Art Historian Christopher Nygren Wins RSA Award for New Book

Author: Staff

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We are proud to announce that Christopher J. Nygren, Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Pittsburgh and Affiliate of the Center for Italian Studies at Notre Dame, has won the Renaissance Society of America’s 2022 Phyllis Goodhart Gordan Book Prize for the best book in Renaissance studies.

Nygren’s book, Titian’s Icons: Charisma, Tradition, and Devotion in the Italian Renaissance (Penn State University Press, 2020), tracks the career of Tiziano Vecellio, known as Titian in English, who was one of the most successful painters of the Italian Renaissance, and who was credited by his contemporaries with painting a miracle-working image (Christ Carrying the Cross, San Rocco). Taking this unusual circumstance as a point of departure, the book revisits the scope and impact of Titian’s life’s work and shows how, motivated by his status as the creator of a miracle-working object, Titian played an active and essential role in reorienting the long tradition of Christian icons over the course of the sixteenth century. Titian’s unique status as a painter whose work was viewed as a conduit of divine grace allowed him to fundamentally reconfigure Christian icon painting. This book not only tracks the career of one of the most important artists in the tradition of Western painting but also brings to light new information about how divergent agendas of religious, political, and artistic reform interacted over the long arc of the sixteenth century.

Dr. Christopher Nygren, Affiliate of the Center for Italian Studies at the University of Notre Dame, is associate professor of Renaissance and Baroque Art in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh and served as Director of Pitt’s Program in Medieval and Renaissance Studies from 2018 to 2021. During AY 2021-22, he serves as Samuel H. Kress Senior Fellow at The Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (National Gallery, Washington). He earned a B.A. with honors from the University of Notre Dame and completed his M.A. and Ph.D. (with distinction) at Johns Hopkins University. His research focuses on the intersection of religion, philosophy, and art in the Italian Renaissance, and it has been featured in The Art Bulletin, Renaissance Quarterly, Word & Image, Modern Language Notes, and other leading academic journals. Over his career, he has received fellowships from the Kress Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Delmas Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Science Foundation.