Dr. Lea Debernardi
Research Associate

My research interests centre on the continuity between late medieval and early modern cultural dynamics that pivoted around visuality.

During my BA and MA studies in History at the University of Pisa, my research focused on the representation of political power and the shaping of dynastic memory through artistic patronage and writing in north-western Italian courts, with a particular focus on the houses of Saluzzo and Savoy. I especially investigated the visual and written culture of the branch of the Saluzzo family that owned the Castle of La Manta (Cuneo, Piedmont), reconstructing its evolution from the 15th to the 17th century and highlighting the ways in which literary, scientific, devotional and visual interests blended together. In 2019 I presented the final results of this work in a book: Lo specchio della famiglia. Cultura figurativa e letteraria al castello della Manta (‘The Mirror of the Family: Visual and Literary Culture at the Castle of La Manta’), Rome: Viella.

My PhD project, conducted in joint-supervision between the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa and the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris, built on my earlier work, exploring the connection between the Christian allegory of the Fons Pietatis—the mystical fountain filled by the blood of Jesus—and the iconography of the fountain of youth, one of the themes appearing in the frescoes of La Manta. I traced the global circulation of the image of the Fons Pietatis in late medieval and early modern art, revealing the interplay of literary, visual, devotional and social factors that determined its evolution. I am currently readapting the original version of my thesis into a monograph with the working title Fount of Blood, Spring of Youth: The Image-Word Network of the Fons Pietatis.

As part of my PhD research, I examined the historical definitions of ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ art and the censorship of religious images based on their connection to secular themes—two topics on which I now focus my activity as a member of the SACRIMA team.

A further postdoctoral project, exploring late medieval and early modern ideas concerning sacred images which were deemed to be a product of nature (such as marble slabs whose veining suggested a silhouette of the Virgin, or plants whose shape recalled that of a crucifix), is currently under evaluation for funding.


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  • ‘Gli affreschi seicenteschi del Castello della Manta’, article forthcoming in Bollettino della Società per gli studi storici, archeologici ed artistici della provincia di Cuneo, 165 (2021).
  • Lo specchio della famiglia. Cultura figurativa e letteraria al castello della Manta, Rome: Viella, 2019.
  • Le cycle des fresques du Château de la Manta: quelques considérations sur l’interprétation iconographique’, Bien dire et bien aprandre, 31 (2015), 115-138. Proceedings of the conference Les Neuf Preux (Université de Lille 3, Lille, France, 2013).
  • ‘Il ciclo quattrocentesco del Castello della Manta. Considerazioni sull’interpretazione iconografica, nuove acquisizioni’, Opera-Nomina-Historiae, 8 (2013), 175-276.
  • ‘Note sulla tradizione manoscritta del Livre du Chevalier Errant e sulle fonti dei tituli negli affreschi della Manta’, Opera-Nomina-Historiae, 4 (2011), 67-131.


  • ‘La fontaine de jouvence dans l’iconographie médiévale’, University of Fribourg, Switzerland, 16 March 2020. Seminar: Profane Themen in der Kunst des Mittelalters, Prof. Michele Bacci.
  • ‘”Per seguir lo stile antico degli illustri predecessori sui”. Vita e fortuna degli affreschi della Manta nel Cinquecento’, paper delivered at the international congress Temi epici e cavallereschi in Italia. Tra letteratura e immagini (XII-XV secolo) (Université de Lausanne, Switzerland, 29-30 November 2018).
  • ‘L’aubépine de Valéran de Saluces: une devise entre mythologie dynastique, dévotion et art courtois’, paper delivered at the international congress Empresas – devises – badges. Un code emblématique européen (Monastery of Batalha, Portugal, 18-10 September 2014).