Dorian A. Canelas (Duke University)


Course description
The vendecolori of Venice made their fortunes through the development and trade of vibrant and vivid colorants for paints, glass, and fabrics. Participants in this course will explore both macromolecular materials and the chemistry of color from a sustainability standpoint within the context of Venice’s rich history of innovation in these areas. Venetians have been leaders in the industries of glassmaking and textile dyes. Obviously, Venetian glass is in a class by itself, but did you know that Venice was an early hub for imported dyes and the intellectual center for the development of dye recipes for various fabric colors? The hundreds of dyes developed in Venice were then traded by ship throughout Europe for over 200 years. In addition, advances in the chemistry of color in Venice allowed painters such as Giovanni Bellini to develop reputations as masters of color through their vibrant paintings.
Glass, fabrics, paints, and plastics are all macromolecules, and so we will investigate the similarities and differences in these materials at a molecular level, and please be reassured that no prior experience with chemistry is needed. We will also develop a foundation of understanding of the chemistry of color. Once learners understand the molecular basis of materials and color, the course will endeavor to build student awareness about sustainability concepts and issues within these industries. For example, I have already developed inquiry-guided, team-based activities, such as one entitled “Polymers, Plastics, and Recycling,” that will be used to provide learners with a foundation in the principles of green chemistry, sustainability, and systems-level thinking. We will also discuss the health aspects and dangers inherent to the textile dying industry.
The course will incorporate field trips to relevant sites related to the topics we are studying. One of the first trips will be to the island of Murano, the innovative hub of Europe’s glassmaking industry for centuries. To help learners appreciate the rich history of textiles in Venice, we will visit Burano and/or Museo di Palazzo Mocenigo, a local museum of fabrics, costumes, and perfumes. Finally, we will explore Venetian painters’ rich use of color through a visit together to the Galleries of the Academy of Venice, Museo Correr, or a similar location.
After this rich and diverse foundation has been laid, each student team will select a broad topic related to materials science and/or the chemistry of color in Venice to further explore as a final project. Each participant on the team will write a 3-page paper on a unique aspect of their team’s topic, turning in drafts for peer review, and culminating in a group presentation that incorporates all that the team has learned as a final project in the course.


Last update: October 24, 2023


Isola di San Servolo
30133 Venice,

phone: +39 041 2719511
fax:+39 041 2719510

VAT: 02928970272