Joseph Manca

Nina J. Cullinan Professor of Art and Art History
Professor of Art History
Director of Graduate Studies
Ph.D. (1986) Columbia University
M.Phil. (1982) Columbia University
M.A. (1980) Columbia University
B.A. (1978) University of Rochester
113 Herring Hall

Research Areas

Italian Renaissance art and theory; Early American art and architecture

Joseph Manca’s areas of research interest include Renaissance, Baroque, and early American art and architecture. 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.  He was a Research Fellow at Winterthur in 2016, and a Visiting Scholar there in the summer of 2017, studying the visual world of the Shakers, an American religious sect, and now under contract with University of Massachusetts Press is his forthcoming book Shaker Vision: Seeing Beauty in Early America. 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. Recently published is his book Subject 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). Current research includes a monograph on the art and cultural context of 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 three main focal points for Manca's work. First, attention to the stylistic qualities, materiality, and beauty of an artwork, and how it functioned in the culture in which it was made. Second, as thorough an exploration as is possible of original documents that record what early artists, patrons, and viewers thought. And third, a focus on the moral quality of art, in the broadest sense, showing how works of art embody and convey philosophical, social, and other ideals. In carrying out his teaching and research, Manca has been fortunate to have at his disposal the outstanding research facilities at Rice University; the generous support from Rice for travel and other research expenses; the stimulating presence of superb undergraduate and graduate students; and fine and extensive museum holdings in the city of Houston.