The Renaissance Society of America (RSA) has awarded its prestigious Phyllis Goodhart Gordan Prize to Peter Fane-Saunders for his book Pliny the Elder and the Emergence of Renaissance Architecture, published by Cambridge University Press.
The Phyllis Goodhart Gordan Prize is presented annually to the author of the best book in Renaissance studies (1300-1700), in recognition of significant accomplishments in the field.
The RSA committee said: ‘Peter Fane-Saunders masters a formidable and important topic with sophistication, erudition, and engaging prose. In offering the first comprehensive analysis of the Italian Renaissance reception of Pliny the Elder's writing on architecture, his book fills a significant gap in our understanding of early modern architecture. It makes a major contribution to our conception of the transmission of ideas from ancient Rome into the European architectural tradition.’
The Naturalis historia by Pliny the Elder provided Renaissance scholars, artists and architects with details of ancient architectural practice and long-lost architectural wonders – material that was often unavailable elsewhere in classical literature. Pliny's descriptions frequently included the dimensions of these buildings, as well as details of their unusual construction materials and ornament.
Beatrice Rehl, Publisher of Archaeology, Art History, and Religious Studies at Cambridge University Press said: ‘We are delighted that the work of Peter Fane-Saunders has been recognised by the RSA through this award. We are proud to publish his insightful and engaging work on Pliny the Elder’.
This book describes, for the first time, how the passages were interpreted from around 1430 to 1580, that is, from Alberti to Palladio. Chapters are arranged chronologically within three interrelated sections – antiquarianism; architectural writings; drawings and built monuments – thereby making it possible for the reader to follow the changing attitudes to Pliny over the period. The resulting study establishes the Naturalis historia as the single most important literary source after Vitruvius's De architectura.
About the Author
Peter Fane-Saunders received his BA in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute; MPhil in History and Theory of Architecture from the University of Bath, Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering; and doctorate from the Warburg Institute, London. He was a Rome Fellow at the British School at Rome; visiting scholar at the Istituto Svizzero di Roma; recipient of the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation annual grant for research into Venetian history and culture; and Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow, Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Durham. He has lectured at Durham and Birkbeck, University of London.
For an author interview or more information please contact Ella Fornari at Cambridge University Press: email@example.com.
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Transcription of Prize Citation:
"Peter Fane-Saunders masters a formidable and important topic with sophistication, erudition, and engaging prose. In offering the first comprehensive analysis of the Italian Renaissance reception of Pliny the Elder's writing on architecture, his book fills a significant gap in our understanding of early modern architecture. It makes a major contribution to our conception of the transmission of ideas from ancient Rome into the European architectural tradition by arguing how Pliny's multifaceted influence was second to only one other ancient author, Vitruvius (who, in contrast to Pliny, has been the focus of many studies). This expansive project required in-depth engagement with the work of varied antiquarians, humanists, architects, architectural theorists, and book illustrators across 200 years, such as Flavio Biondo, Ciriaco d'Ancona, Leon Battista Alberti, Filarete, Pomponio Leto, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Sebastiano Serlio, the creators of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, the circle of Raphael, Cesare Cesariano, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, Daniele Barbaro, and Palladio. Contending with each of these was often a substantial project in its own right, and the book develops its arguments about them independently and heterogeneously, and also as part of a coherent whole. Fane-Saunders's work displays the highest standards of scholarship in drawing upon architectural drawings, archival sources, manuscripts, and early printed books in order to assess Pliny's written record, how he interpreted Greek ideas, how his text evolved through manuscript redactions and print editions, and, finally, how all that was interpreted in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This careful analysis is presented in a manner that is rigorous, while smoothly readable." ---
Peter Fane-Saunders has been a member of SAH since 2014. That year, he received an SAH/Mellon Author Award for Pliny the Elder and the Emergence of Renaissance Architecture.