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York art historian co-curates major National Gallery exhibition

Posted on 25 April 2014

York art historian Dr Amanda Lillie is co-curating a groundbreaking exhibition at the National Gallery – the first in Britain to explore architecture in Italian Renaissance painting.

Sebastiano del Piombo 
Judgment of Solomon, 1508 1510
Oil on canvas
208 x 318 cm
Kingston Lacy, The Bankes Collection (National Trust)
© National Trust Images / Derrick E. WittySebastiano del Piombo, Judgment of Solomon, 1508 1510 Oil on canvas, 208 x 318 cm. Kingston Lacy, The Bankes Collection (National Trust) © National Trust Images / Derrick E. Witty

Part of a research partnership between the University of York and the National Gallery, ‘Building the Picture: Architecture in Italian Renaissance Painting’ will be on show in the Sunley Room on the main floor of the National Gallery from 30 April until 21 September 2014. Admission is free.

The exhibition will consider the ways in which Italian painters of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, including Duccio, Botticelli and Crivelli, represented architecture. It will also examine how architecture was used to frame figures and to construct the illusion of space.

Dr Lillie is an expert on 15th and 16th century Italian art and architecture, and has worked with Dr Caroline Campbell, Curator of Italian Painting before 1500 at the National Gallery, and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) collaborative doctoral student Alasdair Flint, to create the exhibition. The AHRC further supported the project by awarding a Fellowship to Dr Lillie to work on the exhibition, the scholarly on-line catalogue, and the conferences which accompany it. 

Dr Lillie, from the University of York’s Department of History of Art, said: “Buildings in paintings have too often been viewed as background, or as subordinate to the figures. This exhibition takes a fresh look at the many roles architecture played in paintings, showing how its structural forms underpin many Italian Renaissance paintings, setting out the composition, directing the viewing process, and helping to create stories. For example, the sense of time and place, as well as the emotion and mood of visual narratives is often profoundly affected by fictive architecture.”

Paintings from the National Gallery will form the heart of the exhibition, which also includes loans from other collections in the United Kingdom, including from the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Trust’s collection at Kingston Lacy.

To coincide with Building the Picture: Architecture in Italian Renaissance Painting, five specially commissioned short films will be showing on rotation in the Sunley Room cinema. The films provide modern perspectives on real and imagined architecture from award-winning Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, film director Martha Fiennes, art historian T J Clark, film historian John David Rhodes and computer game cinematic director Peter Gornstein.

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Further information:

  • Publicity images can be obtained from To obtain a username please contact the National Gallery Press Office on 020 7747 2865 or email
  • More information about Dr Amanda Lillie and her research is available at
  • For more information on the University of York’s Department of History of Art visit
  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.

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