Maria Alessandra Chessa

History of Design

Paper Ex Votos, Romituzzo Sanctuary, Poggibonsi, Siena (sixteenth to seventeenth century)


Title of Dissertation: Between the Ordinary and the Extraordinary – Experimentations and practices on paper in Renaissance Italy

The aim of my dissertation is to investigate the materiality of paper, along with its impact and perception in early modern Italy, investigating the manifold applications in regard to practices, functions and creativity. Contrary to the direction undertaken by the historiography on paper, mainly addressing the consequences of its use as a mere support to text, this investigation looked at the manifold applications of paper, both in an everyday context and as a resourceful tool in the hands of craftsmen and artists. This research revealed that the rapid increase of paper production, following the introduction of the printing press in Italy, developed as a collective phenomenon, which deeply affected the economy, customs and taste. Paper emerged as an extraordinary means of expression, whose ephemeral material readily revealed some intrinsic potentialities as both an inspiring medium for artistic productions, and a resourceful support to visual communication and abstract thinking. The innate properties of paper thus disclosed surprising potentialities in the creative sphere. The experimental uses analysed in this study, in the form of papier-mâché or pouncing cartoons, offer a novel insight into the ground-breaking impact of this material between the imaginative process and the creative act, which has been at the root of Italian Renaissance creativeness.

+44 (0)7528 319 816


Courtesy of the Romituzzo Sanctuary



Specializzazione Post-Laurea, Scuola di Specilizzazione in Storia dell'Arte, Universita' di Siena, Italy, 2009; Laurea Magistrale, Corso di Laurea in Discipline delle Arti, Musica e Spettacolo, Universita' degli Studi di Bologna, Italy, 2004


Museum assistant, British Empire and Commonwealth Museum, Bristol, 2010; Tutor of Fashion and Costume History, Universita' degli Studi di Bologna, Italy, 2006–8; Historical costumes consultant, Comune di Faenza, Italy, 2007–9; Researcher, Istituto dei Beni Culturali dell'Emilia Romagna, Bologna, Italy, 2007


Basil Taylor Memorial Prize, 2011; Master and Back Scholarship, Regione Autonoma della Sardegna, 2007


Vesti, Colori e Onore: L’Abito del Cavaliere fra Distinzione e Mutamento, Maria Alessandra Chessa, CLUEB, Bologna, 2007; Naborre e Felice: Due Santi Cavalieri, Maria Alessandra Chessa, Il Carrobbio, Patron, 2006