Judith Allan, who is doing a PhD in Modern Languages and History of Art, jointly won the Michael K. O'Rourke best PhD publication prize at the University Graduate School Awards ceremony for her essay, 'Lorenzo’s Star and Savonarola’s Serpent: Changing Representations of Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci', published this year in the journal Italian Studies.

Judith Allan's essay resists the hegemony of received wisdom; it brings the past into meaningful dialogue with the present; and it changes our way at looking at one of the most popular icons of Italian culture, Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci. This academically acclaimed piece of scholarship also has broader, public appeal: As Judith's essay makes clear, Simonetta features in countless blogs, wikis, contemporary novels (including Salman Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence, 2008) and even on Facebook. In setting her story straight, Judith's essay enlivens and enriches our understanding of the woman who (thanks to the writers, artists and bloggers who continue to be inspired by her) has become the face of the Italian Renaissance and, indeed, Italian culture as a whole.

  • Read the essay