Research in Early Modern

The early modern section takes great pride in its commitment to innovative research into a wide range of developments in Continental and English art and architecture from the late sixteenth through the mid-nineteenth century. We are able to provide unusually comprehensive and in-depth coverage of this enormously exciting period, thanks to the presence of specialists in both northern and southern Baroque, and in seventeenth and eighteenth-century Britain and France. Together with colleagues in the History of Art Department at University College London, with whom we have a close and productive professional relationship, the EMS runs a regular series of research seminars which provide a forum for the presentation of work by scholars at different stages in their careers, from doctoral candidates to senior academics. Additionally, there are important seminar programmes held at the National Gallery, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, and the Institute of Historical Research, which are of central relevance to the work we do.

In recent years members of the section have played a particularly active part in organising important exhibitions, including Art on The Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House 1780-1836 (Courtauld Institute Gallery, 2001-2); Peter Paul Rubens: A Touch of Brilliance (Hermitage Rooms at Somerset House, 2003-4); and an exhibition of self-portraiture 1500-2000, at the National Portrait Gallery in 2005. Conferences and study days are regularly organised both in relation to exhibitions and independently, complementing our research seminars and regular talks by leading scholars from the UK and elsewhere.

Resources for Research

The Courtauld’s own specialist book library has particularly strong holdings in the early modern field. Apart from an important group of seventeenth-century publications on art and architecture bequeathed by Anthony Blunt, here students also have access to the microfiche of the Deloynes Collection of eighteenth-century French art criticism, as well as to the largest single collection of press cuttings (both originals and microfiche copies) relating to the early exhibitions of the Royal Academy.

The Courtauld website Picturing the Netherlandish Canon provides access to a crucial early modern publication on Netherlandish art and culture: Hendrick Hondius the Elder’s 1610 publication of 68 portrait prints of artists.

Within walking distance are the marvellous resources of the Warburg Institute library, as well as the best specialist library on British art and architecture, at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in Bedford Square. The Sir John Soane’s Museum, which has an unparalleled collection of European architectural drawings of the period, is also minutes away from the Courtauld Institute of Art.

These of course are in addition to London’s many outstanding research libraries: the British Library, the National Art Library at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and University of London Library, to name but the most obvious examples. The Institute also subsidizes student tickets with which to use the Library of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

The Courtauld is also fortunate to possess truly exceptional photographic resources. There is no better collection of photographs of works of art than the Witt Library, while for photographs of architecture and sculpture the holdings of the Conway Library are second to none. Here the British field is particularly well represented. And thanks above all to the Princes Gate Collection, the Courtauld Institute Gallery possesses a world-class collection of seventeenth-century Flemish paintings, supplemented by important holdings in English and Italian art from c1600-1800; the Gallery’s enormous collection of works on paper is also especially strong in the early modern field, and offers innumerable opportunities for original research.

Titles of research students (MPhil/PhD) currently registered

This section is currently being updated. More information will be available soon.

Recently Completed PhDs


Philippa POTTS: ‘A Watchlight for the Garden’: Stuart Ambassadors in English Garden History (supervised by Christine Stevenson)

Jane SAUNT: Decorative Plasterwork in England, 1660-1700: Form, Materiality and Making (supervised by Christine Stevenson)



  • Thomas ARDILL: Between God, Art and Mammon: Religious Painting as a Public Spectacle in Britain, c. 1800-32 (supervised by Christine Stevenson)
  • Emily MANN: Architecture and the Negotiation of Empire in the Early Modern Atlantic World (supervised by Christine Stevenson)
  • Anya MATTHEWS: London’s Livery Halls, c. 1603-84: Their Architecture and Political Uses (supervised by Christine Stevenson)



  • Thomas BALFE: The Animal and the Edible in the Work of Joannes Fyt (1611-61) (supervised by Joanna Woodall)
  • Wolf BURCHARD: The Sovereign Artist. Charles Le Brun and the Art of Absolutism, 1665-79 (supervised by Katie Scott)
  • John CHU: The Fortunes of Fancy Painting in Eighteenth-Century England (supervised by David Solkin)
  • Hope WALKER: Netherlandish Painters in Tudor London, 1560-80 (supervised by Joanna Woodall)
  • Giulia WESTON: Niccolo Tornioli: the life and times of a Sienese painter in seventeenth-century Rome (supervised by Sheila McTighe)
  • Francesca WHITLUM-COOPER: Itinerant Pastellists: Circuits of Movement in Eighteenth-Century Europe (supervised by Katie Scott)



  • Anita SGANZERLA: Invention and Erudition in the Art of Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione: Case Studies, c. 1645-55 (supervised by Sheila McTighe)



  • Jocelyn ANDERSON: Country House Guide Books in the Late Eighteenth Century (supervised by Christine Stevenson)
  • Deborah BABBAGE IORNS: Companionship and Collaboration: Rembrandt’s Pendant Marriage Portraiture (supervised by Joanna Woodall)
  • Ketty GOTTARDO: Print Culture in Rome in the Age of Barberine (supervised by Sheila McTighe)
  • Edouard KOPP: Sculpted Sanguines: Edme Bouchardon as a Draughtsman (supervised by Katie Scott)
  • Edward PAYNE: Ribera’s Saints: Representing Body and Soul (supervised by Sheila McTighe)
  • Andrey SHABANOV: Peredvizhniki, or the Wanderers: the social history of an artists’ movement in later nineteenth-century Russia (supervised by David Solkin)

Past MA Theses

Supervised by Dr. Sheila McTighe:


  • Hendrick Goltzius’s Virtuoso Engravings of the 1590s and Karel van Mander’s ‘Schilder-Boeck’ of 1604: A New Notion of Style
  • Raimondi’s Dream: The Oneiric Repose of the Sexualised Female in the Dream of Raphael
  • Stefano della Bella’s Hand-Screen with Rebuses: Exploring the Boundaries between Pictorial and Textual Expression in Seventeenth-Century Printmaking
  • Printing the Ottoman Empire: Geography and Pieter Coecke van Aelst’s ‘Ces Moeurs et Fachons de Faire de Turcz’

Supervised by Katie Scott:


  • Disentangling Porcelain: Textile Motifs as Decoration on Sèvres Porcelain
  • From the Four Corners of the World to the Four Corners of a Chessboard: How the Colonial Trade Influenced the Image of the Black in Eighteenth-Century French Decorative Arts
  • Defining Bijoux: From Natural Curiosity to Corporeal Exoticism in Eighteenth-Century French Jewellery
  • Lazare Duvaux’s ‘Livre Journal’: An Analysis of Eighteenth-Century French Porcelain Consumption

Supervised by David Solkin:


  • Putting China in its Place: Costume and Imperial Ideology in William Alexander’s ‘The Costume of China’
  • At the Shrine of the Pretty Brown Girl: John Webber’s Poedua, Daughter of Oree
  • Displays of Ambition: Benjamin West’s ‘Lord Clive Receiving the Grant of the Diwani’

Supervised by Christine Stevenson:


  • John Carr: Designs for a Modern Countryside
  • Poetic Architecture in the Seventeenth Century: Country Houses in Print
  • The Gothic Viewing Platform in the Eighteenth-Century English Landscape Garden
  • The Unlabelled Space: Transition and the Subject in Wren’s Architecture
  • ‘A College for the Mission?’ Codrington College Barbados (1710-1745)
  • Memorialisation, Representation, Realisation: James Gibbs’ Radcliffe Camera (1712-1752)


Supervised by Joanna Woodall:


  • Looking at the Quack in Seventeenth-Century Netherlandish Art
  • Pregnancy in Vermeer’s Art: Studies on the Ambivalence between the ‘Masculine’ and the ‘Feminine’ Beholder
  • Undefining ‘Merry Companies’: Broadening the Interpretation of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Merry Company Scenes
  • Boundaries, Confinement and Silence: Ten Versions of Frans Hals’s ‘Malle Babbe’
  • Case Notes: Comprehending Knowledge in Cornelius Johnson’s ‘Portrait of a Physician (1637)