Rebecca Messbarger

Rebecca Messbarger

​Professor of Italian
Affiliate Professor of History, Art History, International and Area Studies, Performing Arts, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Director of Undergraduate Studies in Italian
Founding Director of Medical Humanities
PhD, University of Chicago

contact info:

office hours:

  • Tuesday: 12:00PM - 2:00PM
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mailing address:

  • Washington University
    CB 1077
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

Professor Messbarger's major research interests center on Italian Enlightenment culture, in particular the place and purpose of women in civic, academic and social life, and the intersection of art and science in the production of anatomical wax models during the age.

Her research centers on the Italian Enlightenment, in particular the intersection of anatomy and art, and medicine and religion, and the shifting roles of women in civic and academic life during the age.

Her most recent monograph, The Lady Anatomist: The Life and Work of Anna Morandi Manzolini (U of Chicago Press, 2010) traced the remarkable life of the 18th-century Bolognese woman from provincial artist to internationally renowned anatomist and anatomical modeler for the University of Bologna’s famous medical school. She is the author of numerous articles, including “The Re-birth of Venus in Florence’s Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History,” in the Oxford Journal of the History of Collections, winner of both the James L. Clifford Prize and the Percy Adam’s Prize for the best article in 2012-13. Most recently, she co-edited with Christopher Johns and Phil Gavitt the volume Benedict XIV and the Enlightenment: Art, Science and Spirituality (U of Toronto Press, 2016).

She has received fellowships from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Philosophical Society, and Washington University’s Center for the Humanities, and is a faculty scholar at Washington University's Institute for Public Health. 

Benedict XIV and the Enlightenment

Benedict XIV and the Enlightenment

Pope Benedict XIV Lambertini (r. 1740–58) was one of the driving forces behind the Italian Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. His campaign to reconcile faith and empirical science, re-launch a dialogue between the Church and the European intellectual community, and expand papal patronage of the arts and sciences helped restore Italy’s position as a center of intellectual and artistic innovation. Benedict XIV and the Enlightenment offers a broad and nuanced assessment of Benedict’s engagement with Enlightenment art, science, spirituality, and culture. The collection’s essays, written by international experts in the field, cover topics ranging from Benedict’s revisions to the Church’s procedures for beatification and sanctification to his patronage of women scientists and mathematicians at the university in Bologna, his birthplace.