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Pittaluga, Mary

    Full Name: Pittaluga, Mary

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 1891

    Date Died: 1977

    Place Born: Milan, Lombardy, Italy

    Place Died: Florence, Tuscany, Italy

    Home Country/ies: Italy

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

    Career(s): art historians


    Connoisseur-style historian of Italian renaissance art; popular textbook writer. Pittaluga was the daughter of an Italian General, though her forbearers were Austrian. She attended the State Secondary School in Cuneo, where she was the only female student. When Lionello Venturi was appointed the new chair of art history at the university in Turin at an extremely young age, Pittaluga was one of his first students. She went on to write her ground-breaking thesis under him on Eugène Fromentin. Venturi’s father, the art historian Adolfo Venturi, quickly published her thesis in his magazine, L’Arte in 1917. Pittaluga continued study under Adolfo, where was training scholars to help write his Storia dell’ Arte Italiana. He also assigned her to compile the texts for secondary curriculum in art history for the Liceo Classico. She began teaching in Florence in the 1920s. She published actively in her field, La Pittura Italiana del 400 and the first serious study of Italian engravings by an Italian, L’incisione Italia del 500, both in 1929. L’Architettura Italiana del 400 followed in 1934. In 1938 she produced both La Scultura Italiana del 400 and the first volume of La Pittura Italiana del 500 (the second volume in 1946). She wrote a three-volume survey on world art, from Minoan to twentieth-century, a landmark textbook including plans and glossaries. After the war her family fortune declined and she relied on this text for a part of her income. In 1948 she continued her research on French Salon criticism, publishing in the Biblioteca di Critica d’arte. By the 1950s her interest had moved to nineteenth-century Italian art. She did, however, provide the text for the English-language volume of Raphael’s panel paintings for the Abrams series. Pittaluga retired before the standard pension age in order to devote her last years to publishing in nineteenth-century art. A book on De Nittis appeared in 1963 and another on Ippolito Caffi in 1971, with articles interspersed in the Florentine Antichita Viva. Pittaluga employed connoisseurship as her major approach to art. Bernard Berenson, who generally despised female art historians and academics alike, made an exception for Pittaluga. He characterized her worth as equal to all other Italian colleages. The painter and author A. Derek Hill (1916-2000) described her as the female, twentieth-century Voltaire.

    Selected Bibliography

    Acquafortisti veneziani del Settecento. Florence: Le Monnier, 1953; La pittura italiana del Cinquecento. Florence: Novissima enciclopedia monografica illustrata, 1936; L’architettura italiana del Quattrocento. Florence: Novissima enciclopedia monografica illustrata, 1934; Arte italiana. 3 vols. Florence: F. Le Monnier, 1937-1938; Filippo Lippi. Florence: Del Turco, 1949; Il pittore Ippolito Caffi. Vicenza: N. Pozza, 1971; Raphael: Panel Paintings. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1955; Cappella sistina. English, The Sistine Chapel. Rome: Del Turco, 1953; “Eug’ne Fromentin e le origine della moderne critica d’arte.” L’Arte 20, fascicule 1, (February 28, 1917), and 21, fascicule 5 (October 31, 1918); Arti e Studi in Italia nel 900. Gli Storici dell’Arte. Florence: Editrice La Nuova Italia, 1930; Masaccio. Florence: Le Monnier, 1935; Pura Visibilità della Critica d’Arte. Florence: Felice Le Monnier, 1933.


    [obituary:] Vertova, Luisa. “Mary Pittaluga.” Burlington Magazine 120 (February 1978): 97.


    "Pittaluga, Mary." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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