Assistant Professor of Art History
- Ph.D. and A.M. in the History of Art and Architecture (Harvard University);
- B.A. in Art History (Wesleyan University)
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 and techniques 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 imaginative uses of veined marble; on Spanish colonialism and early modern archaeology in Naples; 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, or series of articles, on the early modern juridical practice of putting man-made objects on trial.
He is also co-editor of two anthologies of essays with colleagues at other institutions: the first, forthcoming with Cambridge University Press in 2019, looks at Making and Unmaking Sculpture in Fifteenth-Century Italy; while the second, under contract with Amsterdam University Press, 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.”
Zolli’s teaching spans the fields of early modern art, material culture, and theory. Recent courses have covered topics ranging from sculpture, the global Renaissance, and Michelangelo, to color in the Western tradition. Related to this latter course is a conference on “The Materiality of Artists’ Colors” that Zolli will convene with Dr. Sarah Rich in 2018, the first in a series of initiatives that he is launching at Penn State aimed at familiarizing students with historical approaches to art making.
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.