Daniel Zolli

Daniel Zolli
Daniel Zolli

Assistant Professor of Art History


202 Borland Building
University Park, PA 16802


  • Ph.D. and A.M. in the History of Art and Architecture (Harvard University);
  • B.A. in Art History (Wesleyan University)

Specialty Area: 

Early Modern European Art


Dr. Zolli is a scholar of early modern European art, with a focus on art in fourteenth-, fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italy. His research interests include the materials of art; workshop practice; art literature; the interfaces between art and law; and the afterlives of Renaissance culture. His current book project, entitled Donatello’s Promiscuous Technique, examines that sculptor’s life-long preoccupation with material experimentation. It argues that Donatello cultivated a practice, and a professional persona, willfully at odds with period efforts to locate sculpture among the “liberal arts.” Donatello took his models instead from cunning enterprises aimed at transforming or dissimulating matter (e.g., prestidigitation, cosmetics, alchemy, idolatry, adulteration), staking his authority on an ability to deceive viewers, and cloud their judgment, through a near-elemental craftiness.  In addition to this work, Zolli has articles (forthcoming or in progress) on cosmetics and “made up” materials; on the afterlife of Virgil in the sculpture of Quattrocento Naples; on the politics of good and bad pigments; and on a prominent church bell exiled for treason in 1498. This last essay develops several ideas that will figure centrally in a second book-length project, on the early modern juridical practice of putting man-made objects on trial. He is also co-editing two anthologies of essays with colleagues at other institutions: the first, with Amy Bloch, looks at Making and Unmaking Sculpture in Fifteenth-Century Italy; while the second, with Lauren Jacobi, surveys ideas about purity and contamination in early modern art. In 2015, he co-curated Sculpture in the Age of Donatello (Museum of Biblical Art, NYC, February–June), which featured works produced during the artist’s forty-year affiliation with Florence Cathedral. The publication accompanying the show, which Zolli co-edited, was a finalist for the 2015 Alfred H. Barr Award, offered by the College Art Association for an “especially distinguished catalogue in the history of art.”  Prior to his arrival at Penn State in 2017, Zolli was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Getty Research Institute (2016–17), a Visiting Lecturer at Tufts University (2014–15), and a Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2007–9). His work has been supported by the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, among other organizations.