Ph.D. Columbia University
M.Phil. Columbia University
M.A. Columbia University
B.A. University of Rochester
- Research Areas
European art and culture, from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century, especially Italian Renaissance and seventeenth-century Dutch painting; American art and architecture.
Joseph Manca’s areas of research interest include Italian Renaissance art, Early American art and architecture, and issues of culture and context in European and American art and architecture from the Renaissance to the first half of the twentieth century. He teaches courses on European and early American art and architecture from 1300 to 1900, and he welcomes applications to the doctoral program from those who wish to work with him and other faculty members at Rice in those areas.
Manca’s book Shaker Vision: Seeing Beauty in Early America (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press) appeared in 2019; it is a study of the visual world of the Shakers, an American religious sect. In preparation for that book, he was a Research Fellow at Winterthur in 2016, and a Visiting Scholar there in the summers of 2017 and 2018. His George Washington's Eye: Landscape, Architecture, and Design at Mount Vernon (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012) was awarded several prizes, including the John Brinckerhoff Jackson Book Prize for 2014, which is given out by the Foundation for Landscape Studies. Also published in recent years is his bookSubject Matter in Italian Renaissance Art: A Study of Early Sources (Tempe, AZ: ACMRS [Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies], 2015), which is a study of what Renaissance artists and viewers themselves knew and wrote about the iconographic meaning of art around them. Manca's earlier books include The Art of Ercole de' Roberti (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Titian 500, ed. Joseph Manca (Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1993); Cosmè Tura: The Life and Art of a Painter in Estense Ferrara (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press [Clarendon Press], 2000); Moral Essays on the High Renaissance: Art in Italy in the Age of Michelangelo (Lanham, MD: The University Press of America, 2001); and Andrea Mantegna and the Italian Renaissance (Parkstone: London, 2006).
Manca’s main current book project is a broad study of European and American landscape gardening, provisionally titled Writing about Gardens in the West: Ideas about Shaped Landscape, from Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century, under advance contract with Harvey Miller Publishers, an imprint of Brepols Publishers (Turnhout, Belgium). Another, longer-term research project is a monograph on the art and cultural context of the seventeenth-century Dutch painter Willem Claesz. Heda, who specialized in luxurious and meaningful tabletop still lifes.
Through varied topics in his books and articles, there have been several main focal points for Manca's work. First is attention to the stylistic qualities, materiality, and beauty of an artwork, and how the work functioned in the culture in which it was made. Second, as thorough an exploration as is possible of original documents and period writings that record what artists, patrons, and early viewers and critics thought. A third focus is on the moral quality of art, in the broadest sense, showing how works of art embody and convey philosophical and social ideals.
In carrying out his teaching and research, Manca has been fortunate during his career to have at his disposal outstanding research facilities at Rice University; generous support from Rice for travel and other research expenses; an administration at Rice that supported, while he was chair in 2004-2009, the founding of the doctoral program in art history; the stimulating presence of superb undergraduate and graduate students; and fine and extensive museum holdings in Houston.
- Selected Articles and Essays
“A Stylish Inspiration for Caravaggio’s Triumphant Cupid,” Notes on Early Modern Art, vol. 4, no. 2 (2017), pp. 5-10.
“The Unseeing Scholar in Leonardo da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi,” Source: Notes in the History of Art, vol. 35, nos. 1-2 (Fall/Winter 2016), pp. 126-134.
“Anti-Semitism and Vice in Spinello Aretino’s Flagellation of Christ,” Notes on Early Modern Art, vol. 3, no. 2 (2016), pp. 11-18.
“Dogs of Infamy in Lorenzo de’ Medici’s Birth Tray,” Source: Notes in the History of Art, vol. 32, no. 4 (Summer 2013), pp. 1-6.
“A Theology of Architecture: Edward Savage’s Portrait of George Washington and his Family,” Source: Notes in the History of Art, vol. 31, no. 1 (Fall 2011), pp. 29-36.
“Giorgio Vasari and Ascanio Condivi on the Iconography of Michelangleo’s Sistine Chapel Frescoes,” in The Chapels of Italy, from the Twelfth to the Eighteenth Century: Art, Religion, Patronage, and Identity, ed. Lilian Zirpolo (Woodcliff Lake, NJ: The WAPACC Organization, 2010), pp. 307-329.
“Wordplay, Gesture and Meaning in Leonardo da Vinci’s Cecilia Gallerani,” Word and Image: A Journal of Verbal/Visual Inquiry 24, no. 2 (April-June 2008), pp. 127-138.
“A Matter of Style: The Question of Mannerism in Seventeenth-Century American Furniture” Winterthur Portfolio: A Journal of American Material Culture, vol. 38, no. 1 (Spring 2003), pp. 1-36.
- Selected Awards and Honors
2016 - Winterthur Research Fellow
2015 - The John Staub Award, Institute of Classical Architecture and Art, Texas Chapter, for George Washington's Eye
2014 - The John Brinckerhoff Jackson Book Prize, given out by the Foundation for Landscape Studies, for George Washington’s Eye
2012 - Honorable Mention, Prose Award, in the category of Architecture and Urban Planning, 2012, Association of American Publishers, for George Washington’s Eye
2009 - Individual Research Fellowship, Humanities Research Center, Rice University
2006 - Outstanding Faculty Associate, Baker College, Rice University
Shaker Vision: Seeing Beauty in Early America (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2019).
Subject Matter in Italian Renaissance Art: A Study of Early Sources, Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies [series: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies], 2015.
George Washington’s Eye: Landscape, Architecture, and Design at Mount Vernon, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012.
Andrea Mantegna and the Italian Renaissance, London and New York: Parkstone Press International, 2006. [Published also in French (Andrea Mantegna et la Renaissance italienne) German (Andrea Mantegna: Kunst und Kultur im Italien der Renaissance), and several other languages].
Moral Essays on the High Renaissance: Art in Italy in the Age of Michelangelo, Lanham, MD, and Oxford: University Press of America, 2001.
Cosmè Tura: The Life and Art of a Court Painter in Estense Ferrara, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press [Clarendon Press], 2000.
The Art of Ercole de’ Roberti, New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.