University of South Florida

School of Art & Art History

USF College of The Arts

Helena Szépe

Professor, Art History
PhD, Cornell University
Phone: 813.974.9325
Office: FAH 266

I specialize in the art history of late medieval and Renaissance Europe, with special teaching and research interests in the complex interactions of technology, culture, and art during the shift from manuscript production to print. I am particularly interested in how embellishment of books can transform them into more potent symbols and attributes of their owners. I also study collecting, and how we might discern the changing meaning of objects through the condition in which they were obtained and maintained.

My book, “Venice Illuminated. Power and Painting in Renaissance Manuscripts” (Yale University Press, 2018), examines how paintings in manuscripts marking patrician appointment to high office expressed a tension between selfless service and individual ambition.

I am working on a new book provisionally titled “The Art of Enclosure,” which examines the visual culture of books made by and for nuns in Venice.

Recent seminars I have taught include Art and the Senses, Dreaming in the Renaissance, The Renaissance Print, The Idea of Venice, Renaissance Identity, The Art of the Renaissance Book, and Painting in Renaissance Venice.

My research has been supported by an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, a Getty Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Gladys Krieble Delmas Grants, an American Philosophical Society Research Grant, Huntington Library and Harvard University Houghton Library Fellowships, and USF Research grants. I was a Visiting Research Scholar at the University of Padua in the Fall of 2013 and currently am working in collaboration with Professors Federica Toniolo and Chiara Ponchia there on a project entitled, "Renaissance Manuscripts and Modern Memory," funded in part by a USF UNI grant.

I have published in numerous refereed journals, including “Art History” and “Word and Image.”


With Gianmario Guidarelli, Chiara Ponchia and Federica Toniolo: Il monastero femminile di Santa Croce alla Giudecca. Spazi, libri e immagini a Venezia tra Medioevo ed età moderna, Rome: Viella, 2024. 
This research began as a project funded by a USF UNI-research project in collaboration with faculty and funding of the University of Padua and with the Civic Museums of Venice. Publication was supported by the University of Padua and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

With Ilaria Andreoli: The Art of the Renaissance Book. Tributes in Honor of Lilian Armstrong. Turnhout: Brepols, 2023.


"Introduction," and "Benedetto Bordon, the Barozzi Master, and the Venetian Procurators," The Art of the Renaissance Book, eds. Ilaria Andreoli and Helena Szépe, Turnhout: 2023, 15-22 and 279-306.

Co-author with Federica Toniolo, “What did the Nuns of Santa Croce Read and See in Manuscript and Print?” in Guidarelli, Ponchia, Szépe, Toniolo, eds., Il monastero femminile di Santa Croce alla Giudecca, Rome: Viella, 123-181, 2024.

Co-author with Guidarelli, Ponchia, Toniolo, “Introduzione,” in Il monastero femminile, Rome, Viella, 2024, 7-12.

“Fragmented and Forgotten, Italian Manuscripts in Arts, Design, and Natural History Museums. The collectors Luigi Celotti and J. A. Ramboux, and the artists The Master of the Antiphonal Q of San Giorgio, the Master of Cardinal Antoniotto Pallavicini, and the Disassembled Italian Hours Masters.” Rivista di storia della miniatura 26 (2022): 16; 158-80.

"Illuminating Law and Order," Beyond Words: New Research on Manuscripts in Boston Collections, eds. Jeffrey Hamburger et. al., Toronto: Pontifical Institute, 2021, 213-236, 337-342.

Co-author with Federica Toniolo, "Celebrating Athanasius in Venice. Manuscripts for the Monastery of Santa Croce alla Giudecca," Artibus et Historiae 81:XLI (2020): 25-48.

"Painting in Documents: The Case of Venice," Illuminierte Urkunden, special issue Archiv für Diplomatik, eds. Gabriella Bartz and Markus Gneiss, Vienna: Böhlau, 2018, 218-40; 520-4.

Monograph in progress: 

The Art of Enclosure: Nuns and Illuminated Manuscripts in Venice.