John Thomas Spike (born November 8, 1951 in New York City) is an American art historian, curator, and author, specializing in the Italian Renaissance and Baroque periods. He is also a prominent contemporary art critic and past director of the Florence Biennale. In 2007, Spike was appointed to the faculty of the Masters program in Sacred Art History jointly offered by the European University of Rome and the Pontifical Athenaeum, ‘Regina Apostolorum'. In 2011, Spike became a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where he has also served as Assistant Director and Chief Curator of the Muscarelle Museum of Art since 2012.
Childhood, youth, and personal life
Spike grew up in New York City and Tenafly, New Jersey where he was a friend and classmate of the actor Ed Harris at Tenafly High School. His father was the Rev. Robert W. Spike, a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and his brother is Paul Spike, an author and the first American to be named editor of the British satirical magazine Punch. After undergraduate studies at Wesleyan University, he earned his PhD from Harvard University in art history in 1979. His dissertation was the first complete study of Mattia Preti (1613-1699), an important painter of the Caravaggio school. Spike was later awarded honorary citizenship of Taverna, the Italian city that was Preti's birthplace, in recognition of his studies of Preti. In 2013 HM Queen Elizabeth II appointed Spike to the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem.
Career as art historian
In the course of his career, Spike has organized art exhibitions and read lectures at important museums around the world, including the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna; the Galleria degli Uffizi and the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence; the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth; the Pierpont Morgan Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Musée du Louvre, Paris; the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart; the National Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. He has also read lectures at Harvard, Yale and Princeton Universities, and the University of Malta. He is permanent consultant to two Italian museums, the Museo Civico di Taverna and the Museo Civico di Urbania, as well as many years friend and consultant to the Cathedral Museum of Mdina and the National Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta, Malta. In 2006 Spike was also appointed to the Board of the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia. His contributions to culture and history have been recognized in Italy by the bestowal of the Premio Anthurium, 1998, the Annual Medal of the Accademia delle Belle Arti di Messina, 2001, the Premio Anassilaos, 2002 and Man of the Year by the Tuscan American Foundation, Florence, 2006.
Among the books Spike has published on the Florentine Renaissance are Masaccio (Abbeville Press 1996), and Fra Angelico (Abbeville Press, 1997), both also available in Italian and French editions. His Fra Angelico, which also appeared in a German edition by Hirmer Verlag, was named “Art Book of the Year 1997” by the Hearst newspapers in the USA. His catalogue raisonné of the paintings of Caravaggio (2001) was published in a second Revised Edition in 2010. His "Young Michelangelo: The Path to the Sistine: A Biography" was published in 2010 (Vendome Press; ISBN 0-86565-266-X).
Since 2012 Spike has been Assistant Director and Chief Curator of the Muscarelle Museum of Art at The College of William & Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia. During his tenure to date, Spike has curated, and authored the catalogues for, several international loan exhibitions of Italian art: Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane, Masterpiece Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti and A Brush with Passion: Mattia Preti (1613-1699) as part of the “2013 Year of Italian Culture” in the United States in cooperation with the Italian foreign ministry; Caravaggio Connoisseurship: Saint Francis in Meditation and the Capitoline Fortune Teller in 2014; Leonardo da Vinci and the Idea of Beauty in 2015; Botticelli and the Search for the Divine: Florentine Painting between the Medici and the Bonfire of the Vanities, with Alessandro Cecchi, in 2017. These exhibitions were under the auspices of the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane, Masterpiece Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti; Leonardo da Vinci and the Idea of Beauty; and Botticelli and the Search for the Divine were also exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.
For the Fall of 2017, Spike is curating for the Muscarelle the exhibition, Fred Eversley: 50 Years an Artist: Light & Space & Energy, that will be shown as part of the celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of the admission of Afro-American students to The College of William & Mary, 1967-2017.
Career as contemporary art critic
Spike has written essays for books and exhibition catalogues on many contemporary artists, both in New York City and in Italy. In addition to his Michelangelo biography, he is currently overseeing the production of the Catalogue Raisonné for Richard Anuszkiewicz, the leading American artist of the Op Art movement. Spike's most noteworthy contribution to contemporary art has been his involvement with the Biennale Internazionale dell'Arte Contemporanea, Florence, Italy- more commonly known in English as the Florence Biennale. He was a member of the Jury for the inaugural exhibition in December 1997, and thereafter served as director from 1998-2005. In 2005, Spike was also the sole juror of the Turku Biennial in Turku, Finland as well as a member of the jury for the Triennale of India in New Delhi.
A. Books and exhibition catalogues on art and artists prior to 1800
- Botticelli and the Search for the Divine. Florentine Painting Between the Medici and the Bonfires of the Vanities, with Alessandro Cecchi and additional essay by Frederick Ilchman and Victoria S. Reed, exh. cat. Muscarelle Museum of Art, Williamsburg, VA and Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, Centro Di Florence 2017.
- Leonardo da Vinci and the Idea of Beauty, with additional essays by David Alan Brown and Paul Joannides, exh. cat., Muscarelle Museum of Art, Williamsburg, VA and Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, Centro Di Florence 2015.
- Leonardo da Vinci y la idea de la belleza, with additional essays by David Alan Brown and Paul Joannides, exh. cat. Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, Mexico, 2015.
- Caravaggio Connoisseurship: Saint Francis in Meditation and the Capitoline Fortune Teller, exh. cat, Muscarelle Museum of Art, Williamsburg, VA and Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, 2014.
- A Brush with Passion Mattia Preti (1613 – 1699), Paintings from North American Collections in Honor of the 400th Anniversary of His Birth, exh cat Muscarelle Museum of Art, Williamsburg, VA, Centro Di Florence, 2013.
- Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane, Masterpiece Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti, exh. cat, Muscarelle Museum of Art, Williamsburg, VA and Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, Centro Di Florence, 2013.
- Young Michelangelo: The Path to the Sistine. Vendome Press, New York, 312 pp. with 60 full-color and black-and-white illustrations, 2010.
- Caravaggio. Abbeville Press, New York, 272 pp. with 153 color plates + 29 b/w ills., plus CD-ROM, 2nd revised edition, 2010.
- Dissimilar Revelations. Essays on Neolithic Art, Fra Angelico, Velázquez, Goya and Cézanne. Edgewise, New York, 62 pp. with 8 b/w ills., 2003.
- Gregorio Preti Paintings and Documents, with the assistance of Nicholas Spike, Centro Di, Firenze, 2003.
- Il Senso del Piacere. Una collezione di nature morte Skira, Milano, 230 pp. with 140 color plates + numerous b/w ills., 2002.
- Caravaggio. Abbeville Press, New York, 272 pp. with 150 color plates + 20 b/w ills., plus CD-ROM, 2001.
- Il Corteo Trionfale di Carlo V di Nicolaus Hogenberg. Un capitolo del Rinascimento in un’acquaforte delle collezioni roveresche. Catalogo della Mostra, Palazzo Ducale, Urbania, 92 pp. with 100 b/w ills., 1999.
- Mattia Preti. Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings / Catalogo ragionato dei dipinti. [Centro Di, Firenze, per il Comune di Taverna], 454 pp. with 108 color plates + 460 b/w ills., 1999.
- Mattia Preti e l’Ordine di San Giovanni tra la Calabria e Malta. Catalogo della Mostra, Museo Civico, Rende, 26 March - 12 June 1999, 95 pp. with 11 color plates.
- L'Idea del Soggetto. Drawings by Mattia Preti (1613-1699). Catalogo della Mostra, National Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta, Malta, 23 December 1998 - 16 February 1999, 35 pp. with 40 color plates.
- Mattia Preti. I documenti / The Collected Documents. [Centro Di, Firenze per la Banca di Credito Cooperativo della Sila Piccola - Taverna], 285 pp. with 30 color plates + 120 b/w ills., 1998.
- Catalogo delle Opere di Mattia e Gregorio Preti a Taverna, Museo Civico di Taverna [Centro Di, Firenze, italiano/ English ed. bilingue], 137 pp., 50 color plates, 1997.
- Disegni - Fonti - Ricerche per la maiolica rinascimentale di Casteldurante, Edizioni Biblioteca e Civico Museo di Urbania [Il Lavoro Editoriale], a cura di Gian Carlo Bojani e J.T. Spike, 142 pp. with 44 color plates + 57 b/w ills., 1997.
- Masaccio, Fabbri Editori, 1995, 244 pp. with 97 color plates + 96 b/w ills. (French edition: Éditions Liana Levi, Paris; American edition, 1996: Abbeville Press, New York).
- Fra Angelico, Fabbri Editori, 1996, 280 pp. with 90 color plates + 285 b/w ills. (French edition: Éditions Liana Levi, Paris; American edition, 1997: Abbeville Press, New York; German edition, 1997: Hirmer Verlag, München).
- Catalogue of Italian Paintings in the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1993, 112 pp. with 31 color plates + 42 b/w ills.
- A Connoisseur's Guide to the Met, with Paul Magriel, Random House, New York, 1988, 235 pp. with 100 b/w ills.
- The Age of Monarchy, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and The Franklin Mint, Japanese edition, 1987; English and French editions, 1988.
- Giuseppe Maria Crespi and the Emergence of Genre Painting in Italy, The Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, 1986, 245 pp. with 52 color plates + 111 b/w ills.
- Aspects of Sculpture: the Paul Magriel Collection, The Guild Hall Museum, Easthampton, New York, 1985, 103 pp. with 19 color plates + 72 b/w ills.
- Baroque Portraiture in Italy: Works from North American Collections, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, FL., 1984, 214 pp. with 19 col pls + 130 b/w ills.
- Italian Still Life Paintings from Three Centuries, National Academy of Design, New York, 1983, 149 pp. with 50 color plates + 87 b/w ills.
- The Illustrated Bartsch, Volumes 41, 42, 43 (formerly Bartsch, Le peintre-graveur, Volume XIX), Abaris Books, New York, 1981, 1982; Volume 30 (formerly XV, part 3), 1985. Co-editor, Volumes 28, 29 (formerly XV, parts 1 and 2), 1985, 1986.
- Italian Baroque Paintings from New York Private Collections, The Art Museum, Princeton University, with Princeton University Press, 1980, 127 pp., color cover + 71 b/w ills.
B. Books and exhibition catalogues on art and artists after 1800
- Angel Ramiro Sánchez, Grenning Gallery, Sag Harbor, NY, unpaginated with 26 color plates, 2003.
- Dennis Campay: New Paintings, Lagerquist Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia, 120 pp. with 62 color plates, 2002.
- Angel Orensanz Disegni: 1991-2000, Catalogo della Mostra, Galleria d’Arte Contemporanea di Palazzo Ducale, Pavullo, 64 pp. with 82 color plates, 2 June - 1 July 2001.
- Rossano Naldi (1913-1994), Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze. catalogo della mostra. 1998. [italiano/ English ed. bilingue], 80 pp. with 59 color plates + 78 b/w ills.
- Fairfield Porter: An American Classic, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1992, 320 pp. with numerous color plates + b/w ills.
- Taylor Branch "Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65." Simon & Schuster 1998.
- "Young Michelangelo: The Path to the Sistine: John T. Spike: 9780865652668: Amazon.com: Books". amazon.com.
- Martin Herbert (18 February 2011). "Young Michelangelo: The Path to the Sistine by John T Spike". Telegraph.co.uk.