Space, sight, and sound in the Renaissance palace: adventures with the MARI project

The Dome, Bramall Music Building
Arts and Law
Wednesday 26th October 2016 (13:00)
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  • Music Colloquium series 2016-2017

Speaker: Tim Shephard (University of Sheffield)

Venue: The Dome, Bramall Music Building (3rd Floor)


Writing in Italy the 1460s, the architectural theorist known as Filarete tells of how a duke collaborates with his architect to design and construct a new city. Surveying the newly constructed buildings in detail, the duke declares that their decorations must be ‘relevant to the place’. He goes on to assign subjects appropriate to each location: good judges in the hall of the podestà; wise counselors of Rome in the hall of the Palazzo del Commune; the inventors of the arts in the guildhall; Venus and Priapus above the entrance to the brothel. From Filarete and others we learn that this relationship of ‘relevance’ between a space and its decorations did not merely satisfy a sense of logic and decorum. Rather, ‘relevant’ decorations presented praiseworthy examples for emulation, inspiring those inhabiting the space—be they city magistrates, government officials, guild leaders or prostitutes—to transact their duties with greater distinction and solicitude, and proposing the meanings they should encode into their respective activities.

The three-year project ‘Music in the Art of Renaissance Italy, 1420-1540’, funded by the Leverhulme Trust and based at the University of Sheffield, investigates how this criterion of ‘relevance’ was met by images in a great range of media to prepare domestic, public and ecclesiastical spaces for the musical activities of their users. Taking examples from the ‘Classicisms’ theme of the project to illustrate our approach, this talk will explore the dialogues created between musical practices, musical meanings and musical images in the spaces of the Renaissance palace in Italy in the decades around 1500.


Tim Shephard is Lecturer in Musicology at the University of Sheffield, and Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Music, Gender and Identity at the University of Huddersfield. His research into music, visual culture and identity in Renaissance Italy has appeared in numerous journals, including Renaissance Quarterly and Renaissance Studies. He is author of Echoing Helicon: Music, Art and Identity in the Este Studioli, 1440-1530 (OUP, 2014), and co-editor with Anne Leonard of the Routledge Companion to Music and Visual Culture (Routledge, 2013). He currently leads the three-year research project ‘Music in the Art of Renaissance Italy, 1420-1540’, funded by the Leverhulme Trust.


Tim Shephard, ‘Musical Spaces: The Politics of Space in Renaissance Italy’, in Tim Shephard and Anne Leonard ed., The Routledge Companion to Music and Visual Culture (Routledge, 2013), 274-80.