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.

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.


Alessia Rollo. Visual Narratives of the Italian South

Exhibition curated by Viviana Costagliola
Apr 17, 2024
Palazzo Zuccari (Foyer, Sala Terrena, Sala del Disegno)

Gateways to Medieval Naples

Field School
Con registrazione obbligatoria
Jun 7, 2022 09:30 AM - 01:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
Naples, Accademia Pontaniana, Via Mezzocannone 8, 80134 Napoli

La Cappella Sansevero a Napoli. Raimondo di Sangro e la cultura del barocco romano

Gianluca Forgione
Evento in presenza e online
May 6, 2022 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM (Local Time Germany)
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom

Living with the Volcano │The Culture and History of Naples reflected in Natural Disasters

Elisabetta Scirocco
Event online
Nov 10, 2021 06:00 PM - 07:00 PM (Local Time Germany)

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

Giulio Tatasciore
May 3, 2021 11:00 AM - 01:00 PM (Local Time Germany)

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

Diego Saglia
Oct 1, 2020 11:30 AM - 01:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
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 AM (Local Time Germany)
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom

La storia negata. Napoli nella storiografia artistica

Jul 5, 2018 12:00 PM - 07:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
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 01:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom

Descrivere una città: Early Modern Guidebooks in Naples

May 28, 2018 09:15 AM (Local Time Germany)
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 01:00 PM (Local Time Germany) - May 4, 2018 03:00 PM
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom

Blues napoletano: la sfida di una città postcoloniale

Iain Chambers
Apr 23, 2018 08:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom
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