Helena Szepe

Associate Professor, Renaissance Art History
PhD, Cornell University
Phone: 813.974.9325
Email: szepe@usf.edu
Office: FAH 266

HELENA SZÉPE examines the complex interactions of technology, culture, and art in Venice during the shift from manuscript production to print. Her focus is on painting and book production in Renaissance Venice from the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries. She is especially interested in the hybrid production of books in the early era of print, when books printed in moveable type were often illuminated, or manuscripts were produced in ways influenced by print technology. This period of transition from one dominant mode of publishing to another, and of the coexistence of text and image production, is analogous to our own era of print and emerging digital media.

In her forthcoming book Privilege and Duty in Renaissance Venice: The art of the manuscript document (Yale University Press, Fall 2017), Szépe examines how a tension among patricians between selfless commitment and individual ambition came to be expressed most directly through paintings in documents called ducali. Originally of value solely in confirming an elected officer and delimiting his mission, these manuscripts were transformed through embellishment into enduring monuments promoting ideals of state, but also individual status and family memory. This book introduces the reader to a world of beautiful and complex images long-hidden in ducali, and reveals the personal sacrifice, political maneuvering, and family intrigue which informed their development into hybrids of document and art. Helena Szépe assesses these small paintings in relation to canonical works by such artists as Giovanni Bellini, Titian, and Veronese, as well as to other forms of artistic production such as tomb sculptures and public memorials. She shows that ducali could play a surprisingly pivotal role in broader strategies of the patronage of art and architecture. Substantial original material on governance and artistic patronage in Venice and its territories abroad expands understanding of art in the service of the state, and of Venice as empire.  The way patrician families preserved ducali, and their eventual dispersion and collecting demonstrate how perception and valuation of them changed over time, opening a new perspective on art and memory in Venice.

Szépe teaches Renaissance art survey courses, and special seminars on manuscripts, Venice, and on prints. Recent seminars taught include Dreaming in the Renaissance, The Idea of Venice, Renaissance Identity, The Renaissance Book, and Painting in Renaissance Venice.

She speaks at international and national conferences and has received an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, a Getty Post-Doctoral Fellowship, a Gladys Krieble Delmas Grant, an American Philosophical Society Research Grant, Huntington and Houghton Library Fellowships, and USF Research grants. She was a Visiting Research Scholar at the University of Padua in the Fall of 2013. She has published in numerous refereed journals, including Art History and Word and Image. She received her PhD from Cornell University.


"The Eroticised Dream-Romance Printed by Aldus Manutius,”essay for the catalogs of the international loan exhibition Aldus Manutius and the Venetian Renaissance, eds. Guido Beltramini, Davide Gasparotto, Giulio Manieri Elia. Catalog: Aldo Manuzio. il rinascimento di Venezia, Venice: Marsilio, 2016: 140-159. (Exhibition: Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice, 2016.)

“Patrons and Painters in Venetian Documents,” Bollettino dei Musei Civici Veneziani, 8, 2013: 25-43; 50-61.
“Doge Andrea Dandolo and Manuscript Illumination,” Miniatura. Lo sguardo e la parola. Studi in onore di Giordana Mariani Canova, eds. Federica Toniolo and GennaroToscano, Milan: Silvana Editoriale, 2012: 152-156.
“Venetian Miniaturists in the Era of Print,” The Venetian Book, special edition of Miscellanea Marciana, eds. Craig Kallendorf and Lisa Pon, 2008: 30-61, plates 1-10. 

Review of the exhibition and catalog Mattio Corvino e Firenze. Arte e umanesimo alla corte del re di Ungheria, Péter Farbaky, Dániel Pócs, Magnolia Scudieri, Lia Brunori, Enikő Spekner, András  Végh, in The Burlington Magazine, CLVI: 1330, January 2014, 61-62.