Ginzburg, Carlo

Date born: 1939

Place born: Turin, Italy

Date died:

Place died:

UCLA historian who made important contributions to art history. Ginzburg was born to Leone Ginzburg (1909-1944) and Natalia Levi (Ginzburg) (1916-1991). His father was a professor of Russian co-founder the publishing firm Einaudi; his mother became one of Italy's leading writers. During World War II, his father's anti-Fascist stance resulted in police harassment and a forced relocation from their home in Turin to a village in the Abruzzi. After the fall of Mussolini in 1943, his father, a Jew, was arrested by the Nazis, who had taken over Italy, for publishing an underground newspaper. He was beaten to death by the Gestapo in 1944. Carlo was hidden by his only non-Jewish relative under the name Carlo Tanzi. After the war, his mother married Gabriele Baldini (1919-1969) in 1950, a professor of English literature. Ginzburg attended one of Italy's most prestigious secondary schools, the Scuola Normal Superiore in Pisa before entering the University of Pisa where he received a Doctor of Letters in 1961. He was appointed assistant in modern Italian history at the University of Rome. Ginzburg visited the Warburg Institute, London as a fellow in 1964. In 1966 he emerged as an innovative historian with his book, I benandanti, (translated into English initially as an article in a collection of essays in 1969 and later as the book Night Battles), a book documenting witches as practitioners of an ancient fertility religion in the sixteenth century. The publication of the practice of the benandanti, or "good walkers" set Ginzburg up as a major innovative cultural historian. In 1970 he moved to the University of Bologna as professor of modern history, but by 1973 was in the United States as a visiting professor at Princeton University. He followed this with a visiting fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 1975, the first of two times. In 1979 Ginzberg and the art historian Enrico Castelnuovo published a discussion of "center and periphery" in the history of Italian art. A Yale University visiting fellowship followed in 1983 before his second Institute for Advanced Study fellowship in 1986. He was appointed Franklin D. Murphy Professor of Italian Renaissance Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1988. He was awarded a Getty Center visiting fellowship and one at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris. In 1992 he was awarded the Aby Warburg Prize. Between 1996 and 1997 he was a Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Berlin, followed by an Italian Academy for Advanced Study on America, Columbia University, New York, in 1998.

Ginzburg married for a second to Luisa Ciammitti, a curator at the National Museum of Art in Bologna, and a research associate for 18th-century Italian documents in the Getty Center's in Malibu, California.

As an historian, Ginzburg researched myths, customs and court records (the Inquisition), to trace a history of common people through, in some cases, the most modest of facts. Together with the historians Robert Darnton and Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie the formed a group working on the "history of mentalities." His worked incorporated anthropology, psychology, literary analysis and linguistics as well as other disciplines into a cohesive history.

Home Country: Italy

Sources: Kandell, Jonathan. "Was the World Made Out of Cheese?" [biographical portrait] New York Times, November 17, 1991, p. 45

Bibliography: Occhiacci di legno: nove riflessioni sulla distanza. Milan: Feltrinelli, 1998, English, Wooden Eyes: Nine Reflections on Distance. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001; "From Aby Warburg to E.H. Gombrich." in, Miti, emblemi, spie: morfologia e storia. Turin: G. Einaudi, 1986, English, Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989; Indagini su Piero: il Battesimo, il ciclo di Arezzo, la Flagellazione di Urbino. Turin: G. Einaudi, 1981, English, The Enigma of Piero: Piero della Francesca. London: Verso, 1985; "Morelli, Freud, and Sherlock Holmes: Clues and Scientific Method." in Eco, Umberto, and Sebeok, Thomas Albert, eds. The Sign of Three: Dupin, Holmes, Peirce. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983; "Titian, Ovid, and Sixteenth-century Codes for Erotic Illustration." in, Goffen, Rona, ed. Titian's "Venus of Urbino". New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997; edited. Die Venus von Giorgione. Berlin: Akadamie Verlag, 1998.