Welch, Evelyn S. 1959–
Welch, Evelyn S. 1959–
ADDRESSES: Office—School of English and Drama, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Rd., London E1 4NS, England.
CAREER: Art historian, educator and writer. University of Sussex, Brighton, East Sussex, England, through 2004; Queen Mary, University of London, London, England, professor of Renaissance studies, 2004–.
Art and Society in Italy, 1350–1500, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1997.
Coeditor of The Material Renaissance, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 2005.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A Wellcome-Trust funded study of a pharmacy, the Speziale al Giglio, in late fifteenth-century Florence.
SIDELIGHTS: Professor and historian Evelyn S. Welch has long specialized in researching and writing about Italy during the Renaissance, focusing not only on the more common theme of the period's artistic culture but on all aspects of life during the time. In her first book, Art and Authority in Renaissance Milan, Welch examines the role of local dukes in the building of three major Milan structures—the cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore, the hospital Ospedale Maggiore, and the palace fortress known dually as the Castello Sforzesco or the Castello di Porta Giova. The author demonstrates that Milan's rulers were much less involved with the creation of these buildings than had previously been posited, instead leaving related decision-making to disagreeing committees. Additionally, she discusses the actual work of the architects and artists for these three buildings, the general artist's position in Renaissance Milan, and the place of authority figures during the period. Many reviewers praised the work. Indeed, Charles Burroughs, writing in the Renaissance Quarterly, felt that "Welch convincingly shows the 'complex interactions' engendered by the great building projects of the Renaissance," and "provides a useful account of the relationship of artists … and the court." The book "moves smoothly between disciplines, touching on many fascinating topics," agreed English Historical Review contributor Kate Lowe, who summed up Art and Authority in Renaissance Milan as "a learned, intricate, amply illustrated and useful book."
In 1997 Welch followed Art and Authority in Renaissance Milan with Art and Society in Italy, 1350–1500. This tome provides an overview of the effects of society on Renaissance artists throughout Italy, touching on the concept of artists' patrons, materials and methods used for creation, and the varied purposes of these artworks. Library Journal reviewer Robert Cahn observed: "Welch's deeply informed and wide-ranging synthesis is a significant and welcome addition to the literature." Donna Seaman agreed in a Booklist article, where she pointed out the author's "fresh and stimulating theories" of art's role in society.
In Shopping in the Renaissance: Consumer Cultures in Italy, 1400–1600, published in 2005, Welch focuses on a slightly different area of Renaissance Italy—the shopping customs of the time. She takes the reader from fairs to auctions, and mail order to pawnbrokers, providing detail about each. The author also includes strange rules such as bells signaling the beginning and end of shopping times and the prohibition on shopkeepers openly attempting to summon customers from other stores. Alfred Mayor, writing in Magazine Antiques, praised Shopping in the Renaissance for giving "a wonderfully varied set of examples that almost convince the reader that he is on the spot."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 1997, Donna Seaman, review of Art and Society in Italy, 1350–1500, p. 1639.
English Historical Review, February, 1998, Kate Lowe, review of Art and Authority in Renaissance Milan, p. 160.
Library Journal, July, 1997, Robert Cahn, review of Art and Society in Italy, 1350–1500, p. 81.
Magazine Antiques, December, 2005, Alfred Mayor, review of Shopping in the Renaissance: Consumer Cultures in Italy, 1400–1600, p. 42.
New York Times Book Review, December 4, 2005, Liesl Schillinger, "Merchandise of Venice," p. 44.
Renaissance Quarterly, winter, 1997, Charles Burroughs, review of Art and Authority in Renaissance Milan, p. 1211.
Queen Mary University, English Department Web site, http://www.english.qmul.ac.uk/ (April 29, 2006), brief profile of Welch.