Professor Alixe Bovey, FSA FRHistS

Dean and Deputy Director; Head of Research

I am The Courtauld’s Dean and Deputy Director, Head of Research, and a member of the art history faculty.

As Head of Research, I oversee the research department, including the Research Forum, and our research strategy. I work closely with colleagues across and beyond the institute to develop new and creative ways to support and share innovative research, and to engage with new non-specialist audiences. The Research Forum supports research in art history, conservation and curating through a rich programme of events, ranging from advanced research seminars to our Open Courtauld programme, which shares cutting edge research in visual art with a wide public. In 2017 we established RES|FEST – a biannual art history research festival featuring lightening talks, creative pop ups, and poetry – as the flagship Open Courtauld event. We hold RES|FEST London each spring, and we kicked off our RES|FEST national programme at the Ulster Museum in Belfast in October 2018.

The relationship between humanities disciplines, material objects, and creative practice is central theme in my work. In 2013, with funding from the AHRC, I founded Material Witness, a training programme for humanities research students in the CHASE doctoral training consortium. Then based at the University of Kent and now at The Courtauld, this programme is supported directly by CHASE, and brings together students from across this consortium of universities to develop critical and practical skills that enable the sophisticated interpretation of material artefacts. (Read the blog for the 2018/19 season.) I am also keenly interested in the interface between art history and practice, especially the ways that historical understanding can be enhanced by creative experience. This has inspired a diverse programme of activities under the  #CourtauldDraw umbrella, including regular life drawing classes, collaborative drawing events, practical workshops (including metalpoint drawing, which is a particular enthusiasm of mine), artist talks and research events in the Research Forum programme.

I am a specialist in the art and culture of the Middle Ages, with active interests in illuminated manuscripts, visual storytelling, and the relationship between myth and material culture across historical periods and geographical boundaries.

My undergraduate degree in History and Medieval Studies at the University of Victoria in Canada  (1995) led to an MA (1996) and PhD at The Courtauld Institute of Art (2000). I spent four years as a curator of manuscripts at the British Library (2000-2004) before moving to the School of History and the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent (2004-2014). I joined The Courtauld as Head of Research in 2015.

My current research project explores the mythic history of Britain, focusing especially on the material legacy of the indigenous race of giants who were (according to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s mid-12th century history) exterminated by the refugees from the Trojan war who founded the British nation. This project focuses especially on their material presence in the pageantry, legends, and identity of the City of London, and considers why and how they have been made, and reimagined, over hundreds of years.

I am a trustee of the Association for Art History and a member of Canterbury Cathedral’s Fabric Advisory Committee, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Historical Society.

PhD supervision


  • Miguel de Campos Ayres, ‘Thinking with a Medieval Picture Book’, CHASE funded, supervised with Prof. John Lowden
  • Maggie Crosland, ‘Considering Utility and Adaptation in the Grandes Heures of Philip the Bold’, supervised with Prof. Susie Nash
  • Teresa Lane, ‘Representations of the Trinity in English Art 1000-1150’, CHASE funded, supervised with Prof. John Lowden
  • Oliver Mitchell, ‘The Wheel of Fortune in Medieval Visual Culture, 1100-1500’, CHASE funded, supervised with Prof. John Lowden

Recently completed

  • Sophie Kelly, ‘Imagining the Unimaginable: The iconography of the Trinity in English Medieval Art, c. 1200-1350’, CHASE funded, supervised with Dr Emily Guerry (University of Kent, 2018)
  • Naomi Speakman, ‘Gothic Ivory Carvings of the British Museum: Interpretations, Forgeries and Collectors’, AHRC funded (CDA scheme), supervised with Prof. John Lowden and Dr Dora Thornton (The Courtauld Institute of Art, 2019)

Research interests

  • Medieval Art, with a focus on northern Europe, c. 1100-1500
  • The interplay between myth and material culture
  • Illuminated manuscripts
  • Pictorial narrative and word-image relations
  • The role of the visual arts in public ritual and private devotion
> Alixe’s Research Activity