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The Source of the Soul: Water for Villa Waterworks in Renaissance Rome

Katherine Rinne, California College of the Arts, Summer Fellow 2012

My search for the springs that nourished and animated Rome's Renaissance gardens has expanded over the summer to a broader study of land ownership. My interest is in the rise and fall of the baronial and cardinal families who owned spring-fed lands that later became villa gardens and how they acquired and transferred ownership amongst themselves and with monastic establishments between the tenth and sixteenth centuries. My expanded topic emerged as a direct result of my 2012 Summer Fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks, where I made use of research materials that are simply unavailable to me as an independent scholar and part-time professor at an art college. In particular, I made use of the David Coffin Archives, the Rare Book Collection, and Inter-Library Loan services for obscure publications. But the most illuminating work came from spending at least one hour a day simply scanning the shelves for books and journals that were new to me (mostly medieval history) that contained valuable material about land transfers from baronial families to monasteries and then from those same monasteries to certain cardinals who later transformed some of those lands into gardens. Consequently, I was able to accomplish more in my two months here than I could have done in six to eight months at home.

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