Associate Professor of Art History
Director of Undergraduate Studies
236 Borland Building | University Park, PA 16802
- Ph.D., M.Phil. and M.A. in art history and archaeology (Columbia University)
- B.A. in Italian Studies (Emory University)
Dr. Thomas specializes in European architecture and urbanism from 1400-1800, as well as teaches classes on Baroque art. Focusing on the architecture of Naples in particular, his interests include early-modern urbanism; the social function of buildings, music and space, and the intellectual formation of the architect. His book, Architecture and Statecraft: Charles of Bourbon’s Naples 1734–59 (Penn State Press, 2013), examined the remaking of Naples under King Charles of Bourbon (1734–59), and addresses the political, social, economic, and cultural importance of the royal building program. His other publications include translations of philosophical texts by Giambattista Vico; and articles on the Duca di Noja map of Naples in Giambattista Nolli, Rome and Mapping: Before and After the Pianta Grande (2014), the architect Luigi Vanvitelli as reader and author in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (2010), the Teatro di San Carlo in The Court Historian (2012), and architects’ libraries in A Companion to Architecture in the Age of Enlightenment (2017). Current projects include a study of slavery and building practice in Naples and a book-length examination of the cultural, political, and economic dimension of royal palaces at Capodimonte, Portici, and Caserta. His research has been supported by a Fulbright Fellowship, a Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation Fellowship in the Humanities, a Rudolph Wittkower Dissertation Fellowship, a fellowship at the Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Emory University, a summer research grant from the Penn State Institute for the Arts and Humanities, and an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In recognition of his classroom instruction, in 2014 he received the College of Arts and Architecture’s award for outstanding teaching. He currently serves as co-director of Penn State’s Committee for Early Modern Studies (www.earlymod.psu.edu).
Art Historian Robin Thomas discusses early-modern urbanism in Naples, Italy and how architectural projects under King Charles III (1734-59) influenced modern notions of the State.