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Robin Thomas

Professor of Art History and Architecture, Head of the Department of Art History
Headshot of Professor Robin Thomas wearing plan shirt and blue jacket

Robin L. Thomas specializes in European architecture and urbanism from 1400-1800. Focusing on the architecture of Naples, his interests include early-modern urbanism, the social history of buildings, music and space, and the intellectual formation of the architect. His first book, Architecture, and Statecraft: Charles of Bourbon’s Naples 1734–59 (2013), examined the remaking of Naples under King Charles of Bourbon and addressed the political, social, economic, and cultural importance of the royal building program. His second book project, titled, Palaces of Reason: the Royal Residences of Enlightenment Naples, will examine the palaces of Capodimonte, Portici, and Caserta in light of eighteenth-century ideas of reform. Other publications include articles on the Duca diNoja’s map of Naples, the architect Luigi Vanvitelli as reader and author, the Teatro di San Carlo, architects’ libraries, slavery and construction at the Palace of Caserta, and the guglie of Naples. His research has been supported by a Fulbright Fellowship, a Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation Fellowship in the Humanities, a fellowship at the Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Emory University, and an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In recognition of his classroom instruction, he received the College of Arts and Architecture’s award for outstanding teaching in 2014.


  • Education
    • BA from Emory University
    • M.PHIL from Columbia University
    • MA from Columbia University
    • PhD from Columbia University
  • Courses Taught

    ARTH 202; ARTH 204; ARTH 456; ARTH 458; ARTH 514

  • Honors + Awards

    Award for Outstanding Teaching, College of Arts and Architecture, The Pennsylvania State University, 2014.

  • Publications + Presentations
    • “Slavery and Construction in Eighteenth-Century Naples” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 78 (2019): 167–186.
    • “Convent and Crown: Redecorating Santa Chiara in Naples 1741–59” 1650-1850: Ideas, Æsthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era 24 (2019)
    • “The pacte de famille and a famille des palais: Architecture and the Bourbons in the Eighteenth Century.” Cheiron 2 (2017): 137–163.
    • “Architects’ Libraries.” The Companions to the History of Architecture, Volume II, Eighteenth-Century Architecture. Eds. Caroline van Eck and Sigrid de Jong (Wiley Blackwell, 2017), 33–53.
    • “The Royal Palace of Capodimonte: the Early Years.” Napoli Nobilissima. 7th series, vol. 2, issue 3 (2016): 23–32.
    • “Propagandizing Nolli in Naples.” In Giambattista Nolli, Rome and Mapping:Before and After the Pianta Grande. Eds. Allan Ceen and Ian Verstegen (Rome: Studium Urbis, 2014), 134–144.
    • Architecture and Statecraft: Charles of Bourbon’s Naples 1734-59. Penn State Press, 2013.
    • “Building the Monarchy: The Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, 1737.” The Court Historian 17 (2012): 35-60.
    • “Luigi Vanvitelli as Reader and Author.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 69, no. 4 (2010): 508-533.
  • Service + Affiliations
    • Editorial Advisory Committee, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
    • Editorial Committee, Penn State University Press
  • Expertise
    • European Architecture 1400–1800, Palaces, Eighteenth-Century Urbanism, Slavery and Architecture, Architecture and Music, Baroque Art and Architecture