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Dr Kathleen Christian

Profile summary

  • Senior Lecturer
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Art His, Class St, Eng&CW, Mus
  • Art History
  • kathleen.christian

Professional biography

BA Art History (Wesleyan University), PhD Art History (Harvard University)

Kathleen Christian specialises in Italian Renaissance art with a focus on the reception of antiquity in early modern Italy, the patronage, the display and collecting of sculpture, and garden history. After completing her dissertation at Harvard on antiquities collecting in Renaissance Rome, she was assistant professor of Italian Renaissance art for six years at the University of Pittsburgh. She joined the OU in 2012 after a semester as a guest lecturer at the University of Zurich. She has taught seminars on ‘The Global Renaissance’, Venetian painting, Antiquity in the Renaissance, methods of art history and other topics.

Research interests

Her book Empire without End appeared with Yale University Press in 2010 and won the Society of Architectural Historians’ 2012 Elisabeth Blair MacDougall Book Award. Empire without End traces the birth of antiquities collecting in Rome and the reception of antique sculpture from the era of Petrarch until the Sack of Rome. It considers the question of how antique images in this era went from pagan idols to be smashed or re-used as building materials to ‘works of art’ displayed in collections, paying particular attention to the role of collecting in the invention of fictive genealogies, the paragone between sculpture and poetry, and the reception of antique sculpture by academic sodalities. The book includes a catalogue that maps out the history of the most important sculpture collections of this period. In 2010 she also published the co-edited volume Patronage and Italian Renaissance Sculpture, which traces the appropriation of sculpture by private citizens, who adapted the medium’s long-lived associations with civic and ecclesiastical patronage in commissioning expensive works that encroached on public space.

She co-edited the book ‘The Muses and their Afterlife in post-Classical Europe to 1600’ which appeared in 2014 and is pursuing a research project on Michelangelo’s Bacchus and mythological imagery in curial Rome. 

The volume she co-edited with Bianca de Divitiis, Local Antiquities, Local Identities: Art, Literature and Antiquarianism in Europe c. 1400–1700, based on the conference at the Warburg of the same title held in 2014, is currently in press with Manchester University Press. 

For the third level module Art and its global histories, Dr. Christian co-edited the book European Art and the Wider World, 1350-1550 (Manchester University Press, 2017).

Dr. Christian has held predoctoral fellowships from Dumbarton Oaks and the Fulbright, an internship at the National Gallery of Art in the Department of Italian Paintings, and postdoctoral fellowships from the Getty, I Tatti, the Humboldt Foundation (at the University of Munich) and the American Academy in Rome. 

Students interested in pursuing a PhD in Italian Renaissance art history should contact Kathleen Christian at the email address below. Topics related to the reception of antiquity, collecting, Early Modern digital humanities and cultural exchange in the early modern era are especially welcome.

Selected Publications


Empire without End: Antiquities Collections in Renaissance Rome, c. 1350-1527 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010)

The Muses and their Afterlife in post-Classical Europe, ed. Kathleen Christian, Clare Guest and Claudia Wedepohl (London and Turin: Warburg Institute and Nino Aragno, 2014)

Patronage and Italian Renaissance Sculpture, ed. Kathleen Christian and David Drogin (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2010)


'Raphael’s Vitruvius and Marcantonio Raimondi’s Caryatid Façade', in Marcantonio Raimondi, Raphael and the Image Multiplied (exhibition catalogue, Whitworth Art Gallery), ed. E. H. Wouk. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 66-83, also published in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 92 (2): 91-127.

'Between Reality and Representation. Portraits, Objects, and Collectors', in Serial/Portable Classic (exhibition catalogue), Milan: Fondazione Prada; 2015. pp. 153-9.

'Antiquities', in M. Wyatt, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Italian Renaissance, Cambridge University Press, 2014. pp. 40-58

'The Multiplicity of the Muses: The Reception of Antique Images of the Muses in Italy, 1400-1600', in Kathleen Christian, Clare Guest and Claudia Wedepohl, eds, The Muses and their Afterlife in post-Classical Europe (London and Turin: Warburg Institute and Nino Aragno, 2014), 103-53

‘For the Delight of Friends, Citizens, and Strangers: Maarten van Heemskerck’s Drawings of Antiquities Collections in Rome’, in Tatjana Bartsch and Peter Seiler, eds, Rom zeichnen. Maarten van Heemskerck 1532-1536/37 (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 2012), 129-156

‘The Twelve Caesars’, entry for the Harvard Encyclopedia of the Classical Tradition, ed. Anthony Grafton, Glenn W. Most, and Salvatore Settis (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), 155–6

‘Landscapes of Ruin and the Imagination in the Antiquarian Gardens of Renaissance Rome’, Gardens and Imagination: Cultural History and Agency, ed. Michel Conan. Dumbarton Oaks Colloquium Series in the History of Landscape Architecture (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 2008), 116–37

Instauratio and Pietas: The Della Valle Collections of Ancient Sculpture’, in Studies in the History of Art 70. Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts Symposium Papers, Collecting Sculpture in Early Modern Europe, ed. Nicholas Penny and Eike Schmidt (Washington DC: National Gallery of Art, 2008), 33–65

‘Poetry and ‘Spirited’ Ancient Sculpture in Renaissance Rome: Pomponio Leto’s Academy to the Sixteenth-Century Sculpture Garden’, in Aeolian Winds and the Spirit of Renaissance Architecture, ed. Barbara Kenda (London: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2006), 103–24

‘Raphael’s Philemon and the Collecting of Antiquities in Rome’, Burlington Magazine 146 (2004), 760–63

‘The Della Valle Statue Court Rediscovered’, Burlington Magazine 145 (2003), 847–50

‘The De’ Rossi Collection of Ancient Sculpture, Leo X, and Raphael’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 65 (2002), 132–200

‘From Ancestral Cults to Art: The Santacroce Collection of Antiquities’, in Senso delle rovine e riusi dell’Antico, ed. Walter Cupperi, Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa. Serie IV, Quaderni 14, Classe di Lettere e Filosofia (2002), 255–72

‘Petrarch’s Triumph of Chastity in Leonardo’s Lady with an Ermine’, in Coming About... A Festschrift for John Shearman, ed. L. Jones and L. Matthew (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Art Museums, 2001), 33–40

Teaching interests

At the OU she has contributed to A226 Exploring Art and Visual Culture, the new MA in Art History and was co-chair with Warren Carter of A344, Art and its global history. She has been chair of AA315 Renaissance Art Reconsidered.

She has written teaching material for several OU modules, including:

A344: co-editor with Leah Clark of European Art and the Wider World, 1350-1550 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017)

A344: author of 'Renaissance Altarpieces: The Far in the Near’ in European Art and the Wider World, 1350-1550 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017)

A843: author of 'Panofsky, Warburg, and Interpretation’ for the MA in Art History, part 1

A843: author of 'Raphael, Prince of Painters' for the MA in Art History, part 1