Dante: the Art and Science of Light

Cover of Martin Kemp's book 'Visions of Heaven'


Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the
future   Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities.



Art historian Martin Kemp will be in conversation with Simon Gilson, Agnelli-Serena Professor of Italian Studies and Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. Martin Kemp's new book published earlier this year considers the impact of Dante’s vision of divine light on visual artists of the Renaissance and Baroque. The speakers will discuss Martin's new book and explore Dante's work in relation to the theme of the art and science of light. 

Questions from the audience will be welcome via the chat function on YouTube. Please note, this event will be recorded and available to watch on the TORCH YouTube channel after the event.

Chair: Margaret Kean, Associate Professor; Tutorial Fellow, St Hilda's College.

Photo of Margaret Kean, a brown haired woman with a white t-shirt and grey jacket

Margaret Kean is the Dame Helen Gardner Fellow and Tutor in English at St Hilda's College, Oxford. Her research interests focus on the works of John Milton; John Dryden; early modern theatre; the epic tradition and its reception history; and fantasy literature. She was Katya Adler's 'guide' to Dante's Inferno for the BBC Radio 4 series Dante 2021, and has recently edited Essays and Studies: The Literature of Hell (Boydell and Brewer, 2021).   





Martin Kemp in a smart black jacket and blue and green scarf against a white stone wall

Martin Kemp is an Emeritus Research Professor in the History of Art at the University of Oxford, where he is an honorary fellow at Trinity College.

He has written and broadcast extensively on imagery in art and science from the Renaissance to the present day. He speak on issues of visualisation to a wide range of audiences. Leonardo da Vinci has been the subject of a number of books, including the semi-autobiographical Living with Leonardo (Thames & Hudson, 2018). He has published on imagery in the sciences of anatomy, natural history and optics, including The Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat (Yale University Press).

Educated at Windsor Grammar School, he was trained in Natural Sciences and Art History at Cambridge University and the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. Kemp was British Academy Wolfson Research Professor (1993–98). For more than 25 years he was based in Scotland (University of Glasgow and University of St Andrews), and has held visiting posts in Princeton, New York, North Carolina, Los Angeles, Harvard and Montreal.

 Kemp has curated and co-curated a series of exhibitions on Leonardo and other themes at the Hayward Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Barbican Art Gallery in London. More recently he has broadcast extensively and presented concerts with orchestral groups and solo-voice ensemble I Fagiolini.



Simon Gilson is the Agnelli-Serena Professor of Italian Studies and Fellow of Magdalen College. He has published extensively on Dante, Dante's reception and Renaissance Italian literary, intellectual and cultural history. He is the author of Dante and Renaissance Florence (Cambridge, 2005; Italian translation Carocci 2019), Reading Dante in Renaissance Italy: Florence, Venice and the ‘Divine Poet’ (Cambridge, 2018), and the co-editor of the Cambridge Companion to Dante's Commedia (Cambridge, 2019)

He has taught at the Universities of Birmingham, Leeds, Warwick, and Keio, Japan. He was the joint Senior Editor of the journal Italian Studies (2011-16) and has been an elected a council member of the Dante Society of America, Harvard (2005-07). He is the General Editor of the monograph series 'Italian Perspectives' published by Legenda and he is the Chair of the Society for Italian Studies.


Find out more about the Dante 2021 Season here.