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Petra Sikic


My MPhil dissertation, supervised by Dr Alexander Marr, unpacks the concept of painterliness as applied to the seventeenth century Italian painter Guercino. I take a literal approach to the question of what it means to call a painting painterly by analysing the effects of sculpture and theatre, two key 'un-painterly' influences on Baroque painting, on Guercino's painted works. Through my dissertation, I also hope to demonstrate how Sir Denis Mahon's remarkable deconstruction of stimuli, in particular of  light, has been unfairly unattended because his broader argument about Guercino's famous change in style has proven less enduring. 

I am broadly interested in Italian painting and drawing between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, in particular Bologna 1600-1660. My other work this year included a paper on the aesthetic implications of iron gall ink corrosion in Guercino's drawings, which was accepted to the Emerging Perspectives Conference at the University of Edinburgh (cancelled due to Covid-19). In my PhD thesis I want to take on the concept of gesture in the painting of this time period and its rootedness in the specific nature of the early modern body. I am particularly interested in manuals of gesture such as the hereto surprisingly unexplored L'arte de cenni and their connection to the increased regularisation of the body through the blooming science of anatomy. Throughout my projects, I hope to rethink the assumptions we make as art historians, and find new ways to ground elusive concepts.

I completed my BA in History of Art at University College London in 2016, where I was awarded a high first degree, as well as a place on the Dean's List for the Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences. My undergraduate dissertation, 'Botticelli in Perspective', was supervised by Professor Allison Wright. I have experience at galleries and museums in London and Zagreb, and especially enjoy integrating my skills as an art historian into other aspects of university life. I was co-founder and President of UCL Discover London Society, where I planned and gave tours of the city. I also worked on the UCL Transition Mentor Programme for two years, eventually progressing to the departmental student coordinator. At Cambridge, I co-founded the Cambridge University Croatian Society and served as its Secretary. As part of the Society I have worked with the Cambridge Union, staff at the Croatian Embassy in London, the university's European societies and fellows and students across disciplines to create platforms for Croats and Croatian culture at Cambridge. Additionally, as one of the MPhil student representatives for 2019/20, I sincerely hope to help improve the experience of my cohort. Finally, I am also an officer of Christ's College MCR.