Palimpsest Naples

Naples is the largest metropolis in southern Italy, a place where the ancient coexists with the medieval and modern creating a palimpsest that eludes, more so than elsewhere, the logic of stratification. The city is the focus of research and activities by the Bibliotheca Hertziana intended to explore the city's complexity, call into question standard historical approaches and re-format scholarly discourses.
Central Railway for the City of Naples, 1906 (Naples Procession), 2012, Preparatory Sketch for the mosaic of the Metro Art - Stazione Toledo, Naples

Naples is the largest urban reality in southern Italy and one of the most significant in the country. Traces of its long history are embedded in the various layers of its urban texture. A criterion of continuity in the sense of overlapping strata cannot, however, always be used to understand its evolutionary chronology; in a more evident and articulated way than is true of other urban sites, Naples resembles a palimpsest. Indeed, the evolution of urban scape has often been partial and discontinuous, and the traces of previous stages have not been completely effaced, either consciously or otherwise. Thus, the 'stratigraphic sequence' is readable at a simultaneous level, rather than by a top-down sampling through superimposed layers.

As a former capital and cultural and economic stronghold of the post-unification State, the city has been the focus of sustained attention and a continuous exchange of ideas on the part of both local and European scholars. Nevertheless, the historiographic reception of Neapolitan art and culture has been characterized by a certain stiffness. For instance, nineteenth- and twentieth-century nationalistic perspectives have determined the image of a 'colonial' Naples dominated by a succession of foreign dynasties that supposedly shaped its arts and monuments according to "canons" established in their native lands. On the other hand, the recurring idea of a subordination to the major centers of art production, both in Italy and abroad, has overshadowed Naples originality, even beyond national borders.

Though starting within the broader frame of interest in southern Italy – a deeply rooted tradition at the Hertziana – the project Palimpsest Naples aims at innovatively contributing to the research field on the capital  of the Campania region by providing a platform for the observation of the cultural heritage of Naples and for debating approaches and methodologies of historical research, in tune with new perspectives and up-to-date questions in the humanities.

Fellows and members of the Institute's scientific staff who participate in the project are individually engaged in active research on specific aspects, such as the creation and use of royal and sacred space; Naples's multilayered cityscape as a mirror for identity through which aspects of the past were, and have continued to be selectively recovered; and distinctive features of Neapolitan art and cultural environment. Furthermore, attention is placed on historical phases that appear to have been less explored in recent historiography and criticism, such as the early and high Middle Ages, the twentieth century, and Contemporaneity.

Scholarly exchange between the researchers is promoted by means of a permanent research laboratory, the Neapel-Forum, and a schedule of regular meetings and shared initiatives in which issues with which the members are grappling are discussed, and a lively scientific dialogue is promoted. In parallel, Palimpsest Naples is interactive with the network of local and foreign academic institutions and research teams centered on Neapolitan studies. The group's initiatives also include public lectures, seminars, workshops and conferences addressing Neapolitan topics through a comparative and interdisciplinary approach.

Publications (Selection)

  • Adrian Bremenkamp, "Renaissance Made in Naples: Alfonso of Aragon as Role Model to Federico da Montefeltro", in New Research on Art in Fifteenth-Century Naples/Nuove ricerche sull'arte del Quattrocento a Napoli, ed. Adrian Bremenkamp and Sarah Kozlowski, Pisa 2018 [= Predella 43–44 (2018)], pp. 11–34, (accessed 09.04.2020).
  • Stefano D'Ovidio, Alla ricerca di un Medioevo perduto: la basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore a Napoli (IV–XVII secolo), 'Convivium', 3 (2016), 2, pp. 48–67.
  • Stefano D'Ovidio, "La trasformazione dello spazio liturgico nelle chiese medievali di Napoli durante il XVI secolo: alcuni casi di studio", in Re-thinking, Re-making, Re-living Christian Origins, ed. by I. Foletti, M. Gianandrea, E. Scirocco and S. Romano, Rome 2018, pp. 93–119.
  • Tanja Michalsky, "Die Stadt im Buch. Die Konstruktion städtischer Ordnung am Beispiel frühneuzeitlicher Beschreibungen Neapels", in Urbanität, ed. by Martina Stercken and Ute Schneider, Cologne 2016, pp. 105–131.
  • Tanja Michalsky, "Tombs and the Ornamentation of Chapels", in Naples (Artistic centers of the Italian Renaissance), ed. by Marcia B. Hall and Thomas Willette, New York 2017, pp. 233–298.
  • Tanja Michalsky, "Napoli creola. Überformung und Kontinuität städtischer Identität durch dynastische Kunstpolitik", in Fluchtpunkt, ed. by Franck Hofmann and Markus Messling, Berlin 2017, pp. 209–235.
  • Elisabetta Scirocco, "La chiesa napoletana del Corpo di Cristo: reliquie e processioni", in Reliquie in processione nell'Europa medievale, ed. Vinni Lucherini, Rome 2018, pp. 131–158.


Il cappello del brigante. Intrattenimento pittoresco e cultura visuale in età romantica

Giulio Tatasciore
Evento online via Zoom
May 3, 2021 11:00 - 13:00

"English Visitors" a Napoli e l'immaginario romantico britannico

Diego Saglia
Evento trasmesso in diretta streaming / Prenotazione obbligatoria per partecipazione in loco
Oct 1, 2020 11:30 - 13:00
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom

Mater et Caput Ecclesiae Neapolitanae. Alfonso Gesualdo e la cattedrale di Napoli (1596-1603)

Mauro Vincenzo Fontana
Oct 7, 2019 11:00
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom

La storia negata. Napoli nella storiografia artistica

Jul 5, 2018 12:00 - 19:00
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom

The Tramezzo of Santa Chiara in Naples. New Technologies for an Old Question

Caroline Bruzelius
Jun 4, 2018 13:00
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom

Descrivere una città: Early Modern Guidebooks in Naples

May 28, 2018 09:15
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom

Tra terra e mare. Architettura e potere sulla costa del Tirreno meridionale (VIII-X secolo)

May 3, 2018 13:00 - May 4, 2018 15:00
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom

Blues napoletano: la sfida di una città postcoloniale

Iain Chambers
Apr 23, 2018 20:00
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom
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