PhD University of Chicago
3025 William Johnston Building
Dr. Stephanie Leitch joined the faculty in 2007. Her current project The Art of Observation in the Early Modern Print focuses on the visual treatment of novelties and the organizational schemes invented to handle them in printed media. Visual impulses to document observations in new epistemic genres such as cosmographies, botanicals, and physiognomies tread a careful tightrope between naturalistic space and normative models. Challenging the canonical notion that Renaissance visuality was typically formalized in naturalistic space, printed genres developing informational aims frequently subordinated veristic concerns to documentary formulations. This project examines the surface tension endemic to print in the charting of cosmographic and geographic information, in the battle between particularity and convention in physiognomies and Kunstbücher, and in the rise of the visual conceit of anamorphosis to plot the multivalent contributions to new knowledge.
In the summer of 2023, Dr. Leitch led the 45th international summer course at the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, on the topic of Early Modern Visual Data: Organizing Knowledge in Printed Books. The workshop is featured in this video published by the Herzog August Bibliothek:
Her book Mapping Ethnography in Early Modern Germany: New Worlds in Print Culture (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) locates a moment of relativistic and proto- ethnographic treatment of extra-Europeans in the print culture of early sixteenth century Augsburg. It identifies new visual thinking about humanity in the “new worlds” of America, Africa and Asia as the result of a productive exchange amongst artists Hans Burgkmair, Jörg Breu and humanists in their milieu. Their prints challenge both art historical and anthropological models to consider cross-cultural exchange in Renaissance print culture and argue for the role of visual culture in ethnography’s development. Mapping Ethnography in Early Modern Germany won the Roland H. Bainton prize for Art History in 2011.
Her new book project, Early Modern Print Media and the Art of Observation: Training a Literate Eye (Cambridge University Press, 2024), argues for the role of prints in constructing the physical and pictorial practices of observations in the early modern period. First-hand observations were both visualized and organized in images that sought to reproduce unmediated experience with the world. Prints in nascent epistemic genres helped cue observation, calibrate sightings, and thus, shaped and sharpened visual acuity. The prescriptions these images delivered for visually investigating human, terrestrial and cosmographic phenomena challenged enshrined knowledge by presenting how-to information arguably of more immediate concern to lay audiences—images that could help one spot a chicken thief by a close reading of physiognomies, locate oneself at sea by sighting celestial phenomena, gauge distances, or assist in the interpretation of prodigious occurrences. Aligning avenues of inquiry from art history and the history of science, this book scrutinizes the visual strategies at work in physiognomies, cosmographies, and natural histories to assess how they supported claims of first-hand experience.
Lacy Gillette: “People Watching in Paper Worlds: Jost Amman (1539-1591) and Picturing the ‘Type’ in the Sixteenth-Century Illustrated Book.”
Britt Boler Hunter: “The Wellcome Apocalypse: Innovating Pictorial Traditions in the Ordinatio of a Late Medieval Multi-Text Manuscript.” (Co-chair)
Alexandra Challenger: “Measuring the Heavens: Printed Instruments, Illustrations, and the Construction of Cosmography in Early Modern Germany.”
Rachel Masters Carlisle: “All’antica Augsburg: Picturing German Antiquity in the Age of Print.”
Carolina Alarcon: “Materia Medica: Anatomical Illustrations in Renaissance Spain.”
Sarah Andyshak: “Christ and Exegesis: Visual Interpretation in the Moralized Bibles, Circa 1225-1235.” (Co-chair)
Diantha Steinhilper, “Identity and Empire in the Colonial Maps of Mexico,1524-1600.” (Co-chair)
List of FSU Art History dissertations
“Visual Images in Travel Writing,” in N. Das and T. Youngs, eds., Cambridge History of Travel Writing (NY: Cambridge University Press, 2019), 456-473.
“Dürer’s Rhinoceros Underway: the Epistemology of the Copy in the Early Modern Print,” in D. Cashion et al., eds., The Primacy of the Image in Northern European Art, 1400-1700: Essays in Honor of Larry Silver (Boston: Brill, 2017), 241-255.
“Cosmopolitan Renaissance: Prints in the Age of Exchange,” in Daniel Savoy, ed., The Globalization of Renaissance Art: A Critical Review (Boston: Brill, 2017); 176-217.
“Visual Epistemology and a Short History of the Monstrous Races,” History of Knowledge, June 3, 2017.
“Visual Acuity and the Physiognomer’s Art of Observation,” Oxford Art Journal 2015.
“Vespucci’s Triangle and the Shape of the World,” in A. Cardoso and L. Villas Bôas (eds.), Cadernos de Letras 29: Estudos Atlânticos: Literatura, História, Cultura.
“Positive ID and the Renaissance Printed Profile” in Print Theory (forthcoming).
Mapping Ethnography in Early Modern Germany: New Worlds in Print Culture (Palgrave, 2010).
“Burgkmair’s Peoples of Africa and India (1508) and the Origins of Ethnography in Print,” Art Bulletin 91:2 (June 2009), 134-15.
“The Wild Man, Charlemagne, and the German Body,” Art History: Journal of the Association of Art Historian 31:3 (June 2008), 283-302.
“Seeing Objects in Personal Devotion,” Pious Journeys: Christian Devotional Art and Practice in the later Middle Ages and Renaissance (Chicago, 2001).
American Council of Learned Societies 2018 Collaborative Fellowship
Bold Books and Bones:
An interview with Stephanie Leitch on the Nuremberg Chronicle