Jeanette Kohl

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Jeanette KohlAssociate Professor
Co-Director, Center for Ideas and Society (CIS)

Ph.D., University of Trier

225 Arts Building
 (951) 827-5919
 Curriculum Vitae
 Academia website

Biography/EducationResearch/TeachingSelected PublicationsBooks

I am a German American art historian and at UCR since 2008. I earned my Dr. phil. (PhD) in 2001 from the University of Trier/Germany with a dissertation on the self-fashioning of Venetian mercenary Bartolomeo Colleoni. Trained in both Modern and Contemporary Art and the Art of the Italian Renaissance, I have developed interests in Renaissance sculpture and material culture, diachronic perspectives on portraiture and the history of the human face, concepts of mimesis and representation, visualizations of the body in art and medicine, and the afterlives of the Renaissance in modern and contemporary art.

During my academic career, I have been a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max-Planck-Institute for Art History (Kunsthistorisches Institut) in Florence/Italy (2001-2004), followed by positions as Assistant Professor at the University of Leipzig (2004-2008) and as Visiting Professor at Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena (2007). From 2006-2009, I organized and chaired the international network The Power of Faces. As chair of the Art History department at UCR (2015-2018), I helped initiate and establish the university’s Medical and Health Humanities programs. Since July 2021, I serve as one of two directors of our Humanities Center, the Center for Ideas and Society, where I am responsible for the new BEING HUMAN INITIATIVE and for the Mellon Investment in Humanities Faculty program

My research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Getty Research Institute, the Mellon Foundation, the NEH, the Morphomata Institute in Cologne/Germany, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and most recently the Hamburg Institute for Advanced Study, HIAS. Currently, I am finishing my new book “The Life of Busts. Sculpted Portraits in Fifteenth-Century Italy,” to be published with Brepols, and I am launching two new scholarly projects: an edited volume (with Barbara Baert, KU Leuven/Belgium) on “Wings and Feathers in Early Modern Art and Thought,” and “Global Faces,” an international network of portrait experts.

Areas of Specialization

Italian Renaissance Art with an emphasis on Sculpture and Architecture
Object and Material Culture
Portraiture and the History of the Human Face
Theories and Concepts of Mimesis and Representation
Early Modern Medicine and History of the Body in Art
Afterlife of the Renaissance in Contemporary Art

Understanding our world and its histories through the lens of art and creativity is one of the most powerful didactic tools we have, and taking an art history class is one of the most memorable experiences many students report they had in their education. Explorations in the visual cultures of the world tell us how people lived, how they thought, what they opposed, and what they loved. And yet, art is more than a copy of reality – its signals are ambiguous. Art is insecurely hooked to reality, and that is part of its fascination. Many things we see or hear are not what we first assume they are, and to understand that I teach my students to see with both eyes, and to listen with both ears.

At UCR, I have taught Honors Freshmen Seminars and several ‘CHASS F1RST’ classes for freshmen, often with a concentration on the visual history of the human body. I also developed and taught courses on Art History in our School of Medicine. Among my regular and most popular classes are a Junior-Senior Seminar on Art and Love in the Renaissance, an upper-division course The Artist as Artwork: Concepts of Self from the Middle Ages to the Present, and courses on the Renaissance in Florence and Venice. I occasionally teach the department’s mandatory graduate Seminar in Methodology, and I have developed and taught graduate courses such as What is the Renaissance, Actually?, Portraits, Mirrors, Veils, and a slow-looking seminar on Renaissance Sculpture. Whenever possible, I take my students to the Getty on field trips, and I frequently invite experts from other academic institutions and museums to join us for lectures and discussions.


The Life of Busts. Portrait Sculpture in Fifteenth-Century Italy, in production for Brepols Renovatio Artium Series

Renaissance Love. Eros, Passion, and Friendship in Italian Art Around 1500, Jeanette Kohl, Marianne Koos, and Adrian Randolph (eds.), Munich/Berlin 2014

Similitudo. Konzepte der Ähnlichkeit in Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit, Jeanette Kohl, Martin Gaier, Alberto Saviello (eds.), Munich 2012

En Face. Seven Essays on the Human Face, Jeanette Kohl, Dominic Olariu (eds.), kritische berichte, 1/2012, Marburg 2012

Kopf / Bild. Die Büste in Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit, Jeanette Kohl, Rebecca Müller (eds.), Munich/Berlin 2007

Fama und Virtus. Bartolomeo Colleonis Grabkapelle, Berlin 2004

Re-Visionen. Zur Aktualität von Kunstgeschichte, Richard & Barbara Hüttel, Jeanette Kohl (eds), Berlin 2002

Selected essays and articles (since 2010)

Lauras Aura. Ein Tête-à-tête, in: In Love with Laura. Petrarcas Geliebte als Marmorbüste Francesco Lauranas, exh. cat. Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, Vienna 2023, 24-38

Heart in a Box, in: Recycle – (Re)Invent. Festschrift for Frank Zöllner, Julia Dellith, Johannes Gebhard, Daniela Roberts (eds.), Leipzig 2022, 42-63

“Hic est Homo Platonis!” Two Embodiments of Concepts of Man in Renaissance Art, in: Iconology: Neoplatonism and the Arts in the Renaissance, Sergius Kodera, Berthold Hub (eds.), Abingdon/New York 2021, 160-182

Blood Heads. Index and Presence, in: Field Notes on the Work of Art, Karen A. Lang (ed.), Bristol 2019, 226-230

Hydrocephalus, Rickets, and the Bust of an Infant from Renaissance Italy, cover editorial in: Child’s Nervous System, no. 381, 2019, 1-4

The Intelligence of Sculpture. Verrocchio and Leonardo, in: Leonardo in Dialogue. The Artist Amid his Contemporaries, Francesco Borgo, Alessandro Nova, Rodolfo Maffeis (eds.), Venice 2019, 47-72

A Murder, a Mummy, and a Bust. A Bust of Simon of Trent at the Getty, in: Getty Research Journal 10, 2018, 27-60

The Salutati Tomb in Fiesole: Animation, Representation and Scholarly ‘Memoria’, in: Wiener Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte LXIII/LXIV, 2017, 149-168

Art and the Reformation, in: Kunstchronik 70, no. 8, 2017, 443-452

FACES: Faces, Art, and Computerized Evaluation Systems–A Feasibility Study of the Application of Face Recognition Systems to Works of Portrait Art (co-authored with Conrad Rudolph, Amit Roy-Chowdhury, and Ramya Srinivasan), in: Artibus et Historiae, no. 75, XXXVIII, 265-291

Hannah Wilke: Intra-Venus, in: Venus as Muse. From Lucretius to Serres, Hanjo Berressem, Günter Blamberger, Sebastian Goth (eds.), Amsterdam/New York 2015, 73-12

Face Value. The Renaissance Portrait as ‘Multiple’, in: Between East and West. Reproductions in Art. Proceedings of the 2013 CIHA Colloquium in Naruto Japan, 15-18 January 2013, 61-82

Mimesis. Notes from the Field, in: The Art Bulletin 95/2 (June 2013), 205-207

No one in particular. Donatello’s San Rossore, in: Inventing Faces. Rhetorics of Portraiture Between Renaissance and Modernism, Mona Körte, Stefan Weppelman et al. (eds.), Berlin 2013, 15-28

Casting Renaissance Florence. The Bust of Giovanni de’ Medici and Indexical Portraiture, in: Carvings, Casts, and Collectors, Peta Motture, Emma Jones, Dimitrios Zikos (eds.), London 2013, 58-71

Recognizing the Royals. Leveraging Computerized Face Recognition to Identify Subjects in Ancient Artworks (co-authored with Ramya Srinivasan, Amit Roy-Chowdhury and Conrad Rudolph), in: ACM International Conference on Multimedia, 2013, 581-584

Schrift, Blut, Zeugenschaft. Überlegungen zum Verhältnis von Bild und Testament, in: Künstler und der Tod. Testamente europäischer Künstler vom Spätmittelalter bis zum 20. Jahrhundert, Nicole Hegener, Kerstin Schwedes (eds.), Würzburg 2012, 357-376

“Work Hard, Dream Big.” Whose Renaissance? in: Kunsttexte 4/2012 (Teaching the Renaissance III: Europe and Beyond), 1-7

Rehabilitating a Fallen Artist: Jean-Léon Gérôme Revisited, in: Kunstchronik 64, 3/2011, 124-131

Morals, Males, and Mirrors. Busts of Boys in the Quattrocento, in: Desiderio da Settignano, Joseph Connors, Alessandro Nova, Gerhard Wolf (eds.), Venice 2011, 89-101

Icons of Chastity, Objets d’amour. Female Renaissance Portrait Busts as Ambivalent Bodies, in: The Body in Early Modern Italy, Julia Hairston/Walter Stephens (eds.), Baltimore 2010, 123-142

Body, Mind, and Soul. On the So-Called ‘Platonic Youth’ in the Bargello, Florence, in: Subject as Aporia in Early Modern Art, Alexander Nagel, Lorenzo Pericolo (eds.), Aldershot 2010, 43-69

Ercole a Bergamo. La costruzione genealogica di un Condottiero Rinascimentale, in: Ercole al bivio. Atti del convegno Le strade di Ercole. Itinerari umanistici e altri percorsi, Galuzzo 2010, 127-150

Academic Blogging

From Saint Cyricus to Simon of Trent – Or: How the Misidentification of a Getty Marble Bust Was Corrected, published: J. Paul Getty Museum, March 21, 2019 (co-authored with Anne-Lise Desmas, Senior Curator of Sculpture and Decorative Arts)

Renaissance Love

Renaissance Love: Eros, Passion, and Friendship in Italian Art Around 1500
2014, Deutscher Kunstverlag
Jeanette Kohl, co-edited

Love is not blind. On the contrary, love is highly visual and the visual arts above all others have the capacity to enflame its passion – an idea that goes back to Leonardo da Vinci. This volume, ‘Renaissance Love: Eros, Passion, and Friendship in Italian art around 1500’, presents the view of internationally renowned specialists in a collection of studies devoted to the intermeshing of art, love, and attraction. The essays not only provide valuable insights into contemporary research on the subject, but also afford new and surprising perspectives on Italian Renaissance art; in their scholarly approach to the topic they are a long-overdue contribution to the interdisciplinary discourse on love in Italian culture around 1500.

Featured authors: Hans Aurenhammer, Stephen J. Campbell, Elisa de Halleux, Giancarlo Fiorenza, Jeanette Kohl, Marianne Koos, Alessandro Nova, Christopher J. Nygren, Jill Pederson, Ulrich Pfisterer and Adrian W.B. Randolph.


Similitudo: Concepts of Likeness in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
2012, Fink Wilhelm GmbH
Jeanette Kohl, author

“Similitudo” discusses the role of realism and likeness in different media and time periods, from the 14th to the 17th century, with a particular emphasis on its relevance for the arts, philosophy, and the psychology of perception.”

Review in Renaissance Quarterly:
Reviewed work(s): Martin Gaier, Jeanette Kohl, and Alberto Saviello, eds. Similitudo: Konzepte der Ähnlichkeit in Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit. Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2012.

“The paradigm of resemblance (similitudo in Latin) offers one mode for the assessment of visual images. Yet as a discrete concept, it is too infrequently the subject of examination, relegated as it is to one aspect of the larger discussions of portraiture, scientific illustration, or art theory. The threats of similitude as a broader topic of art-historical inquiry are clear: in its subjectivity and ephemerality, resemblance is volatile and changeable, that is, contingent. The current volume of essays, one product of the German research project The Power of Faces: The Bust, the Head, and the Body in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (2006–09), marks an important step in the historiography of the concept, for it takes this thorny issue as its central theme. The book ventures beyond the simple comparison of model and image to posit new understandings of likeness informed by the perspectives of philosophers like Charles Sanders Peirce and Hans-Georg Gadamer. This conceptual framework, which motivates many of the contributions, makes Similitudo a welcome addition to the literature on image theory.  Read More →

cover_issue_1323_de_DEEn Face. Seven Essays on the Human Face
2012, Marburg
Jeanette Kohl, co-edited

This thematic issue of the German art history journal kritische berichte gathers analytical approaches to the ‘phenomenon face’ from different disciplines: neurophysiology, philosophy of the body, cultural history, surgery, medieval history, and the history of art. In their contributions, the authors examine the face as medium and material, as mise-en-scene and matter, as mirror and membrane, producer and recipient – as a cultural construction and a human determinant. The essays are spurred by their author’s profound involvement with the questions: WHAT IS A FACE? What did and what does it mean, culturally, socially, psychologically, physiologically, aesthetically, historically? What might it look like in the future? What are our assumptions about what a face represents, what it means to lose one’s face, or live with someone else’s face. Often enough, we think of faces as identities. But, what does a face tell about ‘us’ – individually, culturally, and as a species? Perception and imagination, the belief in images and image making, they all overlap in the face. The book’s trans-disciplinary approach is a first step toward a cultural history of the face. It includes essays by Jean-Claude Schmitt, Bernard Andrieu, Sigrid Weigel, Georges Didi-Huberman, Claudia Schmoelders, Jonathan Cole, and an interview with the facial surgeon Rainer Schmelzeisen.

Kopf / Bild

Kopf / Bild: Die Büste in Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit
2007, Deutscher Kunstverlag
Jeanette Kohl, co-edited

Ein breites Spektrum methodischer Ansätze beleuchtet in diesem Band profane und sakrale Kopf- und Büstenbildnisse und gelangt zu einer Neubewertung dieser zentralen Gattung. Die Kontinuität der Bildform und ihre Ambivalenz zwischen Individualität und Typus, Bildnis und Kultobjekt, Lebendigkeit und Fragmentierung lassen die Objekte für eine Vielzahl von Fragestellungen fruchtbar werden. Dreizehn Beiträge beleuchten die Spannungsfelder »Paradigma Antike«, »Fiktives Porträt, wahres Antlitz«, »Status und Memoria«, »Performanz des Fragments« sowie »Material und Illusion«. Anstelle eines Überblicks wurde bewusst eine Konzentration auf Italien verfolgt, die sich als gewinnbringend für die Diskussion aus unterschiedlichen methodischen Blickwinkeln erweist. Beiträge zur deutschen Klassik und dem 18. Jahrhundert in England erweitern die Perspektive und zeigen auf, in welcher Form Topoi, etwa jener der Lebendigkeit, reflektiert werden.


Fama und Virtus: Bartolomeo Colleonis Grabkapelle.
2004, Akademie Verlag GmbH
Jeanette Kohl, author

“In sum, this is by far the most useful study of the Colleoni Chapel and the most thorough, insightful study ever done on the iconography of a Lombard Renaissance sculptural monument.” Charles Morscheck in: Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians JSAH, 67/2, June 2008

“Die Kunsthistorikerin Jeanette Kohl hat der Grabkapelle Colleonis nun ein wunderbar kluges Buch gewidmet, in dem sie das Denken dieses Soldnerführers im Spannungsfeld von fama und virtus anhand des Bildprogramms erläutert.” (“The art historian Jeanette Kohl has dedicated a wonderfully erudite book on the chapel of Colleoni, in which she unfolds the mercenary’s representational thinking between the poles of fame and virtue through the chapel’s image program.”) Michael Thimann in: Süddeutsche Zeitung, February 22, 2005

“Die Stärke der Arbeit liegt in der ikonographischen Analyse der Fassaden- und Grabmalsskulptur, deren kontextgebundene Bedeutung die Autorin souverän und kritisch zur Diskussion stellt.” (“The book’s strength lies in its icongraphic analysis of the sculptural program on façade and tomb, whose context and meaning the author discusses both masterfully and with a critical eye.”) Antje Fehrmann in: Journal fur Kunstgeschichte, 2/2007


Re-Visionen: Zur Aktualität von Kunstgeschichte
2002, Akademie-Verlag
Jeanette Kohl, author

This book is an homage to Swiss art historian Alexander Perrig, whose incorruptible eye and unconventional thinking inspired 15 case studies, written for this book. They all revise established interpretations, with Perrig’s work in mind, from the façade of the Trier Cathedral to scientific illustrations of the 17th century to the Latin Lover in the era of silent films. With essays by Wolfgang Kemp, Hans Joachim Kunst, Norberto Gramaccini, Jeanette Kohl, Roberto Zapperi, Jochen Staebel, Christina Riebesell, Horst Bredekamp, Barbara und Richard Huettel, Ursula Harter, Monika Wagner, Peter Rautmann, Renate Berger, Joerg Jochen Berns, Werner Hofmann, and an introduction by Leo Steinberg.

Review by Michael Thimann, Sueddeutsche Zeitung