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Chiara Siravo

MA work

Title of Dissertation: The Material Culture of Hell – Shaping a parallel world (Italy 1500–1700)


This dissertation is an attempt to look at hell as a geographical space and a parallel world within which materials, people and things took on new shapes and meanings. It was a world, and therefore, as with many other worlds, attempts were made to describe it, imagine it, explore it and, ultimately, to get as close to it as possible, without of course falling into the ‘pit of destruction’. This was done, to name a few, via the written word, scientific investigation, spiritual exercises, theatre and all of the arts. Therefore the Italian hell of the early modern period must be approached and studied from a multidisciplinary perspective, as indeed hell was designed by architects, painters, dramaturgs, artisans and by writers, printers, scientists and of course clerics, not to mention a few heretics.


Rather than tracing a linear transformation in the perceptions of hell in early modern Italy, this paper has attempted to study its material world in all its variety, in order to establish how hell was indeed made material.


Many if not most of the objects and material ideas explored have led me to conclude that the material world was used both to open hell and to harness it. From measuring this invisible world to searching for it in the surrounding natural landscape, as well as by attempting to make concrete the physical pain of the hidden souls of hell, we realise that above all else hell was a mystery that needed to be solved.


Info

  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Fine Art

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2012

  • Title of Dissertation: The Material Culture of Hell – Shaping a parallel world (Italy 1500–1700)


    This dissertation is an attempt to look at hell as a geographical space and a parallel world within which materials, people and things took on new shapes and meanings. It was a world, and therefore, as with many other worlds, attempts were made to describe it, imagine it, explore it and, ultimately, to get as close to it as possible, without of course falling into the ‘pit of destruction’. This was done, to name a few, via the written word, scientific investigation, spiritual exercises, theatre and all of the arts. Therefore the Italian hell of the early modern period must be approached and studied from a multidisciplinary perspective, as indeed hell was designed by architects, painters, dramaturgs, artisans and by writers, printers, scientists and of course clerics, not to mention a few heretics.


    Rather than tracing a linear transformation in the perceptions of hell in early modern Italy, this paper has attempted to study its material world in all its variety, in order to establish how hell was indeed made material.


    Many if not most of the objects and material ideas explored have led me to conclude that the material world was used both to open hell and to harness it. From measuring this invisible world to searching for it in the surrounding natural landscape, as well as by attempting to make concrete the physical pain of the hidden souls of hell, we realise that above all else hell was a mystery that needed to be solved.


  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons), History, School of Oriental and African Studies, 2008
  • Experience

  • Stylist, Atelier VM, Milan, Italy, 2010–12; Intern, The Townhouse Gallery, Cairo, Egypt, 2010; Assistant to the historian, Comuniteé Urbain de Douala/Cotecno-MGA, Douala, Cameroon, 2009; Intern, Robert Capa Archive, International Center of Photography, New York, USA, 2008
  • Awards

  • Best first term essay V&A/RCA MA, History of Design, Gillian Naylor Essay Prize Award in the Memory of Tom Naylor, 2011