Skip to content

Lightbown, R. W.

    Full Name: Lightbown, R. W.

    Other Names:

    • Ronald William Lightbown

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1932

    Place Born: UK

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

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


    Botticelli and Italian Renaissance sculpture scholar. Lightbown’s parents were Vincent Lightbown and Helen Anderson (Lightbown). Lightbown received an M.A from Cambridge University, joining the Victoria and Albert Museum in London as an assistant keeper in 1958. He married Mary Dorothy Webster, also an art historian, in 1962. He and John Pope-Hennessy wrote the catalog to sculpture for the V&A, issued in 1964. Lightbown rose to deputy keeper in 1973. He was a visiting fellow at Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI in 1974. Lightbown was made keeper of the library in 1976 and later Keeper of Metalwork. Lightbown published a magisterial two-volume study of Sandro Botticelli in 1978, one which established him as a documents scholar as well as a connoisseur. He followed with a patronage study of Donatello and a catalogue raisonné of Andrea Mantegna in 1986. In 1989, however, the V&A director Elizabeth Esteve-Coll instituted a restructuring of the museum for financial savings, consolidated the departments of ceramics, metalwork and sculpture, forcing the retirement of Lightbown and ceramics curator John Mallet, among others. A very public controversy ensued about the Museum saving money by force-retiring its departmental scholars. Lightbown’s scholarship is noted for its studies of patronage issues of the Renaissance.

    Selected Bibliography

    and Pope-Hennessy, John. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. 3 vols. London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1964; Introduction to An Essay towards an English School of Painting. London: Cornmarket Press, 1969; Sandro Botticelli. 2 vols. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978; Secular French Goldsmiths’ Work of the Middle Ages. London: Thames & Hudson, 1978; and Corbett, M. The Comely Frontspiece. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979; Donatello and Michelozzo: an Artistic Partnership and Its Patrons in the Early Renaissance. 2 vols. London: Harvey MIller, 1980; Mantegna: with a Complete Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings, and Prints. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986; Piero della Francesca. New York: Abbeville Press, 1992; Carlo Crivelli. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.


    Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Research Guide to the History of Western Art. Sources of Information in the Humanities, no. 2. Chicago: American Library Association, 1982, p. 118; Pierce, Andrew. “Curators take their Leave from V & A; Victoria and Albert Museum.” Times (London), March 24 1989.


    "Lightbown, R. W.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

    More Resources

    Search for materials by & about this art historian: