Alexander Nagel

Alexander Nagel

Alexander Nagel

Professor of Renaissance Art History
New York University

In Residence

July 2012

October 2013 – November 2013

Research Project

Orientations of Renaissance Art

Much of the art produced during the period we call the Renaissance points in one way or another eastward, to Jerusalem, to relay points such as Constantinople, and to points beyond the Holy Land. Conversely, objects and images issuing from eastern lands, primarily Byzantine and Islamic materials but also imports from further East, were collected zealously in the West, in part because they were associated with the biblical past. These facts have only recently begun to be fully appreciated and integrated into our understanding of the art of the period; the scholarship on Renaissance art is still focused overwhelmingly on Rome and its legacy. This research project explores the implications of viewing the art produced from Giotto to Michelangelo with this alternative “orientation” in mind.  The primary thesis to be explored is two-fold: that this orientation produced what we call Renaissance art, and, paradoxically, that the development of Renaissance art eventually brought its initial inspiring orientation to an end, initiating the era of modern Eurocentrism. The focus is on efforts of symbolic recuperation, with special emphasis on issues of imitation, pilgrimage virtual and real, and spatio-temporal confusion. The project will show, in various ways, that the means by which evidence is transmitted over space and time became a preoccupation and even a defining feature of art in the West in the later Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Research Interests

  • European art in the Early Modern Era
  • Image theories
  • The traditions of medieval and Early Modern art in the Modern Era
  • Structures of temporality in works of art
  • Phenomena of formal and thematic ambivalence in the art of the Early Modern Era


Medieval Modern, New York: Thames und Hudson 2012.

The Controversy of Renaissance Art, London: University Of Chicago Press 2011.

Anachronic Renaissance, with Christopher Wood, New York: Zone Books 2010.

Subject as Aporia in Early Modern Art, Alexander Nagel and Lorenzo Pericolo (eds.), Farnham et al.: Ashgate Press 2010.

Michelangelo and the Reform of Art, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2000.


Alexander Nagel

Center for Advanced Studies BildEvidenz

Arnimallee 10
14195 Berlin