Location: Bowdoin / Stephen G. Perkinson

Art History

Stephen Perkinson

Peter M. Small Associate Professor of Art History

Contact Information

Art History

Visual Arts Center - 206

Teaching this semester

ARTH 2150. Illuminated Manuscripts and Early Printed Books

Stephen Perkinson
Surveys the history of the decorated book from late antiquity through the Renaissance, beginning with an exploration of the earliest surviving illuminated manuscripts in light of the late antique culture that produced them. Examines uses of books in the early Middle Ages to convert viewers to Christianity or to establish political power. Traces the rise of book professionals (scribes, illuminators, binders, etc.) as manuscript production moved from monastic to urban centers, and concludes with an investigation of the impact of the invention of printing on art and society in the fifteenth century, and on the “afterlife” of manuscript culture into the sixteenth century. Themes to be discussed include the effect of the gender of a book’s anticipated audience on its decoration; the respective roles of author, scribes, and illuminators in designing a manuscript’s decorative program; and the ways that images can shape a reader’s understanding of a text. Makes use of the Bowdoin Library’s collection of manuscripts and early printed books.

ARTH 3160. Memory, Mourning, and the Macabre: Visualizing Death in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Stephen Perkinson
In pre-modern Europe, people lived in the shadow of death. This was true in literal terms -- mortality rates were high -- but also in terms of art; the imagery of the period was saturated with images of death, dying, and the afterlife. Examines how images helped people confront profound questions about death. What happens to the self at death? What is the relationship between the body and the soul? What responsibilities do the living have to the dead? Addresses these issues through study of tomb sculptures, monumental paintings of the Last Judgment, manuscripts containing accounts of journeys to the afterlife, prayer beads featuring macabre imagery, and other related items.

Stephen Perkinson: Art History at Bowdoin College Medieval and Early Modern Studies Program, Bowdoin College


  • Northwestern University, Ph.D., 1998
  • Colgate University, B.A., 1989



Stephen Perkinson The Likeness of the KingThe Likeness of the King: A Prehistory of Portraiture in Late Medieval France (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009) [REVIEWS: Harper’s 320:1918 (March, 2010): 69-70; H-France Review 10: 212 (December, 2010), 910-914; CAA Reviews (December, 2010)] [AWARD: The 2009 Morris D. Forkosch Prize for Best Book in Intellectual History, awarded by the Journal of the History of Ideas].

Selected Articles and Essays

“Likeness,” Studies in Iconology: Special Issue: Medieval Art History Today – Critical Terms 33 (2012): 14-28.

Object of Devotion: Medieval English Alabaster Sculpture from the Victoria and Albert MuseumInvited contributor, Census of Gothic Sculpture in America, volume III, ed. Joan Holladay and Susan Ward (anticipated date of publication: 2012).

“‘As they learn it by sight of images’: Alabasters and Religious Devotion in Late Medieval England,” in Object of Devotion: Medieval English Alabaster Sculpture from the Victoria and Albert Museum, ed. Paul Williamson and Fergus Cannan (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, October 2010) [Exhibition on view at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art February 26 - June 26 2011.]

"Likeness and Loyalty: Portraiture in the Calendar Scenes of the Très Riches Heures," in Quaerendo 38 (2008): 142-174.

“Rethinking the Origins of Portraiture,” Gesta 46:2 (2007): 135-158.

set in stone

"Sculpting Identity," in Set in Stone: The Face in Medieval Art, ed. Charles T. Little (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006), 120-123. (Exhibition catalogue published in conjunction with the exhibition "Set in Stone: The Face in Medieval Art," on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, 26 September 2006 through 18 February 2007.)

“Courtly Splendor, Urban Markets: Some Recent Exhibition Catalogues” [Review of Art from the Court of Burgundy, 1364-1419 (Dijon: Musée des Beaux-Arts; Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland Museum of Art; Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2004), Paris 1400: Les arts sous Charles VI (Paris: Fayard, 2004), Les princes des fleurs de lis: La France et les arts en 1400 (Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2004), and Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry et l’enluminure en France au Début du XVe siècle (Chantilly: Musée Condé, 2004)],” Speculum 81:3 (2006), 1150-1157.

“Ivory Devotional Diptych: The Virgin in Glory and The Crucifixion, Paris, ca. 1320,” in The Bowdoin College Museum of Art Newsletter (Winter/Spring 2005): 8-9.

"From 'Curious' to Canonical: Jehan Roy de France and the Origins of the French School," The Art Bulletin 87:3 (2005): 507-532.

“Portraits and Counterfeits: Villard de Honnecourt and Thirteenth-Century Theories of Representation,” in Excavating the Medieval Image: Manuscripts, Artists, Audiences – Essays in Honor of Sandra Hindman, Nina A. Rowe and David Areford, eds. (Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate Press, 2004), 13-35.

“From an ‘Art de Memoire’ to the Art of Portraiture: Printed Effigy Books of the Sixteenth Century,” The Sixteenth Century Journal 33:3 (2002): 687-723.

Engin and artifice: Describing Creative Agency at the Court of France, c. 1400,” Gesta 41:2 (2002): 51-67.

“Insurgent Voices: Illuminated Versions of Christine de Pizan’s Livre du duc des vrais amans” (co-authored with Sandra Hindman), in The City of Scholars: New Approaches to Christine de Pizan, Zimmermann and De Rentiis editors, (New York and Berlin: De Gruyter, 1994), 221-231.

Exhibitions Curated at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art

"Displaying Devotion," February 17, 2011 - June 19, 2011.
"Between the Lines: Trends in Early Modern Printmaking," May 1, 2011 - June 1, 2008.
"From "Saint Makers" to Artists: Prints and Printmakers in Northern Renaissance," March 4, 2003 - April 13, 2003.

  • Art at the Late Medieval Courts of Northern Europe.
  • History of Portraiture in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe.
  • The illustration of secular manuscripts in the later Middle Ages and early Renaissance.
  • Artistic interactions between Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Teaching Appointments

  • Bowdoin College, 2002-present.
  • University of Denver, 1999-2002.
  • Skidmore College, 1998-1999

  • Scholar in Residence, Niederländisches Forum, Freie Universität Berlin, June 2010.
  • Alexander von Humboldt Foundation “CONNECT” Grant, Summer 2010.
  • J. Paul Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship in the History of Art and the Humanities, Summer 1999 to Summer 2000.
  • Northwestern University Dissertation Year Grant, Fall 1997 to Spring 1998.
  • Chateaubriand Fellowship, French Cultural Services, Embassy of France, Fall 1995 to Summer 1996.
  • Belgian-American Educational Foundation Graduate Fellowship (declined full fellowship; awarded Honorary Fellow status), Fall 1995 to Summer 1996.