The Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome was the setting Friday 21 November for the award of the Balzan Prizes for 2008.
Among the four recipients was art historian, exhibition director and curator, editor, critic and essayist Maurizio Calvesi, an Italian Fulbright Fellow at the American Academy in Rome in 1964/5, who is Professor Emeritus in the Università di Roma “La Sapienza”, and a Fellow of both the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei and Accademia Clementina di Bologna.
In an unusually prolific scholarly and creative career that is now in its sixth decade, Maurizio Calvesi has shown a sweeping range of expertise that has illuminated the art (especially but not exclusively Italian) of an era that stretches from the early seventeenth century to the present moment. He is married to the art historian Augusta Monferini, who also held the Fulbright Fellowship in 1966.
The President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, presented Professor Calvesi a Balzan Prize in the category Visual Arts since 1700 “for his outstanding work on the modern and contemporary visual art which has contributed to a better understanding of the nature and development of modernism as well as to the study of the origin of new trends in contemporary art”.
The International Balzan Foundation awards one million Swiss Francs (=ca. $840,000) for each prize, a figure which places this distinction among the biggest prize funds for science and culture. The winners are each required to allocate half of their prize money to funding research projects carried out preferably by young scholars or scientists in their respective fields.
This is the third time in seven years that a scholar with a strong American Academy in Rome affiliation has received the Balzan Prize. Current AAR Trustee Anthony Grafton (RAAR’04) won the 2002 Balzan Prize for History of the Humanities, and Trustee Emeritus James Sloss Ackerman (FAAR’52, RAAR’65, ’70, ’75, ’80) received the 2001 Balzan Prize for the History of Architecture.
Indeed, James Ackerman used the second half of his award to create a summer school of Latin palaeography specifically at the American Academy. The AAR Summer Program in Applied Palaeography, which Christopher S. Celenza (FAAR’94, formerly Michigan State University, now Johns Hopkins) directed from 2002-2005, focused on the analysis of texts from Roman antiquity to the Renaissance in Europe.
For the Balzan, the subject fields (which change every year, with prizes divided between the humanities and the sciences) and the winners are chosen by an independent body composed of twenty leading academics from eleven European countries. The Balzan Prize award ceremony takes place in alternate years in Rome, and in Berne at the Federal Palace.
The other 2008 Balzan recipients, pictured below with Professor Calvesi (far left) and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano (center), are (second from left) Thomas Nagel (New York University) in Moral Philosophy; Ian H. Frazer (University of Queensland) in the field of Preventive Medicine; and Wallace S. Broecker (Columbia University) in Science of Climate Change.
Photo credits: International Balzan Prize Foundation.