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Centre for Foreign Language Study



Dr Stefano Cracolici has been selected as a 2012/2013 Getty Scholar at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles

(9 May 2012)

Dr Stefano Cracolici has been selected as a 2012/2013 Getty Scholar at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles.  The grant will support his research project entitled "Medusean Colors" and the period of residency runs from  April to June 2013.

This project explores the healing power of colours by examining the therapeutic ritual of Tarantism in Renaissance art theory and humanistic literature. Tarantism is figuratively understood as a manic behavior provoked by the bite or sting of the tarantula spider, diffused in Apulia and adjacent parts of Italy from the 13th to the 20th century, and cured through the exposition to music, dance and colors in various combinations. This ostensibly archaic ritual, which has attracted a diversified interest on the part of historians, philosophers, theologians, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists and musicologists, still constitutes, for art historians, a blind spot of academic inquiry. In particular, despite the considerable amount of interdisciplinary studies devoted to this topic, the specific role of colors has remained largely unexplored. 

Matteo Zaccolini's summa on colour perspective, partially studied by prominent art historians, counts today as a capital source for the theoretical study of colour in late Renaissance and early Baroque painting. The Theatine friar devoted two entire treatises of his work, "De' colori, diviso in tredici trattati composti da Matteo Zaccolini da Cesena" (1618-1622), to explore in detail the relation between colors and sounds in Tarantism. Unknown to scholars of the ritual and only cursory mentioned by art historians, his treatment of the subject constitutes the most original historical account on the role of colours in Tarantism not just in an art-historical context but in all disciplinary fields. It is available today in one extant manuscript preserved at the Laurentian Library in Florence (cod. Ashburnham 1212, 1). Zaccolini's detailed knowledge on the matter subtends an extensive consultation of medical sources available to him at the Theatine house of S. Silvestro a Monte Cavallo, which had one of the best libraries in Rome for scientific and classical studies; he was close to the circle of Scipione Chiaramonti and Cardinal del Monte, brother of the perspective expert, Guidobaldo del Monte, and patron of Caravaggio.