Architecture and Memory

The Renaissance Studioli of Federico da Montefeltro

Robert Kirkbride


The reticulated grid (such as a chess board) became a "dominant" feature of medieval mnemonics, evoking imaginative adaptations, such as chess, that played upon its recombinatorial geometry. Carruthers notes that the play of chess offered "a 'Rule for Princes' presented in a form that embeds its own mnemonic – the form of a grid filled with images, familiar to medieval audiences as a basic format for the page of memory" (Book of Memory, 144). The latticework in the studioli also offer ideal perches for thoughts.

Source: Photo by author with permission of La Soprintendenza per i beni storici e artistici delle Marche

Chess pieces, Urbino studiolo.