We are pleased to report that Peter Fane-Saunders, who completed his PhD at the Warburg Institute in 2010, has been awarded the prestigious Phyllis Goodhart Gordan Prize by the Renaissance Society of America for his book Pliny the Elder and the Emergence of Renaissance Architecture, published by Cambridge University Press. Peter thanked the Institute for the support that he received during his study here, stating: "...without the Warburg and SAS, the book would have never achieved such success!"
The Phyllis Goodhart Gordan Prize is presented annually to the author of the best book in Renaissance studies (1300-1700), in recognition of significant accomplishments in the field.
The Naturalis historia by Pliny the Elder provided Renaissance scholars, artists and architects with details of ancient architectural practice and long-lost architectural wonders – material that was often unavailable elsewhere in classical literature. Pliny's descriptions frequently included the dimensions of these buildings, as well as details of their unusual construction materials and ornament. The book describes, for the first time, how the passages were interpreted from around 1430 to 1580, that is, from Alberti to Palladio. Chapters are arranged chronologically within three interrelated sections – antiquarianism; architectural writings; drawings and built monuments – thereby making it possible for the reader to follow the changing attitudes to Pliny over the period. The resulting study establishes the Naturalis historia as the single most important literary source after Vitruvius's De architectura.
The RSA committee said: ‘Peter Fane-Saunders masters a formidable and important topic with sophistication, erudition, and engaging prose. In offering the first comprehensive analysis of the Italian Renaissance reception of Pliny the Elder's writing on architecture, his book fills a significant gap in our understanding of early modern architecture. It makes a major contribution to our conception of the transmission of ideas from ancient Rome into the European architectural tradition.’