Academy of Art in Rome
Fine Arts School, Funded by Pope and Federico Zuccari.

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Study For The Last Judgement, by
Michelangelo, the master of disegno.

See: Definition of Art.

Academy of Art, Rome
Accademia di San Luca


Established in the early 1580s under the sponsorship of the Pope and the directorship of the painter Federico Zuccari, the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, (Saint Luke being the patron saint of painters) was the second earliest official arts academy in Europe, to promote the style and methodology of what is called Academic Art.

Church Control of Art

Like its earlier sister academy of art in Florence, Accademia dell'Arte del Disegno - later renamed Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze - Saint Luke's Academy was formed to raise the status of painters and sculptors, who were frequently minority members of the numerous guilds of craftsmen in the city. Establishing an institution purely for fine artists was an important step in promoting art to rich patrons and collectors throughout Italy. No painting was taught, only drawing, especially figure drawing. At the same time, Papal sponsorship ensured that the Church maintained a strong grip on the development of art in the Italian capital.

Pope Sixtus IV appoints Bartolomeo
Platina prefect of the Vatican Library
(1477) Vatican Museums.
By Melozzo da Forli, a founder
member of the Academy in Rome.

For a list of the Top 10 painters/
sculptors: Best Artists of All Time.
For the Top 300 oils, watercolours
see: Greatest Paintings Ever.
For the Top 100 works of sculpture
see: Greatest Sculptures Ever.

For the chronology and dates
of key events in the evolution
of visual arts around the world
see: History of Art Timeline.

For the top universities, and
academic art institutes,
see: Best Art Schools.

In 1633, Pope Urban VIII granted the Academy a monopoly of all public art commissions, as well as the right to levy taxes on all artists and art-dealers - measures which aroused considerable opposition. Such events, allied to the fact that many prominent painters and sculptors were never admitted to the Academy, led to continuing controversy. Also, as with many other official academies across Europe, the Accademia di San Luca became embroiled in numerous debates about what constituted idealized art.

Painting Genres

Italian academies were the foremost promoters of Renaissance Art and its underlying traditions. The latter established a clear hierarchy of genres, with history painting at the top, followed by portraiture, genre-works, landscape painting, and lastly still life. This ranking system caused widespread discontent among artists and certain national art movements with a tradition of still life interiors, like the Genre Painters of the Dutch/Flemish school.


The Academy Art Collection

From the outset, the governing statutes of Saint Luke's Academy provided that any artist admitted to associate or full academician membership should donate a portrait or other artwork to the Academy. As a result, its collection of painting and sculpture now totals more than 500 portraits and a unique assembly of drawings.

Modern Art Colleges in Rome
For details of 21st century art courses in the Italian capital, see: Best Art Schools in Rome.

Other European Academies

The first academy outside Italy was founded in 1583 at Haarlem in Holland, under Karel Van Manda (1548-1606). In France, the first was the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (aka Académie des Beaux-Arts), founded in Paris in 1648, through the efforts of the painter Lebrun (1619-1690). In Britain, the Royal Academy of Arts London was established in 1768. In Ireland the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) was established in 1823, followed in 1930 by the Royal Ulster Academy of Arts (RUA).

NOTE: the Accademia di San Luca should not be confused with the Florentine benevolent society or confraternity of artists, known as the Company of St Luke, an artist group initiated in the fourteenth century.

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