Expertise: Early Modern European Art
My research and teaching interests range from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century and across media; my publications have engaged in particular the theory, criticism, practice, and materiality of sculpture, with an emphasis upon the historical interpretation of style. From my first book, François Duquesnoy and the Greek Ideal, my research has cohered around a determination to grapple with visual forms as primary sources with the potential to reconfigure our understanding of history. My second book, Mochi’s Edge and Bernini’s Baroque, was published in 2017 and offers the first major examination of the seventeenth-century Tuscan sculptor Francesco Mochi and takes his art as the point of entry for an inquiry into the historical forces reshaping sculpture at the beginning of the seventeenth century.
Historiographically and methodologically, my work deals with issues of non-textual knowledge, canon formation, media specificity, periodization, artistic agency, and gender. A significant aim of my research is to restore historical specificity and subtlety to the art of early modern Catholic Europe and to shatter the reductive and outworn lenses through which it is still often viewed, whether as materialistic excess, religious or political propaganda, or simply manifestations of artistic genius. A more nuanced understanding of the operations of visual culture in Southern Europe 1550-1750—which as an area of inquiry was a relative latecomer to art history and one that remains underserved—is essential to the very important work now underway of rethinking that visual culture within a global framework.
From 2016-18 I was the Andrew W. Mellon Professor at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. My research has been supported by fellowships from CASVA; Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies; and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. My current book project, Unbelievable: Rethinking Caravaggio’s Religious Art, reframes the longstanding debate over the interpretation of Caravaggio’s paintings of sacred subjects as a fundamentally visual problem. I offer graduate and undergraduate courses in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European art and teach regularly at the UW’s Rome Center.