Art history major Brenna Larson ‘14 has been awarded a nine-month Fulbright research grant to study and continue her honors research project in Perugia, Italy. Her research will also take her to Rome and Florence.
Larson’s project focuses on the patronage of Cardinal Jean Balue (1421-1491) and pays particular attention to a niello book cover commissioned by the cardinal from a Florentine workshop in the second half of the fifteenth century. She has also set out to find a missing manuscript from the volume.
“Niello is an ancient medium that is rarely studied today, but enjoyed popularity for a few decades during the Florentine Renaissance,” says Larson, who is from Summit, New Jersey. The medium is characterized by lines inscribed on metal plates, usually silver, and filled with a compound of lead, sulfur, and copper; the resulting picture is comprised of dark lines on a silver ground. “I use the nielli as a window onto both the collection practices and tastes of Balue but also as an example of the interests of French prelates and nobility in Florentine art.”
While in Perugia, Larson will take classes taught by her sponsor, Professor Tommaso Mozzati, at the University of Perugia. She plans to build on her current research by investigating the changes in nielli over the course of the second half of the 15th century with the help of the Bargello collection in Florence, which has one of the most extensive niello collections in the world. She also hopes to gain access to the Vatican Library to find the missing manuscript, which was likely a Gospel book.
Larson has worked as a student docent at the Allen Memorial Art Museum for three years. She was a research assistant for Assistant Professor Sarah Hamill during her sophomore year, and she is currently a research assistant for Assistant Professor Christina Neilson. She is co-chair of Active Minds at Oberlin, and a mental health advocate for the Office of Student Wellness. She says she intends to pursue a PhD in art history, and she will apply to graduate programs this fall.
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