Felicia M. Else, Associate Professor of Art History at Gettysburg College, shares her experience as a 2013 IAS Research & Publication Grant winner. As the first recipient of this award, which was established in 2012, Felicia was able to undertake research in Florence crucial to her ongoing book project. Here’s what she has to say:

The IAS grant helped to offset the cost of a research trip to the State Archives of Florence (Archivio di Stato di Firenze). I was able to spend several weeks there carrying out the final phases of research on the impact of water on 16th century Florence for my forthcoming book on water, art, and festivals in Medici Florence. This research trip yielded vital material for the book. For example, I was able to spend time going through reports of the Capitani di Parte Guelfa (Guelph Party Captains), which document problems with drains, cesspits, and wells throughout the city. One noteworthy and rather unappetizing case involved a pisciattoio, or public urinal, not far from the bustling hub at Orsanmichele, that had leaked its contents into a nearby pozzo da bere, or drinking well.  

Another important set of documents for my work were payment records in the Scrittoio delle fortezze e fabbriche, Fabbriche medicee (Office of fortifications and buildings, Medici buildings), which provided details on repairs and restorations to city aqueducts as well as Bartolomeo Ammannati’s Neptune Fountain in the Piazza della Signoria. Dating to the reign of Granduke Ferdinando I de’ Medici in the months leading up to his wedding to Christine of Lorraine in 1589, these records show work carried out on various parts of the fountain, from the marble colossus of Neptune to the lithe bronze figures that adorn the basin, including perhaps the first documented instance of a problem that would plague the fountain for centuries to come, the breaking off of the horses’ legs pulling Neptune’s watery chariot.

The manuscript for my book, The Politics of Water in the Art and Festivals of Medici Florence: From Neptune Fountain to Naumachia, has been completed and, under contract with Ashgate Press, is currently undergoing final review by editors with the publisher as well as the Society for European Festivals Research. Highlights of this research have also been presented at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America in New York as part of a series of sessions on Renaissance Water co-organized by Mark Rosen and myself.

The opportunity to compete for research grants is just one of many benefits available to members of the Italian Art Society. Join us today! The 2015 competition for the IAS Research & Publication Grant, as well as a new IAS Dissertation Research Grant, is now open to all IAS members. Applications are due 10 January 2016.

Else poses in front of Bartolomeo Ammanati’s Neptune Fountain, Piazza della Signoria, Florence

View of Orsanmichele (site of the leaking pisciattoio) along the Via Calzaiuolo, Florence (photo: author). 

Bartolomeo Ammannati, Neptune Fountain, 1560-74, Piazza della Signoria, Florence (photo: author).

Detail of the horses’ legs on the Neptune Fountain showing repairs to breakages over time (photo: author).

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