Educating the Young in Renaissance Italy. Books and Images.

When and Where

Thursday, March 04, 2021 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm
Online via Zoom - see event description for further information.


Fabien Lacouture


"And who does not know that the first thing useful to children must be letters? And it is so much the first thing, that even if he is a gentleman, without letters he will never be considered anything but a rustic. And I would like to see young noblemen more often with a book in their hands than with a hawk on their fist. » Leon Battista Alberti, I Libri della famiglia

How were children and young people educated in Renaissance Italy? The humanist pedagogues praised the model of the Studia humanitatis and the return to the ancient texts. We will see during this lecture which texts were favored by the humanist pedagogues through our reading of the main educational treatises of the time but also thanks to some library inventories. However, education was not only based on texts. In his treatise entitled Regola del governo di cura familiare, written cerca 1405, the Florentine abbot Giovanni Dominici advised that children should be shown images of Jesus, Mary and the saints as models of virtue and behaviour. We will thus analyze the place of certain images (paintings, engravings, or statues) in the humanistic educational system of the Italian Renaissance, texts and images altogether creating topoï and role models to emulate. In conclusion, we will present the first conclusions of a study carried out on an illustrated edition of the Ars Grammatica by Aelius Donatus. This manuscript was necessary for the learning of Latin by the young Maximilian Sforza to whom it had been offered at the end of the 15th century. In addition to the text, the young Maximilian was educated, in several illuminations, by an idealized version of himself, represented in certain situations of his intellectual, but also moral and civil life.

Fabien Lacouture is an art historian, postdoctoral fellow in the department of Italian Studies in the University of Toronto. In 2017 he successfully defended his PhD – “The child and its representations in Northern and Central Italian Painting, 14th to 16th centuries” – from the Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University. His research interests include the representations of children in art and literature and it mainly focuses on Medieval and Renaissance Italy. He also focuses on humanist education and pedagogy in the Italian Renaissance. His researches are at the crossroads of art history, history and anthropology. He published several articles, in French and in English, about children representations such as “Back from the dead: The Meanings of Child Resurrections in Trecento Italian Altarpieces” or “'You Will Be a Man, My Son': Signs of Masculinity and Virility in Italian Renaissance Paintings of Boys".


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All times stated in Eastern Time.

Contact Information


Emilio Goggio Chair in Italian Studies - University of Toronto