"Fit Cradle of the Reviving Art": An inquiry into the the Evolving Material Reality of the Murals in the Camposanto of Pisa from the Perspective of their British Reception from the 17th to the 19th century
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The Camposanto of Pisa is an extraordinarily complex and evocative monument, which has captured the imagination of pilgrims, both religious and secular, for centuries. The late Medieval and early Renaissance wall paintings that line the perimeter of the portico surrounding a vast inner courtyard, are unparalleled in early Italian art, not only for their striking variety of composition and narrative complexity, but also for the sheer grandeur of their proportion. However, the passage of time has scarred the structure of the Camposanto and inflicted terrible damage on its wall paintings. This thesis explores the material reality of the Camposanto as experienced over three centuries through the eyes of British travelers. In order to situate the Camposanto mural cycle within an historical and cultural context, the first chapter provides an overview of the construction and decoration of the monument. Notably, Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), the Italian Humanist often recognized as the father of art history, included numerous descriptions of the Camposanto murals in his highly influential text Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori. Accordingly, the second chapter provides an analysis of Vasari’s descriptions and reflects upon the influence that the Renaissance author may have had upon the subsequent British reception of the Camposanto murals. The third chapter utilizes three centuries of travel writing in order to investigate the aesthetic impact of the Camposanto mural cycle upon British tourists from the seventeenth through to the nineteenth century.