Mario Del Chiaro and Lisa Pieraccini in an Etruscan tomb at Cerveteri, 1997. Courtesy of Dr. Lisa Pieraccini
Mario Del Chiaro and Lisa Pieraccini in an Etruscan tomb at Cerveteri, 1997. Courtesy of Dr. Lisa Pieraccini
In the last issue of L’Italo- Americano we featured the planned Center for the Study of Ancient Italy at the University of California Berkeley. This innovative Center will embrace an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and research, and will promote the study of the many cultures of ancient Italy, with special emphasis on the Etruscans and Romans. There is no other center quite like this in the United States.  In this issue we will look more closely at some of the people who are responsible for this remarkable undertaking.
There are two individuals of key importance — Lisa Pieraccini, the Center’s Project Director, and the Center’s first benefactor, Professor Mario A. Del Chiaro. Del Chiaro is a UC Berkeley alumnus, having completed his BA, MA and Ph.D. at Berkeley in the 1950s. He is Professor Emeritus of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan Art at the University of California, Santa Barbara where he taught for over 35 years, but he is a proud San Franciscan at heart (see below). Del Chiaro’s dedication to UC Berkeley and to the Etruscans found common ground in this newly planned center. Del Chiaro set up a Fund at UC Berkeley in 2011– in order to support classes on the Etruscans and to bring distinguished scholars in Etruscan art and archaeology to Berkeley to deliver the annual “Del Chiaro Lecture”.
Del Chiaro’s story began in California, where he still lives today.  He was born in San Francisco on April 22, 1925 to Italian immigrant parents from Lucca in Tuscany.  Mario served in the Air Force during WWII and upon his return attended the California School of Fine Arts, where he worked as a sculptor’s assistant for a retired priest who was an artist and art collector. Del Chiaro enrolled at UC Berkeley as a result of the G.I. bill in 1949. Del Chiaro’s Ph.D. in 1956 was on an Etruscan topic, the “Genucilia Group” and was only the second Ph.D. produced in Berkeley’s Art History Department.  On graduation, he accepted a teaching position at the University of California, Goleta, and that was the beginning of the Art History Department at UC Santa Barbara. Del Chiaro participated in excavations all over the Mediterranean, including Sicily, Turkey, Yugoslavia, and the Roman Forum – not to mention Tuscany. Years of rewarding work in the field produced numerous articles and an amazing accumulation of knowledge. Over the course of his career Del Chiaro published well over 100 scholarly articles, four books, three monographs and five exhibition catalogues dedicated to Etruscan as well as Greek and Roman studies.  He has just been knighted by the Republic of Italy for the second time! Knighthoods that recognize his contribution in furthering the knowledge of ancient Italy.
Pieraccini, also born in San Francisco, was fortunate enough to be Del Chiaro’s last Ph.D. student at the University of California, Santa Barbara where she studied Etruscan art and archaeology under his supervision. After completing her Ph.D she lived in Rome for many years where she taught and conducted research at the Etruscan site of Cerveteri.  She returned to the  U.S. in 2006 and taught at Stanford for one year before coming to UC Berkeley where she now teaches in the Classics Department. Pieraccini’s research interests and publi-cations include Etruscan pottery, funerary ritual and customs, Etruscan and Roman wall painting and the reception of the Etruscans in the 18th and 19th centuries. She is a member of the distinguished Istituto di Studi Etruschi ed Italici in Florence, Italy, and co-editor of a new book series entitled, Cities of the Etruscans.
Although Dr. Pieraccini’s qualifications and contributions to the Center are substantial, she credits Professor Del Chiaro as the inspiration behind this project. It is because of his vision and donations to UC Berkeley, that plans for a center are now underway. These plans are being supported by Dean Anthony Cascardi, in addition to members of the Berkeley faculty dedicated to the study of ancient Italy—namely, Professors Chris Hallett, Carlos Noreña, and Ted Peña. The center will highlight some of Berkeley’s important collections, such as the substantial collection of Etruscan art in the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley, as well as Del Chiaro’s own personal archives, and a special research library dedicated to Etruscan and Early Roman studies. There are various fundraising events being planned in support of this important center, in addition to Berkeley’s annual Del Chiaro Lecture. For information on how to make a contribution, please contact the Project Director, Lisa Pieraccini at [email protected].
Please take a look at The Center for the Study of Ancient Italy’s website for more details.

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