Ancient Roman Writings and Art Explained in Honors College Lecture

  • Full-Size Image: Alden Smith
    Alden Smith courtesy photo
  • Full-Size Image: Piergiacomo Petrioli
    Piergiacomo Petrioli, courtesy of Western Washington University.
Jan. 15, 2014

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Media contact: Lori Fogleman, (254) 710-6275

WACO, Texas (Jan. 15, 2013) - As part of its year-long lecture series, the Baylor Honors College will host Two Illustrated Lectures Friday, Jan. 17, with Alden Smith, Ph.D., professor of classics in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences, and Piergiacomo Petrioli, Ph.D., adjunct professor in the Italy Program at the University of Oregon.

Smith has taught at Baylor University since 1994 and serves as associate dean of the Honors College and director of the University Scholars program. He is also associate editor of "The Classical Journal," a publication of academic articles and notes on Graeco-Roman history.

Smith will present his paper "Virgil in Virgil: Representations of the Poet in the Bodleian Georgics MS Rawl. G. 98." in which he looks at the portrayal of the Roman poet Virgil as a sage poet.

"While one can find a variety of representations of Virgil, 'prophet, wise man, magician, humiliated lover and courtly cleric,'" Smith wrote in his abstract for the paper, "the Virgil that appears in the initial capital of each of these books of poetry is . . . the sage poet . . ."

Petrioli is an art historian from Bologna, Italy, whose interests include Italian Renaissance art, art criticism and the collection of Tuscan Renaissance art, and 19th-century art criticism and restoration in Siena, Tuscany. He has published several articles and books, has taught at universities across the United States and Europe and has received two scholarship awards from Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor University.

Petrioli's lecture topic is "Art, Relics & Politics in Renaissance Siena: The Creed by Vecchietta in the Spedale Del Santa Maria Della Scala." He will discuss the frescoes in the "Holy Nail Chapel" in the Santa Maria della Scala Hospital in Siena, Tuscany, which provided hospitality to pilgrims traveling to Rome and the Holy Land during the Medieval and Renaissance periods.

In the late 14th century, the hospital acquired a nail that is believed to have held Jesus on the cross. In honor of this event, the artist Vecchietta was assigned to decorate the chapel.

"This event was crucial because it was, in terms of style, the first important example of Renaissance-style painting in Siena, providing a very interesting combination of traditional ideas and style from the other best school of art during early 15th century Florence," Petrioli said.

From then on, "the chapel became the most significant religious and political center of Renaissance Siena," he said, as the people of Siena were gradually switching their loyalty from the "anti-pope" Pope Felix V to Pope Eugene IV.

"The Creed by Vecchietta is a very complicated interaction between art, theology and politics, and it shows how the study and appreciation of Renaissance art cannot ignore every single aspect of that time's culture and life," Petrioli said.

This joint lecture will be held at 3:30 p.m. in the Armstrong Browning Library Cox Lecture Hall, 710 Speight Ave.

by Rachel Miller, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805


Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.


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