Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Art History

First Advisor

Professor Claire Farago

Second Advisor

Robert Nauman

Third Advisor

Kerry Reilly

Abstract

A country is often defined by its national identity and how it expresses the history of its cultural characteristics. For a majority of its history, the Italian peninsula was a land that was separated by multiple dukedoms and republics that were also marked by war and violence. When Italy became a unified nation in 1861 it struggled to bring its unique cities together under one government and culture. This type of unification had already been progressing throughout much of Europe, whereas Italy was just starting to forge a unified national identity. In order to form a true national identity that was a representation of the whole of the nation, Italy would need to find something that would nationalize their cultural history as opposed to attributing cultural characteristics to individual regions that make up the country. Focusing on Botticelli's painting, Birth of Venus, and Michelangelo's sculpture, David, I plan to show how the national identity of Italy is constructed and presented externally to demonstrate its artistic heritage. I will show how art museums and popular media are similar in their use of Renaissance art to project the image of a unified Italian culture, as opposed to isolated regions with different local identities. By exploring the use of iconic images, we can see how museums within Italy create a popular appeal to project a unified culture to other nations and cultures. This thesis will give prime examples of how Renaissance art is used around the world to promote Italy's tourism industry. It will address how the history of the Italian nation is used to fabricate Italy's current identity through the display of historically iconic works of art. How the replication and imitation of the Birth of Venus and David are iconic examples of Italian culture that stems from the use of low-art and imitations to draw in tourism to see the original, high- art is a Renaissance setting.