Five hundred years after he was elected to the papacy, Pope Leo X is the subject of a major exhibit at the Medici Chapels in Florence, one of the historic city’s most famous museums. The exhibit, “Nello Splendore Mediceo,” traces the life of the first Medici pope, his family history and education, and his influence on Italian art and architecture.
English-speakers who are among the throngs of visitors to the exhibit during its seven-month run are being guided through the exhibit’s sculptures, paintings, documents, and other artifacts by didactic panels that were translated from Italian into English by two students from ACM colleges.
The entrance to the exhibit on Pope Leo X at the Medici Chapels.
Ellie Galvin from Lawrence University and Austen Perry from Luther College completed the translations during internships at the museum when they were participating in the Arts in Context Program in Florence early this year.
The internship program was established in fall 2012 by Florence Program Director Jodie Mariotti, who tapped her extensive contacts in the city’s museums and cultural institutions to provide opportunities for students to serve as interns at the Medici Chapels and the Uffizi Gallery.
A classmate of Galvin and Perry on the program, Giancarlo Colasanti from Lake Forest College, had an internship at the Uffizi, where he got a view of the gallery’s inner workings from his placement in an administrative office that tracks artwork on loan from the Uffizi’s enormous collection to museums and galleries around the world.
All three students were in Florence from January through March, living with Italian host families. They began with a three-week stint of intensive Italian language study, followed by eight weeks of coursework on topics in medieval and Renaissance art, history, and literature, along with conversational Italian.
An exhibit case and didactic panel, with the description in Italian on the top and translated into English on the bottom.
Mariotti, who is an accomplished translator, helped explain some of the nuances of the texts that Perry and Galvin were poring over. “They had a lot of very fine translation already done,” she said. “We sat down together and went through everything, which was good for improving their Italian language skills.”
“Italian sentences are constructed differently than English sentences,” Perry noted, “and on occasion there would be slang words or just complex Italian words that didn’t translate directly to English, which could make translations difficult and time consuming.”
Mariotti also contributed to the exhibit at the Medici Chapels through her scholarship, as she was invited to write an essay and other entries for the exhibit catalog. Years ago, in the course of doing archival research, she discovered some documents from the Medici family. Since then, Mariotti has conducted extensive research on the documents and has published articles about Pope Leo X.
The subject of the exhibit was also of particular interest to Perry, who had recently written a term paper on Leo X. “My minor at [Luther] is museum studies, so it was an incredible chance to work in a quality museum on an exhibit that I could bring my own knowledge to,” she said. “It was nice to be able to get some valuable experience in the field I hope to work in, and working with Jodie on the translations was actually quite fun.”
“The whole experience has really made me want to become fluent in Italian and possibly do more work in the museums in Florence and Rome,” Perry added.
Exhibit website: Nello Splendore Mediceo (with English translation)
Article on internships in fall 2012: “Working Behind the Scenes at the Uffizi Gallery and the Medici Chapels“