Jeanette Kohl

Jeanette Kohl

Art History, Riverside
Fellowship: 01.05.–31.09.2015


Jeanette Kohl is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of California, Riverside.
Her research focuses on image concepts of the
 Italian Renaissance, on portraiture, sculpture and materiality, representations of the body, and issues of methodology and perception. She earned her PhD from the University of Trier in 2001, and was a Postdoc Fellow at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence (2001-2004), an Assistant Professor at Leipzig University (2004-2008), and a Visiting Professor at the University Jena (2007). She chaired the DFG-Network »The Power of Faces« (2006-09) and co-organized the NEH project »F.A.C.E.S. – Faces, Art, and Computerized Evaluation Systems« (2010-14). In 2014, she was a Getty Scholar with her book project »Image and Likeness. Renaissance Bust Portraits and Their Viewers.«
She is the author of »Fama und Virtus. Bartolomoe Colleonis Grabkapelle« (2004), and co-editor of »Kopf/Bild. Die Büste in Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit« (2007), »Similitudo. Konzepte der Ähnlichkeit« (2012), »En Face. Seven Essays on the Human Face« (2012), and »Renaissance Love. Eros, Passion, and Friendship in Italian Art Around 1500« (2014).


Fields of Research

  • Italian Renaissance Art and Visual Culture
  • Portraiture, Sculpture and Materiality
  • History of the Face and Body
  • Early modern Medical Illustrations
  • Tomb sculpture
  • Representation and Mimesis
  • Connections between Early Modern and Contemporary Art


Project outline

Image and Likeness. Figurations of the Individual in Renaissance Bust Portraiture


This project attempts a first comprehensive analysis and interpretation of Renaissance portrait busts. It scrutinizes the meanings and functions of naturalistic similitude/likeness in Renaissance culture and its figurations in sculpted portraiture by re-evaluating ideas of ethical and social conduct and antique ideals of virtue. My contribution also reflects upon underlying concepts of indexicality and its relation to both notions of individual presence and of the presentation and ›presentification‹ of relics in religious bust ›portraits‹ of the time. Integrating life casts and death masks, many of the objects in question claim utmost authenticity and truthfulness, while largely circumventing artistic mimesis and creativity. As such, they bear a strong face value within Renaissance culture – long before the ›romanticizing‹ of death-masks in the 18th and 19th century. In asking why Italian sculpted portraits of the 15th and early 16th centuries were based to such a high degree on mechanical, reproductive principles which counteract common notions of the Renaissance artist’s quest to create liveliness in images, I am unfolding how concepts of truth and reproduction, in images and nature, can be of heuristic and hermeneutic value for our understanding of Renaissance individuality and its moral, political, and genealogical implications.


Publications (Selection)


  • Fama und Virtus. Bartolomeo Colleonis Grabkapelle. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 2004 (Diss. 2001).
  • Renaissance Love. Eros, Passion, and Friendship in Italian Art Around 1500. Jeanette Kohl, Marianne Koos, and Adrian Randolph (eds.). Deutscher Kunstverlag, Munich/Berlin 2014.
  • Similitudo. Konzepte der Ähnlichkeit in Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit. Jeanette Kohl, Martin Gaier, Alberto Saviello (eds.). Fink Verlag, Munich 2012.
  • En Face. Seven Essays on the Human Face. Jeanette Kohl, Dominic Olariu (eds.), kritische berichte, 1/2012.
  • Kopf / Bild. Die Büste in Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit. Jeanette Kohl, Rebecca Müller (eds.). Deutscher Kunstverlag, Munich/Berlin 2007 .



  • Hannah Wilke: Intra-Venus. In: Venus as Muse. From Lucretius to Serres. Hanjo Berressem, Guenter Blamberger, Sebastian Goth (eds.). Rodopi, Amsterdam/New York 2015, pp. 73-120.
  • Mimesis. Notes from the Field. In: The Art Bulletin 95/2 (June 2013), pp. 205-207.
  • No one in particular. Donatello’s San Rossore. In: Inventing Faces. Rhetorics of Portraiture Between Renaissance and Modernism. Mona Koerte, Stefan Weppelman et al. (eds.) for Gemäldegalerie Staatliche Museen Berlin and ZfL, Berlin 2013, pp. 15-28.
  • Die Federn der Seele. Einkleidung eines Sinnbilds. In: Kleider machen Bilder. Vormoderne Strategien vestimentärer Bildsprache. David Ganz, Marius Rimmele (eds). Edition Imorde: Textile Studies 4, Emsdetten/Berlin 2012, pp. 195-218.
  • Body, Mind, and Soul. On the So-Called ‘Platonic Youth’ in the Bargello, Florence. In: Subject as Aporia in Early Modern Art. Alexander Nagel, L. Pericolo (eds.), Ashgate, Aldershot 2010, 43-69.