Skip to main content

Postgraduate Students

April Armstrong-Bascombe

Dissertation Topic: The Spanish commissions of Barnaba da Modena and cross-Mediterranean artistic exchange in the mid-fourteenth century

I am a PhD researcher in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, and part of the Centre for Visual Arts and Cultures. My research is fully funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the Northern Bridge consortium. I completed my Master of Studies at the University of Oxford (Lady Margaret Hall) in 2016 in Art History and Visual Culture and was recipient of the Sarah Louise Dale/Clarendon Scholarship in Renaissance Studies. The title of my MSt thesis was: “Barnaba da Modena: the painter and his workshop in fourteenth-century Italy”, which was supervised by Professor Gervase Rosser. I completed my Bachelor of Arts (Honours) at the University of Nottingham in History and Art History in 2012 and was awarded a first-class degree.

I currently serve as a reviewer for the Journal of Languages, Texts and Society. My PhD thesis, supervised by Professor Andrew Beresford and Professor Stefano Cracolici, provides an inter-disciplinary analysis of the Mediterranean as a site of rich cultural exchange in the fourteenth century. In particular, I examine the dissemination of visual ideas, the evidence of artistic migration, and the transmission of iconography and style between artists and craftsmen located in mercantile centres across the Mediterranean basin. The objects of my research, which include small panel paintings, painted crucifixes and altarpieces, are analysed as a means to elucidate our understanding of the networks of association and influence between artists, patrons and merchants active in the fourteenth century. Striking similarities between the art produced by painters active in the Kingdom of Aragon with artists resident in Angevin Naples, the Italian city-states, and the papal court at Avignon, are testament to the close commercial, religious and social links which existed between Mediterranean communities in the medieval period.

My research considers the evidence of cultural mobility from a broad perspective, but major themes include: the Mediterranean as a united site of transnational cultural dialogue; patronage as a cultural mediator; artists and merchants as agents of cultural mobility; migration; devotional culture, and the artist’s workshop as a site of innovation and collaboration.

Stephanie Bernard (since 2021)

Dissertation topic: Translating Models: Transcultural Links in the Religious Production of Juan Sánchez Cotán

I am a Ph.D. candidate in Art History in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. My thesis, funded by a Zurbarán Scholarship, explores the religious production of the painter Juan Sánchez Cotán in relation to his constant borrowing from northern European sources. Born in Orgaz in 1560, he managed a workshop in Toledo until 1603, where his clientele included essential figures from the clergy and gentry of this city. He then relocated to Granada and joined the Carthusian order as a lay brother, leaving behind his production scattered between these two cities. He is considered a still life painter par excellence. Yet, art-historical research has continuously overlooked most of his production of religious paintings.

The medieval appearance his artworks project situates Juan Sánchez Cotán as an artist caught between two periods, resulting in a style that is neither entirely baroque nor mannerist. This, in part, is because of the constant borrowing of compositions dating to the late fifteenth century, the majority of which arrived in the Iberian Peninsula by way of commercial routes from Northern Europe. By the second half of the sixteenth century, the construction of the Escorial Palace, gave Italy a primary role in the arts in the Spanish court, turning into the destination to study the art of painting for artists. Yet, Sánchez Cotán showed a continual refusal to adopt an Italianate style, working throughout his career for a local clientele with a preference for artworks reminiscent of a late-gothic style. Because of this, his religious production has been labelled archaic.

My research project will deepen the understanding of Juan Sánchez Cotán’s use of what many see as ‘primitive models’. His constant use of an iconography originating in the North begs the question of how Sánchez Cotán’s artworks were perceived during his lifetime, and how such reliance on the North reflects the transcultural links at work in the Iberian Peninsula. Analysing Sánchez Cotán’s production will also contribute to our understanding of how patrons defined different styles during this period and the extent to which patrons influenced their continuous use. My research will also explore why Sánchez Cotán was so reluctant to adapt to a more Italianate style. Lastly, I will examine the devotional function of these artworks and their production during a period of continuous religious turmoil, considering how this primitive style satisfied the devotional needs of the communities Sánchez Cotán served.

Working under the supervision of Professor Andy Beresford and Professor Claudia Hopkins, my research benefits from the interdisciplinary nature of the Zurbarán Centre for Spanish and Latin American Art and from an affiliation with the Spanish Gallery at the Auckland Project. Before arriving at Durham, I completed a BA in Art History and French Studies (Cum Laude) at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. I also studied modern philosophy during a semester at the University of Salamanca (Spain) as a recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and completed a one-year certificate in Social Sciences at the University of Sherbrooke (Canada). I completed an MA in Art History and Architecture at the University of Geneva (Switzerland), where I had the opportunity to acquire professional experience in provenance research as an intern at Piguet Auction House. I also gained experience in cataloguing artworks as an intern at the Museum of Santa Cruz, Toledo, which was made possible thanks to a grant from Movetia Swiss-European Mobility.

Daniela Castro Ruiz (Starting date: Jan. 2023)

Dissertation topic: The social function of the Bestiario de Don Juan de Austria in its Original Context

My PhD research, funded by CONACyT and supervised by Professor Andy Beresford and Dr Manuel Hijano examines the Bestiario de Don Juan de Austria (c.1570), the only extant bestiary to have been produced in Castilian. The text, which exists in a unique manuscript copy, is richly illustrated, offering a glimpse into the complexity of the transition between the Middle Ages and Early Modern period as well as the relationship between art and literature.

My research will advance an interpretive reconstruction of the Bestiario’s viewers/readers in terms of visual reception. I analyse the manuscript as a cultural artefact, discussing the transformation and representation of tradition in relation to the textual community for whose benefit it was produced. The visual collective experience is delineated by socially acknowledged descriptions of an intelligible world. Therefore, the reconstruction of the eye and the gaze through the Bestiario will make possible a new and original way of reveling a distinctively Hispanic way of being.

More broadly, my research interests include the interpretation of the symbolic, reception theory, the history of reading, Medieval and early modern Spain, as well the interaction between the image, the text and orality.

I hold a MA degree in History (recognition for an outstanding work on the degree), from Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City, (2018) which was funded by CONACyT as part of the Programa Nacional de Posgrados de Calidad. I was selected for a research stay at El Monasterio de Santa María de la Vid, in Burgos, Spain, to study its archive. I completed a BA in Art History at Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana in Mexico City (2015).

I have taught History of Art in the Middle Ages, Aesthetics in Greece and Rome, and Cultural History of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance at Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana in Mexico City, (2019-2022). I worked as coordinator of the Art Residency Casa Lü (2020-2022). I planned and directed the festival "Octavio Paz y los postpachucos: encuentro cultural de migrantes sobre la identidad mexicana", Los Angeles, California, Institute of Mexicans Abroad, (2019). I was a Spanish Teacher, at Middlebury College, Vermont, USA, (2016).`

Carolina Hayes Vidal-Quadras (Michaelmas Term 2021)

Dissertation Topic: The life, work and thought of XX century visual artist Adela "Delhy" Tejero (1904-1968)

My thesis is focused on the life, work and thought of XX century visual artist Adela "Delhy" Tejero (1904-1968) with a philosophical and aesthetic theory-based approach to her writings, found in her recently published diaries written between 1936-1968, and an art-historical methodology in analysing her work and organising it into the first Catalogue Raisonnée.

The theoretical analysis will help to better understand her work and revalue interpretations that have not contributed to helping obtain the recognition she deserves. The motivations of this project are to bring to light an important female artist from the XX century, and re-examine her work in order to situate her as a key figure in Spanish avant-garde art and aesthetics.

Richard Jacques (since 2021)

Dissertation topic: Sensory perception and religious experience in the devotional works of Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664)

The aim of my PhD research is to investigate Francisco de Zurbarán's engagement in the intellectual and theological debates of his day and how they shaped his preoccupation with verisimilitude and tactile painterly effects. Moving beyond the specific concerns of the many monastic orders he served, and focusing principally on independent works, my research will explore both how Zurbarán's art relates to the broader currents in Spanish Counter-Reformation spirituality and how philosophical and artistic debates around the nature of the senses contributed to the development of his unique artistic character. More specifically the research will seek to address the extent to which Zurbarán deployed new compositional themes in his works for private devotion, and how Zurbarán creatively engaged with the work of both other artists and the growing genre of Spanish still life painting. My research will ultimately seek to question the long-held portrayal of Zurbarán as an essentially 'monastic painter', with the objective of establishing a new narrative that takes a fuller account of the broader society in which he lived and worked.

Prior to moving to Durham, I completed both a Postgraduate Diploma and a Master's degree in Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art. My Masters dissertation focused on the graphic art of Gaspar Becerra and the influence of Italian concepts of disegno in sixteenth-century Spain. I also have a degree in Theology from King's College London. Before returning to full-time study, I worked in business and for a number of years chaired the British Institute of Florence.

Richard Jacques has been awarded a Zurbarán Scholarship (2021-2024), which is funded by the Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica.

Elisabetta Maistri

Dissertation Topic: Spanish Artists in Rome during the Nineteenth Century

I moved to Durham in October 2018 to pursue a PhD in the History of Art and Architecture, at the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council's Northern Bridge scholarship and supervised by Prof Stefano Cracolici and Dr Tom Stammers. My project is focused on the presence of Spanish art students in papal Rome during the pontificates of the two last pope-kings. It explores their artistic production in relation to the wider context of the Roman academies, artists' studios, and the Roman and international art market. I obtained my bachelor's degree in Economic Law from the Università degli Studi di Padova in July 2012. From Padova I moved to Università Ca' Foscari Venezia, where I completed two master's degrees: a Master of Art in Art Economics and Management of Cultural Activities (2015), and a Master of History of Art, early modern art curriculum (2017). I was visiting student at the Università degli Studi di Trento during the academic year 2012/2013. Furthermore, I hold a postgraduate diploma in art handling and artwork's movement from the Istituto Europeo del Design (2016). During my Venetian years, I gained work experience in the art sector in the field of event organisation and art education. I collaborated with the curators of two collateral events organised at the Venice Art Biennale (2013; 2015), with the educational team of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection as part of the regional program "A scuola di Guggenheim" (2015), with the team of a Venetian contemporary art gallery as gallery manager (2015-2016), and lastly with the director of the cultural activities of the Università Ca' Foscari Venezia for the events organised in occasion of the 150th anniversary of university (2017-2018).

Patricia Manzano-Rodríguez

Dissertation Topic: What's in a name? Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo in context

I am a PhD Candidate in History of Art and Architecture in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. Before coming to Durham I graduated with honours in History of Art (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) and completed an MA in Contemporary Art (Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Museo Reina Sofía). I was also part of the Erasmus exchange programme and spent a year abroad at the University of Edinburgh as an undergraduate student. During my formative years, I gained work experience in the field of Curating Practices and Museum Studies, collaborating with institutions such as the Friends of the Prado Museum Foundation, the Centre for Research Collections of the University of Edinburgh and the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid. My PhD dissertation, supervised by Professor Stefano Cracolici and Dr Edward Payne, focuses on Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo (ca. 1611-1667), who is better known for being Diego Velázquez's son-in-law and a velazqueño, a term used to describe the painters of the atelier and entourage of the master. My research interests have always revolved around Spanish Baroque art. Therefore, my project considers the issues of authorship, canon and authenticity in Early Modern Spain applied to Mazo's artistic reception and its broader implications for the study of the velazqueños as a group.

Irini Picolou

Dissertation topic: Gender and Corporeality in the Paintings of Bartolomé Bermejo

I came to Durham in 2014 to complete my BA in French and Hispanic Studies, where I expanded my sensibilities to visual and literary artefacts, as well as theories of race, gender, and the body. I received an Undergraduate research award in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, which enabled me to contribute to archival research at Ushaw College by analysing the importance of visual artefacts found within manuscripts and their relationship with text. This opportunity provided the backbone to the archival nature of my research during my MA in Languages, Literatures and Cultures, where my thesis focused on visual and textual representations of Arawak communities within 16th century colonial texts. During my master's degree, I also developed my insights on Modern, decolonial Art in my Visual Modernities module and how they related to modern theories of race, gender and corporeality introduced by the Critical Theories and Frameworks module as part of my MA course. I earned a distinction during my master's degree with my thesis recommended for publication. I have also undertaken further placements at Ushaw College, Pitzhanger Manor Gallery, and the Florence Nightingale Museum as a research assistant. My interdisciplinary PhD research is funded by the Wolfson Postgraduate Scholarship. I am currently a member of the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture and the Journal Officer in the MEMSA committee, as well as a first-year PhD student co-representative.

My research at BA and MA have mainly focused on Renaissance art and literature, as well as on modern theories concerning the relationship between gender, pain, and sexuality. My studies of gender throughout my master's degree have constituted an effective basis for my doctoral thesis entitled 'Gender and Corporeality in the Paintings of Bartolomé Bermejo', supervised by Professor Andy Beresford and Dr Yarí Pérez Marín. In this research project, I explore how Bermejo's paintings, which constitute a sculptural quality to them, progressive for the fifteenth-century artistic market, can introduce novel ways of considering how gender is constructed anatomically and conceptually, through gendered power relations in three focused contexts: the convergence of the supernatural and the material, experiences of pain and the human condition of spiritual subjects. This understanding of materiality extends and raises questions concerning contemporary understandings of gender and its relationship with the corporeal devised by theorists such as Judith Butler, Elizabeth Grosz and Julia Kristeva.

Yeidy Rosa

Dissertation Topic: "(Un)Making Guaman Poma's Illustrations: Reconsidering the Role of Visual Sources in El primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno, 1615"

I am a PhD researcher in History of Art, Visual Culture, and Hispanic Studies at the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, fully funded by the Durham Doctoral Studentship. My current research focuses on early modern transatlantic visual culture and is supervised by Dr Yarí Pérez Marín and Dr Laura León Llerena. I completed an MA in Social History of Art (Distinction) at the University of Leeds (2020), fully funded by the Tetley and Lupton Scholarship. My thesis, "Hidden and Revealed: Jewish-Muslim-Christian Relations, Women's Power and Family Feuds Through a Recently Uncovered Mural of the Lamentation in the Cathedral of Albarracín, Teruel, Aragon, Spain, XV Century",  was supervised by Dr Eva Frojmovic. I hold an MA in Humanities and Social Thought, completed between New York University and Columbia University (2005), and a BA in History of Art from The Ohio State University (2001). I have completed programs in History of Art, Archaeology, Visual Anthropology, and Palaeography at Koç University (Turkey), Ohio University (China), Columbia University (United States and Brazil), School of Advanced Study at University of London (UK), and at Casa Árabe Córdoba and the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, CSIC (Spain). I have taught History of Art at the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras (2015-2019), teaching the Arts of China, India, Japan, the Ancient Near East, Art and Gender, and Women in the Art of the Ancient World. I taught History of Art from ancient to modern at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Diseño de Puerto Rico (2013-2019), and Art Theory and Semiotics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador in Quito (2008-2010).

Rhodri Sheldrake Davies

Dissertation topic: Narrating the Archipelago: Hispanic Island Visual Print Media (VPM) during the 20th and 21st Centuries

I am a PhD Researcher in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures (MLAC) working on Hispanic Island Visual Cultures. My research is fully funded by the Wolfson Foundation’s Scholarship in the Arts and Humanities, and I was also awarded a St Cuthbert’s Society’s Postgraduate Bursary. My thesis, supervised by Dr. Francisco-J Hernández Adrián, Prof. Rosi Song, and Dr. Manolo Hijano centres on Political Cartoons, Comics, Tebeos, Visual Novels, and Caricature (Visual Print Media) in the 20th and 21st centuries. It particularly focuses upon work from the Canary Islands and Balearic Islands, although it also considers production from Ceuta and Melilla, Gibraltar, and further afield in the Atlantic. I am especially interested in avant-garde visual production and fermentations of cultural iconicity in these islenic spaces, and my research considers how these are culturally mediated through archipelagic thinking and how they ‘travel’ through archipelagic networks, as well as how they relate more broadly to discourses of transition and aesthetico-cultural/aesthetico-political histories in territorial, Iberian, and transnational frames.

I have a background in Modern Languages and Cultures, having studied Hispanic and Francophone Art, Film, Poetry, and Literature during my BA and MA degrees at Durham University. My Master’s thesis examined iconic and mythic framings of Canarian artist César Manrique between 1953 and the present, re-evaluating his cultural iconicity and arguing that the functions and origins of his iconic status ought to be considered in relation to mediations between territorial, national, and transnational frames. My Undergraduate dissertation examined satirical discourses surrounding the 2017 Spanish Constitutional Crisis and Catalan Independence Referendum in the work of Canarian humourist José Luis Padilla ‘Padylla’ Morilla, considering his engagements with discourses of peripherality and marginality whilst using his work to interrogate the applicability of humour theory frameworks in contemporary Spanish political satire.

My research interests more broadly include the history of Hispanic Art and Visual Cultures and theorisations of space and place, and race and gender in Islenic and pre-modern contexts. I am a member of the steering group for the Centre for Visual Arts and Cultures (CVAC) at Durham, in which I am involved in the organisation of the annual Visual Intersections Summer School.