Gallery of Art and the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts in Washington, D.C., early last November. As a specialist in 17th-century Italian sculpture, Ostrow spoke on a group of Florentine Renaissance sculptures in the Gallery’s exhibition “Monumental Sculpture in Florence: Ghiberti, Nanni di Banco, and Verrocchio at Orsanmichele,” which was the basis for the Study Day weekend.

National Gallery of Art Study Days take place in the galleries during the time when they are closed to the public, and allow the attendees nearly unrestricted access to the works of art. These Study Days therefore provide scholars with a closed-door opportunity to analyze and discuss showcased works of art. This event in particular was a once-in-a-lifetime event, simply due to the nature of the exhibit. The bronze and marble sculptures were originally outdoor monuments, which were flown in from Florence to the Gallery, and then moved indoors for hands-on analysis.

A group of 25 invited specialists in Italian art and sculpture attended the event. The group—comprised of conservators, curators, academics and the top graduate students in the nation—arrived for the two-day behind-the-scenes program from all corners of the United States. CHASS’s own Professor Steven Ostrow was not only one of the 25 specialists invited to discuss the sculptures, but one of only four specialists invited to lead the Study Day weekend.

“It was an extraordinary experience for all involved, though truly unique for me personally,” said Professor Ostrow, “I had seen these works in my academic travels before in Florence, but never had such an opportunity to so closely focus on them and analyze them hands-on.”

Invited particularly for his ability to provide a different perspective to the group as a specialist in 17 th-century Italian sculpture, Professor Ostrow spoke on Italian artist Verrocchio’s two-figure bronze group depicting Christ and Saint Thomas, which is dated between 1466 and 1483. Ostrow presented the sculpture to the group of scholars, providing the historical background to work’s creation and the issues it presented to the public at the time of its creation.

Professor Ostrow said, “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Professor Steven F. Ostrow received his M.F.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University. He is also a historian of late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italian art, specializing in the Counter Reformation, Bernini, and the role of images in communicating political and religious ideas. He has received the Dodds, Kress, Rome Prize, and other fellowships.

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