Marvin Eisenberg Collection
Scope and Contents
The Marvin Eisenberg Collection is a research photographic archive of primarily Italian paintings of the 12th through 15th centuries. This collection contains photographs, postcards, museum catalogs, art journal articles, correspondence, and research notes. The photographs were assembled for art history lecture presentations and research for journal and book publications about Italy’s late Gothic and early Renaissance painting. This collection was donated to complement the Contini-Volterra Photographic Archive of Italian Art, a collection that Eisenberg helped research under the direction of his mentor Evelyn Sandberg-Vavala from the 1950s and 1960s.
The collection arranges items chronologically and regionally, beginning with Florentine art of the 12th and 13th centuries, including works by Casentino, Daddi, Gaddi, and Giotto. The Florentine Schools of Gaddi and Gerini, as well as paintings by Spinello, represent works of the Florentine Trecento. The art of Lorenzo Monaco and his school of the Quattrocento is presented along with the Orcagna and Cione groups. The Sienese art of the Trecento and Quattrocento highlights artists including Andrea and Taddeo Bartolo, Duccio di Buoninsegna, and Ambriogio, Pietro, and Ugolino Lorenzetti. The Florentine Quattrocento is divided into early, mid and later periods, featuring works by Andrea del Castagno, Piero della Francesca, Paolo Uccello, Sandro Botticelli, and later Florentine artists Fillipino Lippi, Sandro Botticelli, Caravaggio and Leonardo da Vinci. Artworks of the Northern Italian, Umbrian, and Venetian regions provide comparisons with the earlier presented works of Florence and Siena. The final boxes include a sampling of 12th through 15th century painting and stained glass from the French, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, and German regions. Lastly, the collection presents examples of a small gathering of miscellaneous works of sculpture and architecture from the 12th century through the modern period.
Perhaps the most significant part of the collection is the detailed photographs of the Florentine altarpiece by Lorenzo Monaco, featuring the paintings Annunciation (1409) and Coronation of the Virgin (1407). Monaco’s crucifixes and illuminated manuscripts also highlight the mastery of this late Gothic artist. Lauren B. Kanter points out in a 1993 review for The Burlington Magazine (Sept. 1993) that Eisenberg gathered research for his book Lorenzo Monaco (1989) with the stated purpose to reveal “the essential character of the art of Lorenzo Monaco.” This book features images from this extensive photographic collection.
Additionally, this collection depicts various artists’ representations of the Madonna and Child, Christ’s passion and death, and scenes from the lives of the saints. Numerous close-up photographs reveal details from portions of the painting to provide opportunities for close scrutiny and comparison of composition and stylistic elements of art. This collection as a whole reflects Eisenberg’s reputation as a valued expert on Medieval and Renaissance art.
Biographical Note - Marvin Julius Eisenberg
Marvin Julius Eisenberg was born on August 19, 1922 in Philadelphia, PA. He is the son of Frank and Rosalie (Julius) E. Eisenberg. Eisenberg received a BA from the University of Pennsylvania in 1943, and from 1943-1946 he served with the Army of the United States. After the Second World War, Eisenberg continued with his art studies at Princeton and was awarded an MFA in 1949. He began his PhD program at Princeton and in 1954 he presented a doctoral thesis on Lorenzo Monaco. In the 1950s through the 1960s Eisenberg worked with Evelyn Sandberg-Vavala in assembling and researching the Contini-Volterra photographic archive of Medieval and Renaissance Italian art.
Eisenberg began his career as an art history educator at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1949. His early research in Italy was funded by a Faculty Research Grant from the Horace H. Rackham Foundation of the University of Michigan. As professor of Medieval and Renaissance art at the University of Michigan, he chaired the art department from 1960-1969. Eisenberg served as a collegiate professor during 1974-1975, and professor emeritus in 1989 until present. In addition, several universities featured Eisenberg as a visiting professor and distinguished art historian expert, including Stanford University (1973), Mount Holyoke College (1995), Colorado College (1990, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2000, and 2002); McMaster University (1993); Bowdoin College (1985); St. Andrews University (1998); University Dayton (2002).
A life-long commitment to the visual arts is evident in Eisenberg’s extensive committee work, including serving on the Center for Advanced Study in Visual Arts, National Gallery, Washington, 1981-1984; visiting committee for the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970-1996; fine arts department, Harvard University, 1975-1981; and Commission on Preservation and Access, Washington, 1991-1994.
Several awards supported and acknowledged Eisenberg’s work. In 1959 Eisenberg was named a Guggenheim fellow. In 1966 Eisenberg received the Recipient Star of Solidarity II Italy, and in 1987 he was given the Distinguished Teaching of Art History award by the College Art Association.
Eisenberg writes that he “finds a degree of poetic justice” in the decision to donate his own photographic collection to Vanderbilt University because it complements the Contini-Volterra Collection, which is now archived at Vanderbilt University. He adds that his “scrawl is probably still visible on some of the (Contini-Volterra) folders.” The Marvin Eisenberg Collection is a valuable resource as a photographic archive of Italian art of the Medieval and early Renaissance periods, and it reflects the research of a noted art historian expert.
8.84 Linear Feet (20 Hollinger boxes, 1 Tall Hollinger box)
Language of Materials
The Marvin Eisenberg Collection is a research photographic archive of primarily Italian paintings of the 12th through 15th centuries. This collection contains photographs, postcards, museum catalogs, art journal articles, correspondence, and research notes. The photographs were assembled for art history lecture presentations and research for journal and book publications about Italy’s late Gothic and early Renaissance painting.
Offsite Storage, Special Collections & Archives
- Finding Aid for the Marvin Eisenberg Collection
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository
Jean and Alexander Heard Library
419 21st Avenue South
Nashville TN 37203 United States