Danny Smith Salfati is an artist, art historian, and curator. He lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

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“Watching the Well-Governed City: painting and surveillance in Trecento Siena”

This essay considers Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Trecento fresco cycle of Good and Bad Government for the Sala dei Nove in Siena as a kind of painterly panopticon, a visual allegory of the omnipresent surveillance of communal life in Siena. Drawing on Peter of Limoges’s Tractatus moralis de oculo, this essay contextualizes the frescoes as a political device within medieval conceptions of vision.

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Vol. 12, Issue 1
December 2021.

Part of the article cluster Sensory Presence and Senses of Absence in the European
Middle Ages
edited by Fiona Griffiths and Kathryn Starkey

“The Painted Logos: Abstraction as Exegesis in the Ashburnham Pentateuch”

An essay on abstraction as a medieval art form. This chapter rereads four daubs of pink paint added in the ninth century to the first folio of the Ashburnham Pentateuch. Instead of seeing this overpainting as iconoclastic I argue it served as a kind of nuanced and theologically significant form of abstract art.

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Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament
Edited by Elina Gertsman, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2021, 141-166.

“Viewer Ascending a Staircase”

An essay on the value of long and plodding museum staircases. Commissioned for the fifth anniversary catalogue of the Anderson Collection, Stanford University.

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Left of Center: The Anderson Collection
Edited by Jason Linetzky, Stanford: Anderson Collection, 2019, 12-16

Guerre aux Demolisseurs!

The first English translation of Victor Hugo’s 1834 essay “Guerre aux Demolisuers!” Published with an introduction.

Read the translation here...
West 86th: A Journal of 
Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture
25:2 (Fall/Winter 2018): 224-48.

Medieval Myth of Notre Dame

An essay about restoration and renewal at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris in the wake of the April 2019 fire.

Read the essay here...
Los Angeles Review of Books
October 2018

Published in German as
“Der mittelalterliche Mythos von Notre-Dame”
in Notre-Dame de Paris: Bilder einer Kathedral,
edited by Lothar Schirmer, 9-19. Munich: Schirmer/Mosel Verlag, 2020.