Fabio Tononi

PhD Student


Continuing MPhil/PhD Student


Thesis Title

 'Beyond Vision: An Interdisciplinary Study of the Phenomenon of the Unfinished in the Drawing
Practice of the Florentine Renaissance Milieu (1480s–1560s) and a Neuroscientific Account of Responses to Incomplete Images'

Supervisors - David Freedberg and Manos Tsakiris

Research interests
 Ancient Greek Philosophy | Political Philosophy | Aesthetics | Psychology of Perception | Neuroscience
Methodologies of Art History | Greek Archaeology and Art | Italian Art 15th and 16th Century |  Western Art 20th - 21st Century


The main areas investigated by Fabio Tononi are the 20th-century art and theory (particularly the Italian context from 1940s to 1970s); the 15th and 16th-century Italian art (some topics include Palazzo Schifanoia’s frescos cycle; Luca Signorelli’s frescos in the Chapel of the Madonna di San Brizio; the artistic partnership of Michelangelo and Sebastiano del Piombo; the artistic notion of ‘unfinished’; the drawing practice and theory of the Florentine workshop); and the psychological responses to art (specifically the dialogue between art history and cognitive neuroscience). Tononi, in addition to the traditional art historical study, has been engaged in research and experiments with neuroscientists on the relations between vision, embodiment and emotion. In his studies, he also focuses on some relevant philosophical concepts, such as the theory of Ideas, and distinguished thinkers, with particular emphasis on Plato, Spinoza and Hegel.

BA University of Parma

Graduated in Artistic, Theatrical, Cinematographic and New Media Heritage with a thesis titled ‘Ernesto Treccani (1940–1950): Between Corrente and the Fronte Nuovo delle Arti’ (supervised by Professor Arturo Carlo Quintavalle).

MA University of Florence

Graduated in History of Art with a thesis titled ‘Fabio Mauri’s Theoretical Work (1954–1980): An Italian Example of Institutional Critique’ (supervised by Professor Maria Grazia Messina).

MA The Warburg Institute/The National Gallery

Graduated in Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture with a dissertation titled ‘Steps toward a Neuroscientific Account of Responses to Unfinished Works of Art’ (supervised by Professor David Freedberg).


The aim of the project is to investigate the phenomenon of the unfinished in visual arts, as it was understood both in Classical Antiquity and in the Florentine Renaissance Workshop, when it reemerged for the first time. This study is involved not only in the survival of the ancient concept of the unfinished and its forms in the Renaissance, but also considers the biological elements underlying cultural expression. The study of cultural history and the history of art and images is therefore integrated with the cognitive neurosciences with the purpose to understand how the human brain processes incomplete images. Particular attention is devoted to unfinished drawings, understood as artist’s first idea, or thought, which allow the beholder, and also the scholar, not only to better understand the practices and methods of the artistic creation, but also to imagine the parts of the figures which are missing. In this sense, the second part of the research is concentrated on issues of empathy, embodiment and imaginative responses.

Conferencee paper

 25–27 August 2017, The Visual Science of Art Conference (VSAC), Berlin: Manos Tsakiris, Ruben Azevedo and Fabio Tononi, ‘The Role of Interoceptive Cardiac Signals in the Perception of Portraits’