Color photograph of the head and shoulders of a dark skinned woman with a dark afro wearing a sleeveless dress; she smiles while looking directly at the camera

Denva E. Gallant

Samuel H. Kress Foundation Rome Prize
September 5, 2022–July 14, 2023
Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, University of Delaware
Project title
Illustrating the Vitae patrum: The Rise of the Eremitic Ideal in Fourteenth-Century Italy
Project description

The fourteenth century in western Europe witnessed a surge of monastic and lay interest in imitating the practices of the sainted desert hermits known to later generations as the Desert Fathers and Mothers. Laypeople and religious alike gained access to these practices not just by reading from the Lives of the Desert Fathers or hearing about them in sermons, but through images that brought these tales to life. Just how these images functioned for the faithful, however, remains little understood. Illustrating the Vitae patrum is the first work to examine comprehensively the Morgan Library’s richly illustrated manuscript of the VP (MS. M. 626), whose extraordinary illustrations comprise a singular witness to the rise of the eremitic ideal and its impact on the visual culture of late medieval Italy. Drawing upon scholarship on the history of psychology, and gender and hagiography, Illustrating the Vitae patrum significantly deepens our understanding of the influence of the Desert Fathers.

The photograph of Denva E. Gallant was taken by Ariel Ramirez and is © University of Delaware 2018.