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Dr Alexander Marr BA MSt DPhil FRHistS FSA

Dr Alexander Marr, BA MSt DPhil FRHistS FSA

Director, Centre for Visual Culture

Reader in the History of Early Modern Art

Director of Research

Fellow of Trinity Hall

Director of Studies at Trinity Hall and Clare College


Before coming to Cambridge in 2012, I was Lecturer in Art History at the University of St Andrews and Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Southern California. I am the Founding Director of the University's Centre for Visual Culture, which launched in May 2019.  The CVC promotes object-led research into visual culture in its global contexts.

Between 2014 and 2019 I directed a major, ERC-funded project on the early modern culture of ingenuity. The project employed eight postdoctoral researchers and has produced numerous outputs, including the monograph Logodaedalus: Word Histories of Ingenuity in Early Modern Europe (2019). During the project, I wrote a monograph on Rubens (Rubens's Spirit: From Ingenuity to Genius), which is forthcoming from Reaktion Books. I'm now writing a book on Hans Holbein the Younger--currently called Holbein's Wit--examining his work in relation to wit, ambiguity and puns (via Erasmus and More). I continue to work on Dürer, chiefly his prints and drawings, in connection with imagination, virtuosity and licence.

My research has been funded by (among others) The British Academy, the AHRC, the Leverhulme Trust (Philip Leverhulme Prize, 2008), the DAAD, and the ERC (Consolidator Grant, 2013).

Research Interests

Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European art, particularly its intellectual and literary aspects.

Current research:




     Ingenuity and visual wit

     Calligraphy across cultures

     Tudor and early Stuart art (including Richard Haydocke and portrait miniatures). A special issue of British Art Studies, on Nicholas Hilliard and Isaac Oliver (co-edited with Catharine MacLeod), will be published in summer 2020.

     The visual culture of the early Royal Society. A monograph, co-authored with Sachiko Kusukawa and Felicity Henderson, is in progress, to be published by Open Book Publishers.

Research Projects:


   Drawing and the Early-Modern Graphic Imagination


   Genius before Romanticism: Ingenuity in Early Modern Art & Science (2014-19)

   Making Visible: The Visual and Graphic Practices of the Early Royal Society (2015-19)

   Epistemic Images in Early Modern Germany (2016-18)

   Early Modern Visual and Material Culture

Selected Publications:


   Rubens’s Spirit: From Ingenuity to Genius (Reaktion Books, forthcoming)

   Ingenuity in the Making: Materials and Techniques in Early Modern Europe, edited with R. Oosterhoff and J. R. Marcaida

   The Places of Early Modern Criticism, edited with G. Alexander and E. Gilby (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2020)

   Descartes and the Ingenium: The Embodied Soul in Cartesianism, edited with R. Garrod (under contract, Brill)

   Logodaedalus: Word Histories of Ingenuity in Early Modern Europe, with R. Garrod, J. R. Marcaida, R. Oosterhoff (Pittsburgh

   University Press, 2019)

   Between Raphael and Galileo: Mutio Oddi and the Mathematical Culture of Late Renaissance Italy (University of Chicago Press, 2011)

   The Worlds of Oronce Fine: Mathematics, Instruments, and Print in Renaissance France (Paul Watkins, 2009)

   Curiosity and Wonder from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, edited with R.J.W. Evans (Ashgate, 2006)

Journal Special Issues:

   Hilliard, Oliver and the Portrait Miniature in Context, with C. MacLeod (British Art Studies, 2020)

   Early Modern Epistemic Images, with C. Heuer (21: Inquiries into Art, History, and the Visual, Spring 2020)

   Curiously Drawn: Early Modern Science as a Visual Pursuit, with S. Kusukawa and F. Henderson (Huntington Library Quarterly, 78/2,   


   Early Modern Invention, with V. Keller (Intellectual History Review, 24/3, 2014)

   Picturing Collections in Early Modern Europe (Intellectual History Review, 20/1, 2010)

Online Resource:

   Ingenious Images: A Catalogue of the Visual Culture of Early Modern Ingenuity

Recent Articles

   "Sir William Sanderson and Copying for 'Private Practice'", Word & Image, 35 (2019)

   "Ingenuity and Discernment in The Cabinet of Cornelis van der Geest (1628)", Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, 69 (2019)

   "Locus genii: Placing Genius in Roger de Piles's Criticism", in The Places of Early Modern Criticism

   "Ingenuity in Nuremberg: Dürer and Stabius’s Instrument Prints", The Art Bulletin, 100/3 (2018)

   "Richard Haydocke's Oneirologia: A Manuscript Treatise on Sleep and Dreams, including the ‘Arguments’ of King James I", Erudition

    and the Republic of Letters, 2/2 (2017)

   "Knowing Images", Renaissance Quarterly 69/3 (2016)

    “Shakespeare, Sidney and Spenser in an Early Continental Library”, The Library, 7th series, 17/1 (2016)

   "Pregnant Wit: ingegno in Renaissance England", British Art Studies 1 (2015)

   "Crowned with harmless fire: A New Look at Descartes", The Times Literary Supplement (March 11, 2015)

   "Walther Ryff, Plagiarism and Imitation in Sixteenth-Century Germany", Print Quarterly 31/2 (2014)

    "Copying, Commonplaces, and Technical Knowledge: The Architect-Engineer as Reader”, Intersections, Vol. 16: The Artist as Reader 


Graduate Students:

I welcome applications from prospective MPhil and PhD students whose intended research relates to my research interests, above.  I supervise students who work on Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands and England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Recent and current PhD students' topics include:

Armour and Culture in Early Modern Germany

Schemata in Early Modern Art

The Early Modern Heraldic Imagination

Cross-dressing in Early Modern Art

The Heroic Portrait in Early Modern Italy

Liveliness in Post-Reformation England

Fantasia in Cinquecento Italy

Visceral Creativity: Digestion, Earthly Melancholy and Materiality in Early Modern Art

Mathematics and the Craft of Thought in Early Modern England and the Low Countries

The Visual Culture of the Académie Royale des Sciences in the Age of Louis XIV

Undergraduate Students:

I am Director of Studies in History of Art at Trinity Hall and Clare College.  Prospective undergraduates may consult the colleges' websites for further details.

Key Publications

Logodaedalus   Marr