Yvonne Elet

Professor of Art
Pictured: Yvonne Elet - A white woman with glasses in front of stone wall.

Yvonne Elet is a historian of art and architecture, whose research focuses on integrated designs for art, architecture, landscape, and urbanism in early modern Italy, and also in twentieth century Italy and America. Her current research and teaching projects encompass Renaissance/Baroque villa culture; intermedial designers from Raphael to Olmsted; and materials in early modern art, science and natural philosophy. She received the M.A. and Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, and a B. S. in Computer Science from Yale College. She had an earlier career in systems engineering and marketing at IBM; and at the IBM Gallery of Science and Art in New York, she coordinated exhibitions on topics from fractal geometry to Sardinian Renaissance painting. 

Her first book, Architectural Invention in Renaissance Rome: Artists, Humanists, and the Planning of Raphael’s Villa Madama, published by Cambridge University Press in 2017, traces the collaborative design processes for Raphael’s late masterwork, proposing a role for poets in the design of architecture. Her next book, Urban Landscape in the Third Rome: Raphael’s Villa and Mussolini’s Forum, is being published by Edifir (Edizioni Firenze) in Italy in 2023; it draws on extensive new archival research to present the interwar renovation of the villa and its landscape in dialogue with the coeval Fascist forum rising around it, to present a new understanding of this symbolic entry zone to Rome. In 2020-21, she co-organized and produced the online international conference Reconsidering Raphael to mark the quincentenary of the artist’s death, and is co-editing an eponymous volume of essays, some stemming from the conference, to be published by Brepols. Her current book project analyzes the revival of stucco in the art and architecture of early modern Italy. Her interests in American landscape include studies of the pioneering woman landscape architect Beatrix Farrand, and designs of the Olmsted firm for the Vassar campus; she also serves on the Board of Directors of Springside, the historic site originally designed by Andrew Jackson Downing and Calvert Vaux as Matthew Vassar’s ornamental farm.

Her articles appear in venues including Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance, Journal of Gardens and Designed Landscapes, and the Journal of Planning History. She has presented her work in many conferences and invited lectures, and has received grants for her research from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Mellon Foundation at the Frick Collection, the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts, Washington, DC, the Getty Research Institute in the History of Art and Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). She has been a visiting professor at the Universities of Bologna and Urbino, and a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. 

Professor Elet teaches courses on Italian art, architecture, landscape, and urbanism of the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries, as well as intensives about the Vassar Campus and Springside. Her seminar topics include a reconsideration of Raphael’s multimedia oeuvre, and the history of landscape and gardens in early modern Italy. Together with students, she created the website Vassar Campus History, a digital repository for ongoing research on the history of the college’s architecture, landscape, and soundscape; and organized the 2022 exhibition The Campus Green: The Olmsted Firm's Designs for Vassar College.

BS, Yale University; MA, PhD, New York University
At Vassar since 2009

Research and Academic Interests

Italian Renaissance and Baroque villa culture; designers of integrated ensembles of architecture, landscape, and urban form, from Raphael to Olmsted; materials in early modern art, science and natural philosophy; architecture, landscape, and culture in interwar Rome


Art 105, 106
Introduction to the History of Art and Architecture
Art/CLCS 120
The Vassar Campus
Art 235
The Rise of the Artist, from Giotto to Leonardo da Vinci
Art/Ital 236
Art in the Age of Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo 
Art/URBS 274
Buildings and Cities in Early Modern Italy
Art/ENST 279
Landscape History and Conservation: Matthew Vassar’s Springside
Art 332
Reconsidering Raphael
Art/ENST 333
Villas and Gardens in Early Modern Italy

In the Media


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