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Dr Jennifer Sliwka

Dr Jennifer Sliwka

  • Research fellows

Deputy Director Visual Commentary on Scripture Project and Senior Research Fellow

Contact details


An art historian specialising in Italian Renaissance art, Jennifer received her PhD from the Johns Hopkins University and MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art.

Her research has been supported by the Getty Research Institute, the Kress Foundation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Villa I Tatti, The Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies.

She has taught for Universities in Canada, the US, France, Italy and the UK and helped design and teach the collaborative MA in ‘Christianity and the Arts’ between King’s College and the National Gallery.

From 2007-2017 she worked as a Curator at the National Gallery, London, curating exhibitions including: ‘Devotion by Design: Italian Altarpieces before 1500’ (2011), ‘Visions of Paradise: Botticini’s Palmieri Altarpiece’ (2015) and ‘Monochrome: Painting in Black and White’ (2017-18).

Before joining the National Gallery she worked at the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Research interests and PhD supervision

  • Sacred art and architecture of the Italian Renaissance
  • The history of representation of John the Baptist
  • The tradition of monochrome painting from the Medieval to the Contemporary

Jennifer Sliwka’s research interests draw on both art-historical and anthropological models to consider the ways space, architecture, memory, and tradition might condition our experience and understanding of sacred works of art.  She is interested in the cult, representation and appropriation of the saints in art and of John the Baptist in particular.

She has also long been interested in painters who produce works ‘without colour’ using a restricted palette of black, white and shades of grey.

Jennifer has published on a variety of Italian Renaissance works for international exhibition catalogues and is currently working on two books, one on the sixteenth-century Sienese artist Domenico Beccafumi and another on John the Baptist co-written with Professor Ben Quash.

Selected publications

  • Monochrome: Painting in Black and White, National Gallery Company, London 2017. [co-authored book]
  • ‘Exhibiting Christian Art’ in Material Religion, J. Vereecke and D. Apostolos-Cappadona (eds.), New York, 2016, pp. 321-342. [chapter]
  • Visions of Paradise: Botticini’s Palmieri Altarpiece, National Gallery Company, London 2015. [authored book]
  • with Donal Cooper, ‘In Context: San Pier Maggiore’, Apollo: The International Art Magazine (November, 2015), pp. 78-83. [article]
  • 'Armet se duritia: Domenico Beccafumi and the Politics of Punishment’ in Art as Politics in Late Medieval and Renaissance Siena, ed. T. Smith and J. Steinhoff, Aldershot, 2012, pp. 163-194. [chapter]

Expertise and public engagement

I have authored and presented the following digital resources/films:

Altarpieces in Context (a narrated slideshow explaining the history and development of the altarpiece and its various liturgical, spiritual and aesthetic functions)

Saint John the Baptist: From Birth to Beheading (10 short films on the life and representation of John the Baptist with Professor Ben Quash, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College, London)

Reconstructing San Pier Maggiore (a film made to accompany the exhibition ‘Visions of Paradise: Botticini’s Palmieri Altarpiece that showcases a collaborative project with the University of Cambridge to digitally reconstruct the former Florentine church of San Pier Maggiore)

I have also presented in films made to accompany the exhibitions ‘Monochrome: Painting in Black and White’ (2017), ‘Visions of Paradise: Botticini’s Palmieri Altarpiece’ (2015), ‘Michael Landy: Saint’s Alive’ (2013) and on representations of Mary Magdalene in association with the John Adams Opera ‘The Gospel According to the Other Mary’ at English National Opera with director Peter Sellars (2014). My live interview with the contemporary Danish/Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson (2017) at the National Gallery, London is available online and I have appeared as an art historical specialist for television programs for NHK Japan (2007) and in the recent ‘Exhibitions on Screen’ films ‘The Curious World of Hieronymous Bosch’ (2016) and ‘Michelangelo: Love and Death’ (2017).