The BSR welcomes a new cohort of borsisti

At the end of December we said arrivederci to eleven award-holders, and at the start of 2017 we welcomed nine new borsisti into the fold. Here we take a look at the goings-on at the BSR thus far this year.

Welcome Week was a great success, with numerous tours and talks. We had two evenings in which our resident scholars and artists introduced their practice or area of research, and those returning brought us up to speed with where the first three months at the BSR had led them. It was fantastic to see such a range of disciplines, from letter-bearers in Roman antiquity to cinematic depictions of modern Rome via photographic installations and the study of Welsh painters in Rome.

Click here to see the full list of this year’s award-holders and their research topics.


Our January-March award-holders after the introductory talks. Photo by Antonio Palmieri

No Welcome Week would be complete without a lecture and tour from our Director Christopher Smith, and this time was no exception! On Friday evening, Christopher gave a wonderful talk on the Etruscans which was the perfect prelude to a tour of the nearby Villa Giulia, which houses the National Etruscan Museum. It was a great privilege to be shown around this treasure trove of Etruscan delights by a leading expert in the field who has a wealth of information on practically every piece in the museum!

The following week, our resident artists and scholars were led on two tours: the first by Visual Art Residency and Programme Curator Marco Palmieri, who lent his expert knowledge to a tour of the De Chirico Foundation, as well as selecting a number of Rome’s contemporary art galleries. This was followed by a tour of some of the highlights of Baroque Rome, including Palazzo Barberini and the genius of Borromini and Bernini manifested in nearby churches, with Assistant Director Tom True at the helm.

As always, the BSR has managed to fit a wealth of expertise on a wide range of topics into a few weeks in its conferences and evening lectures. The first event of the new year was a talk given by Catherine Fletcher, author of The Black Prince of Florence, who reflected on the depiction of the Medici family in light of Rai Uno’s new series Medici: Masters of Florence and the debate it has prompted about the relationship between historical fact and fiction. The podcast of this talk is coming soon! Since then, the BSR has also hosted Il Comizio dei Re, a conference bringing together new research on the Lapis Niger, a brilliant lecture on ancient biographical tradition by Roy Gibson, and an event presented by the British Council in Italy as part of the debate on migration in Europe.


British Council in Italy – ‘Bridges and Walls’

However, this does not mean to say that our award-holders have remained within the BSR walls since January – in keeping with the international outlook of the BSR, several scholars and artists have been on some exciting trips abroad for their research or practice. Zoe Cormack (Rome Fellow) encompassed Venice, London and Durham into one trip. On the Museo di Storia Naturale in Venice where Zoe was carrying out her research, Zoe said:

‘It is one of the largest, best conserved and most well documented collections of South Sudanese material culture in Europe.   Although African history is not a traditional draw to Venice, the Museo di Storia Naturale is one of the few places in the world where visitors can see historic South Sudanese material culture and artworks on permanent display.

‘I was lucky to spend a week studying the objects and supporting documentation in the Museum.  I was able to see Miani’s handwritten diaries from Sudan, some of his notes on the collections and a 1865 lithograph showing the original display of the objects. This trip has enormously enhanced my understanding of the formation of the collection and its history. I am very grateful to the staff of the Museum for their hospitality and for expertly guiding me through their collections’.

Also flying across the continent was Vivien Zhang (Abbey Scholar in Painting), this time to Berlin to meet Gábor Domokos, one of the creators of the gömböc, which has been, in Vivien’s words, ‘a source of inspiration for the past two years and going strong’. She even received her own gömböc as a gift!

Sinta Tantra (Bridget Riley Fellow) also travelled to London, where not only does she currently have her work produced in collaboration with Nick Hornby on display in group exhibition I Lost my Heart to a Starship Trooper, but also where she participated in the discussion Women’s work? Artists in conversation, an intergenerational discussion between artists, offering overlapping perspectives at the intersection of race, gender and politics.

Ellie Johnson (Administrative assistant)