Naomi Lebens

Associate lecturer

I recently completed an AHRC-funded collaborative doctoral project, undertaken between The Courtauld Institute of Art and The Prints and Drawings Department of The British Museum. Entitled ‘Prints in Play’ its aim was to focus new attention on a rare body of early modern prints that were used in daily life. Taking my lead from the significant holdings of printed games at The British Museum, my thesis considered why games (which are typically seen as marginal or novelty objects in modern collections) were the site of such invention in early modern print.

My current research, developed from my doctoral thesis, continues to explore the use of play as a creative practice by early modern artists such as the ‘playful’ Bolognese painter, sculptor and printmaker Giuseppe Maria Mitelli (1634-1718). I am working on several publications developed from my doctoral research including essays and articles about Mitelli, the playing-cards of Stefano della Bella and Jean Desmarets, the geographic games of Pierre Duval and the political playing-cards of Francis Barlow. Geographically, my research covers early modern France, Italy, England and the Netherlands.

The course I am teaching on portraiture this year at The Courtauld reflects my ongoing interest in the fashioning of social identity, which has been central to my research on games. Outside of my work on play and games, portraiture is also one of my key ongoing interests. Whilst studying at The Courtauld, I have given papers about the portraiture of Queen Catherine of Braganza at Bangor University and the V&A as well as curating a display of drawings at The Courtauld Gallery presenting the English portrait artist Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680) as a draughtsman and collector of works on paper.

Additional Interests


  • (October 2012 – August 2016), PhD, The Courtauld Institute of Art & The British Museum (Passed). Project title: ‘Prints in Play: Printed Games and the Fashioning of Social Roles in Early Modern Europe’. An AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award funded this research.
  • (2011- 2012), MA History of Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art (Distinction). Specialized in painting, drawing and print culture in sixteenth and seventeenth-century Europe. My dissertation subject was the ‘Popish Plot’ playing-cards produced c.1679 by the English wildlife painter and satirist, Francis Barlow.
  • (2008- 2011), BA History, Christ Church, University of Oxford (First Class). I was awarded a college exhibition and various prizes for my academic performance during my degree, including the J L Field Exhibition and the William Thomas Bursary. I was also awarded the Gladstone Prize for the best thesis at Christ Church (on the portraiture of Queen Catherine of Braganza).


  • Courtauld: This academic year I am leading a BA1 topic course entitled ‘The Possibilities of Portraiture’. Previously, I have taught at the institute as a visiting lecturer in the British Museum’s Prints and Drawings Department, as well as leading MA Methodology seminars and BA and Postgraduate Diploma seminars in ‘Seventeenth-Century Art’.
  • (September 2012 – Present) Gallery Educator, The Courtauld Gallery. As a gallery educator, I deliver a wide range of gallery-based learning for school, university and adult groups. I have also written for and edited educational resources packs to accompany temporary exhibitions in the gallery.
  • (January 2015- Present) Tutor, The Brilliant Club. As a Brilliant Club tutor, I work with small groups of high achieving students from non-selective state schools and deliver university-style tuition. The aim is to encourage these students to apply to highly selective universities. As part of a new collaboration between The Brilliant Club and The Courtauld’s Public Programmes Department, I have designed an art history course based on The Courtauld Gallery’s collection. This will be taught in state schools by Brilliant Club tutors across the country.