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Department of History of Art

History of Art and Architecture


I first acquired my academic interest in the life and architecture of James Gibbs during my undergraduate degree in History at Somerville College, University of Oxford (First Class, BA (Hons)). A manuscript in the Soane Museum, London, which I both dated and securely attributed to Gibbs, provided the subject of my  dissertation. From this, I developed an interest in Gibbs's self-presentation, which I continued to explore over the course of my MPhil at Peterhouse, University of Cambridge, in which I received a Distinction. During my MPhil, I wrote essays on the Church of St Mary le Strand, on Gibbs's extensive range of architectural publications, and on the manner in which he established his early career in London. 

As I continue to research at a doctoral level, I aim to focus on Gibbs's remarkably rare training in the workshop of Carlo Fontana in Rome. This was without parallel among his peers and, I believe, marks Gibbs as a pivotal figure in the growing professionalisation of architecture in eighteenth-century Britain. In support of my research, I have been awarded  funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council via the Newton Trust, and, from the Cambridge Trust, an Honorary Vice Chancellor's Award.

In 2018, I was awarded the Hawksmoor Medal by the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain for my essay:  “‘Upon the Instructions of the Greatest Masters in Italy’: James Gibbs’s Training and the Establishment of his Career in London’. 

I have also written on the sixteenth-century miniature, with a particular focus on the French period of miniaturist Nicholas Hilliard. 


Eighteenth-century British architecture

Sixteenth-century portrait miniatures 


Key publications: 


With Lucia Burgio, Céline Cachaud, Alan Derbyshire and Emma Rutherford, "An English artist at the Valois court: A portrait of Henri III by Nicholas Hilliard", The Burlington Magazine 161 (February 2019), pp. 103-113

"A James Gibbs Autobiography Revisited: Rome and Self-Memorialisation in the Gibbs Manuscript in Sir John Soane’s Museum", Georgian Group Journal 15 (2017), pp. 113-130

"On the Threshold of the City: The Church of St Mary le Strand", Country Life (7th November 2018), pp. 56-61

"Fit for a royal feast: The Orleans House Octagon, Twickenham, London TW1 A Property of the Borough of Richmond upon Thames", Country Life (25th September 2019), pp. 91-95

"Il Ritorno di 'Signor Gibbi' in Patria: James Gibbs’s Training in Italy and its Bearing on his Later Career", Georgian Group Journal 27 (2019), pp. 1-13

"Fit for a Royal Feast: the Orleans House Octagon", Country Life (25th September 2019), pp. 90-95

"'The most desirable commission of its day' William Aslet on St Marin-in-the-Fields", Apollo Magazine (January 2020), pp. 26-27

"A Flash in the Pan: The Vanished House of the Duke of Chandos at Cannons, Middlesex", Country Life (4th March 2020), pp. 66-70

"Palladio's monument to the plague in Venice", Apollo Magazine (July 2020), pp. 24-25

"Negotiating a Courtship between Courts: Hilliard's Portraits of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Anjou in the Small Prayer Book", British Art Studies (September 2020) 

"Situating St Mary-le-Strand: the Church, the City and the Career of James Gibbs"Architectural History 63 (2020), pp. 77-110

"The Gibbs Manuscript in Sir John Soane's Museum, London", Volume of the Walpole Society (2020, forthcoming)

"New Light on the Provenance of Queen Elizabeth's Book of Prayers", The Burlington Magazine (forthcoming)


"Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist, Elizabeth Goldring", Country Life Magazine (20th March 2019)

"Christopher Wren: In Search of Eastern Antiquity By Vaughan Hart", The Burlington Magazine 162 (December, 2020), pp. 1110-11

Conference Papers 

"Gibbs, Knowledge and the Fashioning of a Professional Reputation in London", Georgian Group Symposium: The Architecture of James Gibbs, Society of Antiquaries, London, 29th September 2019

"Negotiating a Courtship between Courts: Hilliard's Portraits of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Anjou in the Small Prayer Book", Hilliard, Oliver and the Miniature in Context, National Portrait Gallery, London, 28th-29th March 2019

"What 'Signor Gibbi' Learnt in Italy: James Gibbs as an Italian Trained Architect", Soane Museum Study Group, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, 2nd April 2019

"Hogarth and Architecture", Hogarth's Moral Geography, Paul Mellon Centre, London, 5th November 2019

Catalogue Contributions 

"A Gentleman, Probably Pierre de Ronsard" in C. MacLeod (ed.), Elizabethan Treasures: Miniatures by Hilliard and Oliver (exh cat., London, 2019)

Other Publications

With Lawrence Hendra, Rebecca Ingram and Emma Rutherford, The Jewel in the Hand: Early Portrait Miniatures from Noble and Private Collections (exh cat., Philip Mould & Company, London, 2019). 

PhD candidate "The Life and Works of James Gibbs"
 William  Aslet