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Borsook, Eve

    Image Credit: Harvard

    Full Name: Borsook, Eve

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 1929

    Place Born: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    Home Country/ies: Canada

    Subject Area(s): Italian (culture or style), Italian Renaissance-Baroque styles, and Renaissance


    Scholar of Renaissance art at the Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Harvard. Borsook was the daughter of Henry Borsook (1897-1984), a renowned biochemist, and Lisl Hummel (Borsook). The year she was born, her father joined the Department of Biology at California Institute of Technology. She attended Vassar College, receiving her B.A in art history in 1949. The same year, Borsook won a competition given by Harper’s Bazaar (magazine) the same year and entered New York University, Institute of Fine Arts, as a graduate student. She worked for the Metropolitan Museum of Art for over three years, receiving her M.A. there in 1952 writing a thesis on the early Baroque painter Carlo Saraceni under Walter Friedlander.  Borsook moved to London and the Courtauld Institute, University of London, to study under Johannes Wilde for her doctorate. Using a Fulbright scholarship, she studied in Italy. There she collaborated with the group of mural conservators in Florence headed by Leonetto Tintori (1908-2000), a relationship lasting over thirty years. Early articles in the Burlington Magazine followed. She wrote her thesis on Italian mural painting at the Courtauld. In 1960 Borsook published a revised version of her dissertation, which was quickly recognized as a groundbreaking survey of Italian mural painting. She collaborated with Tintori on a book on the Peruzzi Chapel in 1965. The following year she published the first edition of what would be considered one of the most readable scholarly guidebooks for Florence. A volume on the frescos of Monesiepi appeared in Italian in 1969. Borsook assisted Richard Offner in his later years in Florence on his life-project, A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. The interest in Italian mural painting raised by the flood spurred Borsook to research this art form more;  an expanded and revised version of Mural Painters appeared in 1980. A book on the Sassetti and Ghilandaio frescos at Santa Trinita was co-authored with Johannes Offerhaus in 1981. She declined a Samuel H. Kress Professorship at the National Gallery of Art in Washgington, D. C., because the year-long fellowship would take her way from Italy for too long. In 1990, Borsook’s interest in mosaics resulted in Messages in Mosaic: The Royal Programmes of Norman Sicily, 1130-1187 a consideration of the medieval mosaics at Cefalu, the Cappella Palatina at Palermo, and Monreale. She was appointed to the advisory commision on the cleaning of the Sisteen Chapel ceiling by the Vatican. Since 1979 research associate on the Italian renaissance at the Villa I Tatti.

    Borsook’s contribution to art history was to explain mural painting within its architectural context and to concentrate on mural painting technique as part of the art-historical analysis (Smyth, 1999). The photographs and details taken by herself were so techically excellent that she advised Roman officials in their photographic documentation of Roman churches.

    Selected Bibliography

    [complete bibliography:] “Eve Borsook, a Bibliography.” in Osti, Ornella Francisci, ed. Mosaics of Friendship: Studies in Art and History for Eve Borsook. Florence: Centro Di, 1999, pp. 11-14; [dissertation:] The Mural Painters of Tuscany, from Cimabue to Andrea del Sarto. Courtauld Insititue of Art, University of London, published, London: Phaidon Press, 1960; and Tintori, Leonetto. Giotto: the Peruzzi Chapel. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1965; The Companion Guide to Florence. London: Collins, 1966; and Offerhaus, Johannes. Francesco Sassetti and Ghirlandaio at Santa Trinità, Florence: History and Legend in a Renaissance Chapel. Doornspijk, Holland: Davaco Publishers, 1981; Messages in Mosaic: the Royal Programmes of Norman Sicily, 1130-1187. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990; edited, with Gioffredi Superbi, Fiorella. Italian Altarpieces, 1250-1550: Function and Design. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994; edited, with Gioffredi Superbi, Fiorella. and Pagliarulo, Giovanni. Medieval Mosaics: Light, Color, Materials. Cinisello Balsamo, Milan: Silvana Editorale, 2000.


    Smyth, Craig Hugh. “Glimpses of Richard Offner.” in, Offner, Richard. A Discerning Eye: Essays on Early Italian Painting. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998, p. 38; Smyth, Craig Hugh. “Preface.” in Osti, Ornella Francisci, ed. Mosaics of Friendship: Studies in Art and History for Eve Borsook. Florence: Centro Di, 1999, pp. 7-10; personal correspondence, February 26, 2019.


    "Borsook, Eve." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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