Student Spotlight: Amanda Chadbourne Received the Patricia and Romeo Segnan Art History Graduate Travel Award

Amanda Chadbourne, a second year Master’s student in the Art History program, received the Patricia and Romeo Segnan Art History Graduate Travel Award to fund a research trip to Italy. Below, Chadbourne shares her experience:

“This summer, I travelled to the cities of Bergamo and Milan in Italy to research paintings central to my thesis, which analyzes portraits of women by the Venetian painter Lorenzo Lotto.  First-person experience of his portraits as well as examples by his contemporaries allowed me to test my hypothesis that Lotto took a distinctive approach to portraying women, rejecting or adapting existing standards of female portraiture. The main objective for my trip was to study two portraits in particular: the Portrait of Lucina Brembati at the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo and the Portrait of Laura da Pola at the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan. I also saw several of Lotto’s other works in both the Accademia and the Pinacoteca. These included Lotto’s portrait of Laura da Pola’s husband Febo da Brescia which, according to the museum wall label, has hung next to the portrait of his wife for over 500 years. Additionally, I was able to see Lotto’s intricate intarsia, or wood inlay panels, designed for the choir stalls of the Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo.  My research funding allowed me to become more familiar with Lotto’s general body of work and to study details of his portraits that I would not have been able to see in reproduction.  I also an awesome ride in a funicular up a mountain and ate lots of delicious and amazing food!”


Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Butler Wingfield Publishes Article about Stanza della Segnatura Fresco

DisputaRaphael, Disputa (or Theology), Stanza della Segnatura, 1508-1511

Professor Kim Butler Wingfield recently published an article titled “Networks of Knowledge: Inventing Theology in the Stanza della Segnatura” (Studies in Iconography, 2017). Contrary to the traditional privileging of The School of Athens (“Philosophy”), she argues that the so-called Disputa fresco, more accurately termed “Theology,” was intended as the centerpiece of Pope Julius II’s private library. The most materially lavish and conceptually elaborate fresco in the room, Theology features a portrait of Julius as Gregory the Great, author of texts that help identify themes in the fresco: including the nature of the Eucharist, Christ’s material body, the immortal soul, angels, and divine cognition. The collaborative relationship between Raphael, Julius, and the Christian Platonist Giles of Viterbo—identified in Philosophy in the guise of Zoroaster, the founder of the single “true theology” transmitted to Pythagoras and Plato—in designing these frescoes is assessed, with a focus on Raphael’s conceptual inventiveness and grasp of difficult intellectual doctrines. Ultimately, the frescoes are understood to foreground relational “networks of knowledge” in keeping with their function to support learned contemplation in a private library space.

Dr. Butler Wingfield will present an overview of this research this Wednesday, September 13 in an Early Modern Art History Washington, D.C. faculty “Round Table” colloquium.  She will also present on the importance of Dante’s thought to the Stanza della Segnatura in the Early Modern Rome III Conference in Rome, Italy, in early October, as well as on the relevance of Renaissance doctrinal controversies to the Stanza della Segnatura and the Stanza d’Eliodoro in the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Milwaukee later that same month.

Dr. Andrea Pearson Elected to the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women Executive Committee


This past April, Dr. Andrea Pearson was elected to the Executive Committee of the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women (SSEMW). Dr. Pearson will be serving a three-year term with SSEMW, an interdisciplinary network of scholars who meet annually, sponsor sessions at conferences, maintain a listserv and website, give awards for outstanding scholarship, and support one another’s work in the field. As a member of the Executive Committee, Dr. Pearson will contribute to these areas of the committee, and to shaping SSEMW for the future. Congratulations, Dr. Pearson!

SSEMW welcomes scholars and teachers from any discipline who study women and their contributions to the cultural, political, economic, or social spheres of the early modern period. For more information about the society, including membership information, please visit:

Feminist Art History Conference to Resume in Fall of 2018


(Marie Denise Villers, Marie Joséphine Charlotte du Val d’Ognes, 1801)

Thanks to a generous endowment, the Feminist Art History Conference at American University will resume on a biennial basis starting in the fall of 2018. 

The 2018 conference will take place September 28-30, with a keynote address delivered by Amelia Jones, Robert A. Day Professor in Art and Design and Vice-Dean of Critical Studies at the Roski School of Art and Design, University of Southern California.

The conference builds on the legacy of feminist art-historical scholarship and pedagogy initiated by Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard at American University.  With the goal of fostering a broad dialogue on feminist art-historical practice, the event will feature papers spanning a range of chronological, geographic, and intersectional topics.  A call for proposals will appear this fall.

In the meantime, please direct all inquiries to

AU Art History Student Noelani Kirschner Wins Best Graduate Student Presentation in the Humanities at the 27th Annual Mathias Student Research Conference

Congratulations to Elisabeth Noelani Kirschner, first year MA Candidate in Art History, for winning Best Graduate Student Presentation in the Humanities at the 27th Annual Robyn Rafferty Mathias Student Research Conference!

Noelani’s paper, “Self-Fashioning on the Eve of Revolution,” places Adelaide Labille-Guiard’s 1787 portrait of Madame Adelaide, daughter of Louis XV, in the context of royal power struggles on the eve of the 1789 revolution.  She considers the portrait as a form of public self-fashioning, in which the patron drew clear boundaries between the regimes of Louis XV and XVI, as the public grew disillusioned with Louis XVI’s reign. Exhibited at the Salon of 1787, the portrait helped to distance Madame Adelaide from the notorious Queen Marie Antoinette whose portrait hung in the same Salon. Whereas previous scholars have interrogated the motives of the painter, Noelani focuses on the role of the patron and the way she shaped this image. Examining the iconography and formal details of the painting, she concludes that through this historiated narrative, which is not strictly a portrait but also a history painting, Madame Adelaide can be seen as presenting herself as a solution for the future direction of France at a time of burgeoning political unrest.


Adelaide Labille-Guiard, Portrait of Madame Adelaide, 1787.

Congratulations to the other MA Art History candidates who presented at the conference: 

Amanda Chadbourne on her paper “Ambiguities In Lorenzo Lotto’s Portrait Of A Woman Inspired By Lucretia”

Elizabeth Cowgill on her paper “Lilly Martin Spencer: Class, Servitude, And The Cult Of True Womanhood”

Sarah Hines on her paper “Dressing For Liberty: Picturing Ideals Of Independence In John Singleton Copley’s Portraits Of Women”

Samantha Michelle Rhodes on her paper “Creation And Science: Landscapes By Frederic Edwin Church”

Katherine Stephenson on her paper “The Imagination And The Privilege Of Vision At San Giovanni Evangelista In Correggio’s Vision Of Saint John On Patmos (1520-1524)”

Congratulations to the undergraduate Art History seniors and Juniors who presented at the conference:

Isabella Gaitan, Junior, on her paper “Porcelana Del Mediodia: Una “Naturaleza Viva”

Jenne Jachles, Senior, on her paper “Bramante’s Tempietto: An Alternate Interpretation”

Emily Peikin, Senior, on her paper “A Royalist Abroad: Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun In Saint Petersburg”

Lucie Miranda Schwartz, Senior, on her paper “Themes Of Dynastic Lineage In Joseph Boniface Franque’s Portrait Of Empress Marie-Louise And Her Son The King Of Rome”


Well done AU Art History students!!!

Max Weber’s Rush Hour, New York as Cultural Artifact

” Max Weber’s Rush Hour, New York as Cultural Artifact” by Amanda Summerlin

Last week, in Dr. Bellow’s “Museum and Society” course, we examined the way cultural difference manifests in museum practice.  Our weekly assignment asked us to visit either the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art or the Freer/Sackler Galleries, and to note the way the museum’s informational texts described the artworks on display.  We then were asked to choose an artwork in the collections of the National Gallery of Art, and to write a text about that work using the language employed by curators at museums devoted to non-European art.

I chose to visit the NMAA and the NGA; in looking at the object labels at both institutions, it became immediately clear to me how the two museums’ approaches varied. Whereas the text for European and American artworks in the National Gallery of Art often included biographical information about the artists, and speculated as to the specific influences that may have shaped their expression, the NMAA described its objects in more general terms. The museum presented African works as examples of object types and included information about their general functions and significance across broad geographic regions and periods. I was surprised in how much this approach deprived the artists of these objects any degree of agency, and perpetuated a view of their culture as different and “Other.”

With that in mind, I chose to write an object label for Max Weber’s painting Rush Hour, New York (1915) as if it were one of the works on display at the National Museum of African Art. My intention was to reveal how the language that museums use to present artworks are one of the numerous ways that they shape our perception of other cultures, and effectively insert distance between non-African visitors to the museum and the objects on display.


The object label currently on view at the NGA simply presents the following basic information:
Max Weber
American, born Poland, 1881-1961
Rush Hour, New York
Oil on canvas

For my project, I reordered the information in the wall label and provided the added gloss:

European American artist, North America
Two-dimensional art object (painting)
Early 20th century
Colored pigment, linseed oil, hemp, wood
Gift of the Avalon Foundation

During the early twentieth century, some men and women were motivated to express their feelings toward changes in their physical and social environment through visual creations. This piece was created by a male artist who emigrated from a region known today as Poland to New York City in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. The visual imagery included in this work likely reflects the artist’s reaction to the sights, sounds and feelings toward the high amount of activity to his urban setting. In this work, the artist has applied pigment suspended in linseed oil to a tightly woven cloth composed of hemp stretched across a square wood frame. The abstracted shapes and fragmented forms that the artist has used to evoke buildings, people and forms of transportation from his native environment are signs that he may have belonged to a group artists who were experimenting with new forms of two and three-dimensional visual expression during this period.

Paintings like this work were frequently traded between artists and elite members of society as a form of currency in the early twentieth century. Obviously deemed inferior in quality in comparison to other two-dimensional works by the artist and lacking in monetary value, it remained as one of the artist’s personal possessions until 1970. Nine years after the artist’s death, the children of the late American executive and philanthropist Andrew W. Mellon discovered this work in a retail establishment specializing in the sale of decorative wall objects. Recognizing the status of its maker and its symbolic value within European American visual culture, they purchased and bequeathed it to the National Gallery of Art for later generations to study.


Faculty Spotlight: Drs. Juliet Bellow, Kim Butler Wingfield, and Ying-Chen Peng to present this weekend.

On Thursday, April 6th, Dr. Kim Butler Wingfield presented her paper “Sex, Spirit, Matter: Michelangelo’s, Raphael’s, and Pollaiuolo’s Vatican Sacred Bodies” in the Kennedy Auditorium at the Taylor Science Center of Hamilton College in New York.

Dr. Ying-Chen Peng is in Salem, Massachusetts this weekend presenting a paper titled “Empresses and the Qing Politics.” She is presenting this paper at a workshop for the writing of the catalog of 2018/2019 major exhibit “Empresses of China’s Last Dynasty,” co-hosted by the Peabody Museum and the Freer/Sackler Gallery.

Dr. Juliet Bellow is speaking in a roundtable this weekend at the Walker Art Center on the exhibition “Merce Cunningham: Common Time.” Along with historians Liz Kotz, and Roger Copeland, she will present her research on Merce Cunningham’s collaborations with visual artists Isamu Noguchi, Robert Morris, and Robert Rauschenberg. This roundtable is moderated by Common Time co-curator Joan Rothfuss.

Congratulations to our busy and ambitious faculty!


Viola Farber, Carolyn Brown, Merce Cunningham and Barbara Lloyd (from left) performing Suite for Five, 1963.


A photo of Empress Xiaokemin (Wan Rong,) last Qing empress of China