Roberto Weiss (21 January 1906 – 10 August 1969), Italian-British scholar and historian, specialist in Italian-English cultural contacts during the period of Renaissance period and Renaissance humanism.
Born in Milan, Weiss began his studies in Italy but moved to England as a young man in 1926 to continue his education, but he stayed because of his dislike for the fascist regime of Mussolini, settled in Henley-on-Thames, receiving help and support from the writer John Buchan to pursue his studies at Oxford University. There he met the novelist Barbara Pym who later used him as the basis for a character called Count Riccardo Bianco in her first novel, Some Tame Gazelle. Weiss was naturalised in 1934. With a break for his military service 1942-1945, he taught at University College, London from 1941 until his death, and as Professor of Italian from 1946.
A pioneer in the study of early humanism, the first book of Weiss, Humanism in England during the Fifteenth Century (1941, several later editions) was the first work to treat the subject of the influence of Italian humanism on England. His last book, the posthumously published The Renaissance discovery of classical antiquity (1969) was an examination of the antiquarian studies of the renaissance humanists themselves, beginning with Petrarch and ending with the sack of Rome in 1527. He also made important contributions to the study of individual humanists.
Weiss was known for the conciseness of his writing, and was described as not one of those academics who waffles. He stated that he could have turned each of the last ten chapters of The Renaissance discovery of classical antiquity into its own book. His wife Eve, an English teacher, ensured the correctness of his English grammar and flow.
Weiss was a corresponding member of the Istituto Veneto, the Academia Patavina, the Arcadia, the Accademia Petrarca, the Accademia dei Sepolti, the Accademia degli Incamminati and the Mediaeval Academy of America. He was shortly before his death awarded the Serena Medal for Italian Studies by the British Academy.
According to the obituary in The Times, the Italian department at the UCL "developed into one of the most flourishing centres of Italian scholarship outside Italy" under his leadership. The Times also called him "a vital link in Anglo-Italian cultural relations". The obituary in the mediaevalist journal Speculum called him "one of the most learned and productive scholars of his generation".
Roberto Weiss died on 10 August 1969 in Reading, Berkshire, having suffered a heart attack in the early hours of 9 August. He left a large collection of Renaissance medals to his children who loaned them to the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge. His personal library now forms an important part of the History of Art collection at the University of Warwick library.