Woman Kent, Dale Vivienne

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Alternative Names
  • Butler, Dale Vivienne (Maiden)

Written by Sharon M. Harrison, The University of Melbourne

Dale Kent is a leader in the history profession, who has contributed to early modern European history, especially the history of Renaissance Florence.

Dale Vivienne Kent (née Butler) was born and raised in Melbourne. She was educated at the University of Melbourne. She was awarded a Diploma of Education in 1963 and taught at Footscray Technical College, Melbourne, in 1964. In 1965 she graduated with a BA (Hons) in History and English. She studied under Ian Robertson and wrote an Honours thesis titled Guido Del Palagio and the Sources of Merchant Culture in the Late Trecento. After her graduation Kent worked as a Tutor in the History Department at the University of Melbourne from 1966-1967 before commencing her doctoral studies in London.

It was during her undergraduate days that Kent met her future husband, FW (Bill) Kent. The two married and departed together for London where they both studied with the eminent Florentinist Nicolai Rubinstein. Kent studied at the University of London from 1967 to 1971, when she was awarded her PhD for her thesis Political alignments in Florence on the eve of Cosimo de Medici's rise to power, 1427-1434. In their groundbreaking studies of neighbourhood and patronage, the Kents laid the foundations for an ambitious joint study of Florence under the Medici in the fifteenth century. The couple had one daughter together but parted in the early 1980s.

After completing her PhD, Kent was appointed Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Reader of History, La Trobe University (1971-1984). After spending a semester as Associate Professor at the University California in 1984. she took up an appointment as Professor of History, University of California, Riverside, in 1987 and remained in this position until her retirement in 2009, when she was appointed Professor Emerita. Kent returned to live in Melbourne and was appointed a Principal Fellow at the University of Melbourne. She was awarded an Australian Research Council grant for her project Fathers and Friends: Patronage and Patriarchy in Renaissance Florence(2010-2012).

A leading expert on Renaissance Italy, Kent's expertise has been drawn upon by art museums and for television. She served as Senior Writer, Education Department, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC (1993-1994), working on the National Gallery in Washington's interactive installation, displaying and describing the major objects of the collection. Kent wrote the original scripts dealing with Northern and Southern Renaissance objects and has also acted as advisor on several occasions for projected films on Renaissance Florence. She advised and participated as one of the experts interviewed on film for a History Channel production of 2000 about great men of the millennium, and for a special for CNBC on Money and Power: The History of Business. Kent was also a consultant and participant in Lion London Television's four-hour special on the Medici family, which aired on PBS in the United States and public television in Britain and Australia.

In 1976 she was elected Socio straniero della deputazione per la storia patria, Toscana, and Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1984. Kent has received many awards and fellowships including: Research Fellow, Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies (1977-1978); Visiting Professor, Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence (1982, 2006); Fellow, National Humanities Center of the United States (1985-1986); Fellow of the Newberry Library, Chicago (1985, 1992, 2002-2003); Fellow, Davis Center for Historical Study, Princeton University (1985); Guest Scholar, Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities (1986-1987); Samuel H Kress Senior Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC (1990-1991); Fellow at the Australian National University Humanities Research Centre (1991); Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University (2001-2002); Visiting Scholar, Research Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Sydney (2000); Visiting Professor, University of California Washington DC Center (2001, 2007); John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2002-2003); Visiting Professor, University of Melbourne (2003).

Her publications include: The Rise of the Medici: Faction in Florence 1426-1434 (1978); Neighbours and Neighbourhoods in Renaissance Florence: The District of the Red Lion in the Fifteenth Century, with F.W. Kent (1982); Cosimo de' Medici and the Florentine Renaissance: the patron's oeuvre (2000); Il Commitente e le arti: Cosimo de' Medici ed il rinascimento fiorentino, Electa/Mondadori (2005); and Friendship, love, and trust in Renaissance Florence (2009). In 2002 the American College Art Association awarded Kent the Charles Rufus Morey Award for the most distinguished art book of 2000/2001 for her publication Cosimo de' Medici and the Florentine Renaissance.

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