Patricia Fortini Brown

Professor Emeritus
Renaissance Art
Email Address:

Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, 1983

Patricia Fortini Brown, formerly chair of the Department of Art & Archaeology (1999-2005), taught Italian Renaissance art at Princeton since 1983 and retired in 2010. Venice and its empire, from the late middle ages through the early modern period, has been the primary site of her scholarly research, with a focus on how works of art and architecture can materialize and sum up significant aspects of the culture in which they were produced.

Brown’s research has been supported by a number of fellowships including a Fulbright grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rome Prize at the American Academy in Rome, a Folger Shakespeare Library Fellowship, and Delmas grants for research in Venice. She has lectured widely and her  books have received a number of awards:   Venetian Narrative Painting in the Age of Carpaccio was a finalist for the  Premio "Salotto Veneto 89" (1989); Venice & Antiquity was awarded the Phyllis Goodhart Gordon Book Prize (Renaissance Society of America, 1998) and was a finalist for the  Charles Rufus Morey Prize (College Art Association, 1999);  Private Lives in Renaissance Venice was also a finalist for the Charles Rufus Morey Prize (2005) and the Premio Salimbeni per La Storia e la Critica d’Arte (2006).

Brown was Slade Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Cambridge (2001), president of the Renaissance Society of America (2000-2), and a member of the Board of Advisors for the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (2004-7). Named Italian American Woman of the Year by the Museo Italo Americano, San Francisco (1992), she was elected a corresponding fellow of the Ateneo Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti (2010) and awarded the Serena Medal in Italian Studies by the British Academy (2011). She delivered the Edward J. Olszewski Lecture in Italian Art at Case Western Reserve University  (2014) and the Sydney Freedberg Lecture in Italian Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (2016). Brown was awarded the Paul Oscar Kristeller Lifetime Achievement Award by the Renaissance Society of America in 2020. She has served on the Board of Trustees of Save Venice, Inc. since 2004.

Teaching Interests

In addition to teaching a variety of courses on Italian Renaissance art and culture, Brown taught seminars on Mediterranean studies sponsored by the Program in Hellenic Studies with student trips to Crete, Corfu, and Rhodes.   Graduate students writing dissertations under her supervision have pursued themes relating to Venetian art (ranging from patronage to painting to portraiture), and on art and architecture in Siena, Florence, Rome, and Ragusa, as well as on the trade in antiquities between Italy and the eastern Mediterranean and post-Byzantine art in Venetian and Ottoman territories.

Current Research

Brown’s forthcoming book, Bloodlines and Blood Feuds in Venice and its Empire, will be published by Oxford University Press. A true story of vendetta and intrigue, triumph and tragedy, exile and repatriation, this book recounts the interwoven microhistories of Count Girolamo Della Torre, a feudal lord with a castle and other properties in the Friuli, and Giulia Bembo, grand-niece of Cardinal Pietro Bembo and daughter of Gian Matteo Bembo, a Venetian senator with a distinguished career in service to the Venetian Republic.

A larger project, tentatively entitled Venice Outside Venice, deals with the artistic and cultural geography of the Venetian empire (comprising cities of the terraferma and the stato da mar).

Publications List: 
Selected Publications


Venetian Narrative Painting in the Age of Carpaccio (Yale University Press, 1988)

Venice & Antiquity: The Venetian Sense of the Past (Yale University Press, 1996)

Art and Life in Renaissance Venice (Pearson, 1997)

Private Lives in Renaissance Venice: Art, Architecture and the Family (Yale University Press, 2004)

Recent articles:

“Portare l’acqua allo Stato da Mar,” in Acqua e cibo a Venezia. Storie della Laguna e della Città (exhib. cat., Venice, Palazzo Ducale,  26 Sept 2015 – 14 Feb 2016), ed. Donatella Calabi  and Ludovica Galeazzo (Venice: Marsilio, 2015), 108-11.

“Between Observation and Appropriation: Venetian Encounters with a Fragmentary Classical Past,” in Pietre di Venezia: spolia in se spolia in re. Atti del convegno internazionale (Venezia 17-18 ottobre 2013), ed. Monica Centanni and Luigi Sperti (Rome: «L’Erma» di Bretschneider, 2016), 221-240

“The Venetian Loggia: Representation, Exchange, and Identity in Venice’s Colonial Empire,” in Viewing Greece: Cultural and Political Agency in the Medieval and Early Modern Mediterranean, ed. Sharon Gerstel (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016), 209-235.

“Ritual Geographies in Venice's Colonial Empire,” in Rituals of Politics and Culture in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honour of Edward Muir, ed. Mark Jurdjevic and Rolf Strøm-Olsen, Essays and Studies, 39 (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2016), 43-89.

“«Under our Dominion and Faith»: Marin Sanudo, Istria, and Venice’s Classical Past,” in Dialogo. Studi in memoria di Angela Caracciolo Aricò, ed. E. Bocchia, Z. Fabris, C. Frison, R. Pesce, (Venice: Centro di Studi Medievali e Rinascimentali “E. A. Cicogna,” 2017).

“Vain Legislation Against Vana Ostentazione: Sumptuary Laws in the Venetian Dominion,” Artibus et Historiae, no. 76 (XXXVIII), 2017: 53-76.