Dr Thomas Balfe

Associate Lecturer

Research areas: Early modern easel painting and graphic art (northern Europe), especially animal, hunting, fable, food still life, and human-animal inversion imagery; vocabularies of lifelikeness in European art writing; Animal Studies, Ecocriticism and Environmental History.

Forthcoming and recent publications:

Balfe, T., ‘Disguise hunting and Indian otherness in Theodor de Bry’s Brief narration of what befell the French in Florida (1591)’, in Jonathan Thurston-Torres (ed.), Animals and race (Michigan: Michigan State University Press, 2023; series: The animal turn), pp. 73–96; DOI: https://doi.org/10.14321/j.ctv32dnb7z.8

Balfe, T., ‘Human-cetacean encounters in two seventeenth-century accounts of whaling’. Transpositiones 1:2 (2022), pp. 11–32; special issue: Intraconnectedness and worldmaking: technologies, bodies, matters; DOI: https://doi.org/10.14220/trns.2022.1.2.11

Balfe, T., ‘Creating and unmaking the political body: the brothers De Witt at the limits of the human’. Nederlands kunsthistorisch jaarboek 71 (2021), pp. 58–91; special issue: Humans and other animals; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/22145966-07101004

Balfe, T., ‘“With a hem, call him in”: human authority and the animal gaze in the Flemish trophy piece’. Oxford art journal 44:1 (2021), pp. 1–21; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/oxartj/kcaa030

Balfe, T., ‘Learned fable, living world: artistry, knowledge and attention to nature in two Aesopic paintings by Joannes Fyt’. Journal of historians of Netherlandish art 13:1 (2021), pp. 1–27; DOI: https://doi.org/10.5092/jhna.2021.13.1.3

Balfe, T. and Woodall, J., ‘Introduction. From living presence to lively likeness: the lives of ad vivum’, in Thomas Balfe, Joanna Woodall and Claus Zittel (eds), Ad vivum? Visual materials and the vocabulary of life-likeness in Europe before 1800 (Leiden: Brill, 2019; Intersections), pp. 1–43; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004393998_002

Balfe, T., Woodall, J. and Zittel, C. (eds), Ad vivum? Visual materials and the vocabulary of life-likeness in Europe before 1800 (Leiden: Brill, 2019; Intersections); DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004393998

Balfe, T., ‘Hunting, inversion and anthropomorphism in two scenes from the upside-down world’, in Maurice Saß (ed.), Hunting without weapons: on the pursuit of images (Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter, 2017; Naturbilder), pp. 123–141.


Balfe, T. ‘The fertile ground of painting: seventeenth-century still lifes & nature pieces. Karin Leonhard [review]’. Historians of Netherlandish art reviews (2022) [ here ]

Balfe, T., ‘Representing from life in seventeenth-century Italy. Sheila McTighe [review]’. Renaissance quarterly 75:2 (2022), pp. 616–618; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/rqx.2022.128

Selected external presentations:

‘How they Catch the Whale’: Arctic hunting as embodied knowledge in some late-seventeenth century representations of whaling. (Warburg Institute; event: Work in Progress seminar series; 2022)

An antique race? The antlered hunter in the work of Theodor de Bry. (Institut national d’histoire de l’art; event: New Worlds, Old Worlds, Lost Worlds: Picturing Prehistory in American Art and Visual Culture; 2022).

The crowd goes wild: representations of the brothers de Witt at the limits of the human (Villa Medici, Rome; event: Corps troublants: images et imaginaires dans la première modernité; 2020).

The deerskin as signifier of Timucuan identity in Theodor de Bry’s Brevis narratio eorum quæ in Florida (1591) (event: Materializing Race virtual ‘unconference’; 2020).

A celebration of life (Courtauld Institute of Art; book launch for Ad vivum? Visual materials and the vocabulary of life-likeness in Europe before 1800; 2019).

A zoopoetic reading of three avian paintings by Joannes Fyt (Edinburgh College of Art; event: History of Art Research Workshop; 2019).

Seen through water: some early modern examples (Edinburgh College of Art; event: The Life of Water; 2018).

Battered, bitten, bedraggled: painted fur as injured skin in the Netherlandish gamepiece (King’s College London; event: The Porous Body in Early Modern Europe; 2017).

Hunting, inversion and anthropomorphism in two scenes from the upside-down world (University of Hamburg; event: Jagen ohne Waffen: Bildstiftende Kräfte der ars venationis, organised by the Naturbilder research group; 2015).

Nature bites back: world upside-down images with a hunting theme in the early modern Netherlands (UCL; event: Low Countries Seminar; 2015).

Fake fur: the animal body between pleasure and violence (Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris; event: L’animal, ou la nature morte à ses limites; 2014).

Counting the hairs: the question of fur in the work of Joannes Fyt (Courtauld Institute of Art; event: 2012 Courtauld Institute of Art Postgraduate Symposium; 2012).

Man’s best friend: reading the animal gaze in some depictions of the hunting dog by Joannes Fyt (Rubenianum, Antwerp; event: Dead or Alive: Animals in Art; 2011).

Spotting the fable in the bird paintings of Joannes Fyt (Rubenianum, Antwerp; event: Rubenianum Lectures series; 2011).