An ornate private study or small room in a house where an intellectual may retire for contemplation.
Pioneered in the creative fecundity of the Renaissance, a person's studiolo is filled with valuable or inspiring works of art that stimulate the intellect and promote lofty thoughts. Many artists, philosophers and theologians possessed a studiolo as a workspace for sombre contemplation. Studioli were also popular among wealthy patrons who enjoyed the company of creative minds.
In the Sixteenth Century, a studiolo was more than a thinking person's snooker room: assuming that sufficient funds were available, a studiolo would be tailored to the nature of the owner. The dimensions of a room were often altered with inlaid wood panels (a technique known as intarsia) or faux marble to create a trompe l'oeil, maximising the period's penchant for "ideological and iconographic-space relationships" (Don Vincenzo Borghini) in interior architecture.
The popularity of the studiolo played an important role in the promotion of Renaissance art. Many patrons commissioned artworks for private studios; Isabella d'Este's impressive collection of Perugino, Mantegna and Correggio has given modern art historians numerous excellent examples of their work. Several studioli survive intact today: the study of the Duke of Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro (Italian, 1422-82) is on permanent display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Over time, the term has also come to represent a gathering or college of intellectuals, often in the arts. In his work 'Hannibal', Thomas Harris makes reference to "a small, fierce group of scholars who had ruined a number of academic reputations" known as the Studiolo in Florence, Italy. Dr. Hannibal Lecter, posing as the Tuscan art aficionado Dr. Fell, lectures them on 'Dante's Inferno and Judas Iscariot.'