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#79 Risk in Renaissance Art: A Conversation with Jonathan Nelson

Updated: Feb 22

Saturday, February 24th Live on Zoom

10am Los Angeles and Phoenix, 1pm NY & Toronto, 6pm London, 7pm Florence

Jonathan Nelson, a Renaissance art historian (Syracuse University), and Richard Zeckhauser, an economist and decision theorist (Harvard University), collaborated to produce a new book, Risks in Renaissance Art: Production, Purchase and Reception. The authors wove insights from their two disciplines and examined risk from the perspective of patrons, buyers and artists, concluded that risk had a major but previously overlooked impact on Renaissance art.

This book introduces new concepts such as Production Risks: when  Francesco del Giocondo   commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to make a portrait of his wife, Mona Lisa, he could have never imagined that the artist would also make a topless version! But given Leonardo’s reputation for late and non-delivery, his patron should have been alert to this production risk. Indeed, he never received the portrait.

Major losses were common in the Renaissance art world, but these stories were often buried, while successes got proclaimed. This study corrects this rosy record and shares intriguing cases where parties involved suffered significant losses.

You can get your copy of this ebook here (available free until January 25th).


Jonathan Nelson is a Teaching Professor at Syracuse University, Florence; Research Associate at the Kennedy School of Harvard University; and co-editor of the “Elements in Renaissance” series of Cambridge University Press. A specialist on Filippino Lippi, the subject of a 2022 monograph, he recently wrote a major article on Ethiopian Christians in the paintings of Filippino and his contemporaries. He was the lead speaker and advisor on the December 2022 documentary on SkyTV, “The Black Italian Renaissance”. Professor Nelson has also written volumes dedicated to Michelangelo, Leonardo, Botticelli, Sister Plautilla Nelli, and Robert Mapplethorpe.

Minimum suggested donation: $20

This talk is free for Friends of Paola's Studiolo!

Look forward to seeing you on Zoom!

Warmest regards,


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