Judith Testa
Judith Testa, a former professor at Northern Illinois University, contributes book reviews and articles about Italy to the Chicago area Italian American newspaper “Fra Noi.” She is the author of a popular book on Rome and has also written a book about another lifelong love, baseball, as well as, most recently, a book about art in Florence.


Latest Events
Brooklyn Historical Society, Brooklyn, NY, March 26, 2013, Judith Testa participated in a panel discussion as part of the BHS exhibition about the Brooklyn (now Los Angeles) Dodgers. Visit the Brooklyn Historical Society web site for more information.  Other events will be posted as they're scheduled.

Italian Cultural Institute, 500 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, June 6, 2014, at 6 pm: presentation based on material from my most recent book, "An Art Lover's Guide to Florence." My talk is entitled "Webs of Desire and Violence: Power Politics and Sexual Politics in Three Works of Florentine Renaissance Art."

AUTUMN, 2014, ON SITE, IN FLORENCE!  My talk, "Webs of Desire and Violence," offered in the city where the works of art discussed are located. Event held at Palazzo Tornabuoni, once owned by relatives of the Medici family.

Same talk, presented at the School of Art, Northern Illinois University, Spring semester, 2015


On February 6, at 5 pm in Room 100 (auditorium) at the Northern Illinois University School of Art, Dekalb IL:

"X-Rated Raphael-- Picasso Explores a Renaissance Love Affair" The romantic and erotic tale of the painter Raphael and his mysterious, unnamed Roman mistress--known to posterity as “La Fornarina,” The Baker’s Daughter-- is one of the most delicious and intriguing stories to come down to us from the Italian Renaissance. First related by Giorgio Vasari in his “Lives of the Artists,” this is a story that involves love, lust and art, a combination that made it irresistible to Pablo Picasso. In 1967, at the astonishing age of 87, Picasso produced a suite of 25 etchings in which he imagined-- and expressed in rapturously sexual terms-- the love affair of Raphael and La Fornarina. This talk will first recount the legend of La Fornarina and consider the painting by Raphael of a beautiful nude woman that has come to be identified as her portrait. With the story and the painting in mind, I will then discuss Picasso’s etchings: works so powerful and explicit in their sexual imagery that they have never been allowed to be exhibited in the United States!

February 22, 2017, 6 pm, at the Italian Cultural Institute, 500 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, "The Sistine Chapel: Michelangelo's Masterpieces and More"

Most visitors come to the Sistine Chapel to see the paintings by Michelangelo--the famous ceiling and the Last Judgment on the altar wall-- but they tend to ignore the chapel as a whole, in particular the fifteenth-century paintings that adorn the side walls. Visitors often have little idea of the subject matter and messages these earlier works are intended to convey. Michelangelo’s ceiling can also be a confusing and even disappointing experience for those unaware of the religious message offered by its images. And how does the artist’s Last Judgment— so different in appearance and content from his work on the ceiling— fit into the Chapel’s program of images? Are the side walls, the ceiling and the altar wall each a separate, isolated unit, with no meaningful relationship to each other? Or do they form a coherent whole and a single, understandable message? 

My purpose in this talk is to present the Sistine Chapel in a way that visitors can understand both its individual decorative programs and its overall significance. It is not necessary to identify every one of the hundreds of figures on the walls and ceiling in order to grasp the meaning of the scenes, but a general idea of what the imagery consists of, and what it means, can contribute greatly to everyone’s enjoyment of this jewel of the Italian Renaissance— the most visited religious site in Rome.

September 18, 2018: I will again present my talk "X-Rated Raphael: Picasso Explores a Renaissance Love Affair," this time at the Italian Cultural Institute, 500 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Suite 1450. Time: 6 pm, admission free and open to the public. See above for summary.

Fall 2019: I will present a talk entitled "Imperial Billboards: Rome's Triumphal Arches" at the Italian Cultural Institute in Chicago