DANIEL ZOLLI (he/him/his) 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’s theorization in oral tradition and popular folklore; and its interfaces with law. 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, counterfeiting, adulteration), staking his authority on an ability to deceive viewers, and cloud their judgment, through a near-elemental craftiness. During the 2019/20 year he is working on this manuscript with support from the Getty/ACLS Postdoctoral Fellowship in the History of Art.
In addition to this work, Zolli has articles (published, forthcoming, or in preparation) on cosmetics and “made up” materials; on imaginative uses of veined marble; on Spanish colonialism and early modern archaeology in Naples; on fugitive 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-editor of two anthologies of essays with colleagues at other institutions: the first, recently published by Cambridge University Press, looks at The Art of Sculpture in Fifteenth-Century Italy; while the second, forthcoming with Amsterdam University Press in 2020, surveys ideas about contamination and purity in early modern art and architecture. 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 Alfred H. Barr Award (Smaller Museums), 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 was a conference on “The Materiality of Artists’ Colors” that Zolli convened with Dr. Sarah Rich in 2018, one of several initiatives that he has helped to launch 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 American Philosophical Society, 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. He received his B.A. from Wesleyan University (CT) and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University, in addition to completing coursework at the University of Florence and the Ruprechts-Karls Universität in Heidelberg.