Bronwen Wilson


Ph.D. Northwestern University, 1999
Phone 310-206-6905
Office Dodd 206D
Office Hours: By appointment


Bronwen Wilson’s research and teaching explores the artistic and urban culture of Renaissance Italy and early modern Europe. The histories of Venetian art, of space and vision, and of European perceptions of the Ottoman Turks are important for several publications, including The World in Venice: Print, the City, and Early Modern Identity (winner of the Roland H. Bainton prize for Art History in 2006). Her recently-completed book, The Face of Uncertainty, turns to increasing doubt about the trustworthiness of the human face and accompanying artistic experimentation with physiognomy, animals, and sensation in Northern Italy. The moving image is the subject of her current study, “Inscription and the Horizon in Early Modern Mediterranean Travel Imagery,” which brings to the fore innovative uses of media and ways in which diverse temporal experiences were materialized in visual forms.

Fellowships include Villa i Tatti in Florence, The Folger Shakespeare Library, The Newberry Library, The Bogliasco Foundation in Liguria, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, which has also funded current projects in which she is a co-investigator: Making Worlds: Art, Materiality, and Early Modern Globalization and Early Modern Conversions, the largest international collaboration of its kind.





  • Visual Knowledge and Early Modern Globalization (1450-1650) (seminar): Studies the impact of an expanding image of the world on European artists and patrons by examining new artifacts and visual imagery (still lifes, kunstkammer objects, automata, illuminated books, travel imagery), representational practices (naturalism, drawing, metalwork, ceramics, cartography, print), and systems of classification (cabinets of curiosity, morphology, printed books).
  • Portraiture and the Politics of the Face in Early Modern Europe (1450-1650) (seminar): Considers work by a wide range of artists from Albrecht Dürer to Sofonisba Anguissola, and from Bronzino to the Carracci, exploring themes such as self-portraiture and embodiment, realism, ethics, and anthropomorphic images.
  • Italian Renaissance Art and Culture (1400-1500) (lecture): With an emphasis on the body and space, this course explores ways in which painting, sculpture, and architecture participated in forging new social and political alliances in Florence and other centers on the peninsula.
  • Italian Renaissance Art and Culture (1500-1600) (lecture): Explores the visual, material, and urban culture of Italy that was shaped by the increasingly authority of the courts, the discovery of worlds previously unknown to Europeans, the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and the rising status of the artist.
  • The Visual Culture of Renaissance Venice (lecture): Focuses on the distinctive pictorial conventions and innovative strategies developed by artists and architects from the Bellini to Titian and from Mauro Codussi to Andrea Palladio. The course also considers the city’s utopic character manifested in its topography, its festivals, and its claims to liberty and licentiousness.
  • The Spaces of Venice (taught in Venice): Considers the dynamic relation between the city’s urban spaces, architecture, its interior decoration, and their civic functions. Topics include Piazza San Marco, the parish church, the bridge, the fondaco (a warehouse for religious and ethnic groups), and the Jewish Ghetto.



  • Early Modern Vision and Visuality: Interests in the possibilities and limits of vision come to the fore in the early modern period in response to encounters with unfamiliar specimens, experiments with perspective and lenses, witchcraft, and religious conflict. The seminar examines accompanying artistic engagement with modes of representation and new forms of visual imagery.
  • Early modern Landscape and Temporality: Taking the emergence of landscape as an independent genre during the sixteenth century as its point of departure, this seminar examines a wide range of images and media—maritime views, gardens, topographical imagery, anthropomorphic landscapes, lunar landscapes, mazes—alongside readings that probe our understandings of space and time.
  • The Face in the Image: portraits, embodiment, and faciality in early modern Europe: Examining the visual culture of the face and the body, the seminar inquires into the nature of portraiture and its terms of reference when the very meanings of identity were being redrawn.
  • Things and Paths: Engaging with things and their movements prompts a reconsideration of concepts such as agency, migration, appropriation, resistance, translation, publics, and other ways in which things that matter gathered people together, or divided them. Focusing on the mobility of works of art and forms of knowledge in the early modern period, the seminar develops new ways of thinking about artifacts combined within a work (still life, genre painting), things arranged in places (collections, markets, museums), and things that move (sketchbooks, albums, processions).
  • The Politics of Materiality and Matters of the Bio-political: Addresses both the material turn in cultural and visual studies, and also the role media, performativity, and psychoanalysis play in reconfiguring the manner in which the self and other biological forms are socially constructed, phantasmatically imagined, and physically represented.