Art History Program

Michael Yonan

Michael Yonan
Professor of Art History
Focus Area: 

Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century European Art, the Decorative Arts, Object and Material Culture Studies


Ph.D. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001

Research Description: 

Michael Yonan is a scholar of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European art, with a special emphasis on the arts in Central and Northern Europe.  He is also interested broadly in the decorative arts, in material culture theory and studies, and in art historical methodology and historiography.  He has authored two monographs: Empress Maria Theresa and the Politics of Habsburg Imperial Art (Penn State University Press, 2011), and Messerschmidt's Character Heads: Maddening Sculpture and the Writing of Art History (Routledge, 2018).  He has also co-edited several volumes of essays: The Cultural Aesthetics of Eighteenth-Century Porcelain (Ashgate, 2010); Eighteenth-Century Art Worlds: Global and Local Geographies of Art (Bloomsbury, 2019); and a special double issue of the journal Eighteenth-Century Fiction devoted to "Material Fictions" (2018–19).  Several of his articles theorize art history as material culture, including the well-received "Toward a Fusion of Art History and Material Culture Studies," West 86th (2011), and "Materiality as Periphery," which is forthcoming in the journal Visual Resources.  

He has received fellowships from the Getty Research Institute, the Mellon Foundation, the Kress Foundation, the Fulbright Program (Austria, 1998), the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Uppsala, among others. Professor Yonan has lectured internationally and at major museums, including the Frick Collection, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Saint Louis Art Museum, and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.  Recently he has been invited to participate in the research project Powerful Presences: The Sculptural Portrait, organized by the University of Copenhagen and Thorvaldsens Museum, Denmark; and to a research project on reinterpreting ceramics at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, the results of which will be published in Journal of the Walters Art Museum.  In Spring 2020 he will be visiting guest professor at the Institute for Culture and Aesthetics, Stockholm University, Sweden.    

Professor Yonan is on the boards of the journals Eighteenth-Century Studies, Eighteenth-Century Fiction, The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, Journal18, and Sjuttonhundratal (Nordic Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies).  For Bloomsbury Academic press he edits the book series The Material Culture of Art and Design.  

  • ARH_VS 2860 The Lives of Objects: Thinking about Design History, the Decorative Arts, and Material Culture
  • ARH_VS 3005 Scandinavian Art (Honors Course)
  • ARH_VS 3730 Eighteenth-Century European Art
  • ARH_VS 3740 Nineteenth-Century European Art
  • ARH_VS 4005/7005 Art, Colonialism, and Cultural Exchange, 1650­–1850
  • ARH_VS 4120/7120 Gender and Art
  • ARH_VS 4160/7160 Global Encounters in Art History
  • ARH_VS4640/7640 Early Modern European Architecture
  • ARH_VS 4710/7710 Arts of the Rococo
  • ARH_VS 4720/7720 Art circa 1800: Revolution and Romanticism
  • ARH_VS 4730/7730 Realism to Post-Impressionism

ARHA 8710 Seminar in Eighteenth-Century Art.  Recent topics have included “Ornament and the Ornamental,” “Theorizing Material Culture,” “Art and Biography,” “Global Art in the Early Modern World,” "Collecting," and "Art Across the Globe."

Selected Publications: 


  • Eighteenth-Century Art Worlds: Global and Local Geographies of Art, co-edited with Stacey Sloboda (Bloomsbury, 2019)
  • Messerschmidt’s Character Heads:  Maddening Sculpture and the Writing of Art History  (Routledge, 2018) 
  • Empress Maria Theresa and the Politics of Habsburg Imperial Art (Penn State Press, 2011)
  • The Cultural Aesthetics of Eighteenth-Century Porcelain, co-edited with Alden Cavanaugh (Ashgate, 2010)

Articles and essays:

  • “Facial Expressions and First Impressions.” In Face to Face: Thorvaldsen and Portraiture, ed. Jane Fejfer and Kristine Bøggild Johannsen. Ex. cat., Thorvaldsens Museum, Denmark. (Copenhagen: Strandberg, 2020), 102–103.
  • “Picturing Empress Maria Theresa in Eighteenth-Century Denmark, Sweden, and Russia.” In Die Repräsentation Maria Theresias. Herrschaft und Bildpolitik im Zeitalter der Aufklärung, ed. Werner Telesko, Sandra Hertel, and Stefanie Linsboth (Vienna: Böhlau, 2020), 415–424.
  • "Materiality as Periphery." Visual Resources 35, No. 3–4 (2019): 200–216.
  • "Ornamentation."  In The Oxford Handbook of the Baroque, ed. John D. Lyons. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 409–426.
  • "Cats: The Soft Underbelly of the Enlightenment."  Co-authored with Amy Freund.  Journal18 Issue 7 Animals (Spring 2019).  Available here.  
  • "Mary Sheriff and ASECS." Co-authored with Jennifer Germann.  Eighteenth-Century Studies 52.2 (Winter 2019): 151–154.  
  • "The African Geographies of Angelo Soliman."  In Eighteenth-Century Art Worlds, ed. Sloboda and Yonan (Bloomsbury, 2019), 209–225.
  • "Mapping Global Eighteenth-Century Art Worlds."  Co-authored with Stacey Sloboda.  In Eighteenth-Century Art Worlds, ed. Sloboda and Yonan (Bloomsbury, 2019), 1–18.  
  • "Material Fictions: A Dialogue as Introduction." co-authored with Eugenia Zuroski.  Eighteenth-Century Fiction 31.1 (Fall 2018): 1–18.  Introduction to a special double issue of Eighteenth-Century Fiction on "Material Fictions."
  • “Dresden to Duchcov.”  In Casanova: The Seduction of Europe, ed. Frederick Ilchman, Thomas Michie, C. D. Dickerson III, and Esther Bell.  Published to accompany an exhibition held at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth; the Legion of Honor, San Francisco; and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (Boston: MFA Publications, 2017), 220–235. 
  • “Interdisciplinary Material Culture Studies and the Problem of Habsburg-Lorraine Representation.”  In Die Repräsentation der Habsburg-Lothringischen Dynastie in Musik, visuellen Medien und Architektur, ca. 1618­–1918/Representing the Habsburg-Lorraine Dynasty in Music, Visual Media and Architecture, ca. 1618–1918, ed. Werner Telesko. (Vienna: Böhlau, 2017): 21–37. 
  • “Materializing Empire in an Eighteenth-Century Lace Gown.” Textile: Cloth and Culture 14 (2016), 2–18. 
  • "Die Hinterlassenschaft Maria Annas und das Konzept einer fürstlichen Porträtsammlung.”  In Höfische Porträtkultur: Die Hinterlassenschaft Erzherzogin Maria Annas (1738–1789), ed. Eva Kernbauer and Aneta Zahradnik.  (Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2016): 25–36.
  • “Art in Eighteenth-Century Europe.”  Oxford Bibliographies in Art History, ed. Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.  
  • “The Uncomfortable Frenchness of the German Rococo.”  In Rococo Echo: Art, Theory, and Historiography from Cochin to Coppola, ed. Melissa Lee Hyde and Katie Scott.  Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment.  (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2014), 33­–51. 
  • “The Suppression of Materiality in Anglo-American Art-Historical Writing.” In The Challenge of the Object/Die Herausforderung des Objekts. Proceedings of the 33rd Congress of the International Committee of the History of Art (CIHA), Nürnberg, 15–20 July 2012.  Ed. Georg Ulrich Großmann and Petra Krutisch.  (Nürnberg: Verlag des Germanischen Nationalmuseums, 2014), I:63–66.   
  • “Material Transformations: Thinking about Objects and Spaces at the Wieskirche.”   Journal of Art Historiography 9 (9/MY1)(December 2013), 1–13.   
  • “Messerschmidt, the Hogarth of Sculpture.”  In Seeing Satire in the Eighteenth Century, ed. Elizabeth C. Mansfield and Kelly Malone.  Studies in Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century.  (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2013), 209–226.
  • “Kunsthistorisches Museum / Belvedere, Vienna: Dynasticism and the Function of Art.”  In The First Modern Museums of Art: The Birth of an Institution in Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century Europe, ed. Carole Paul.  (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2012), 167–189.
  • “The Wieskirche: Movement, Perception, and Salvation in the Bavarian Rococo.”  Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 41 (2012), 1–25.
  • “Toward a Fusion of Art History and Material Culture Studies.”  West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture 18, no. 2 (Fall–Winter 2011): 232–248. 
  • “Igneous Architecture: Porcelain, Natural Philosophy, and the Rococo .”  In The Cultural Aesthetics of Eighteenth-Century Porcelain ed. Alden Cavanaugh and Michael Yonan (Farnham, Surrey, and Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate, 2010), 65–85.
  • “Nobility and Domestic Conviviality in the Paintings of Archduchess Maria Christine.” Amitié, Convivialité, Hospitalité/Friendship, Conviviality, Hospitality. Proceedings of the 2008 ISECS International Seminar for Junior Eighteenth-Century Scholars, Pardubice, Czech Republic. Theatrum Historiae 4 (2009): 135–154. 
  • “Portable Dynasties: Imperial Gift-Giving at the Court of Vienna in the Eighteenth Century.”  The Court Historian 14, no. 2 (December 2009): 177–188. 
  • “Ornament’s Invitation: The Rococo of Vienna’s Gardekirche.”  The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 50, no. 4 (Winter 2009): 285–308.
  • “The Man Behind the Mask? Looking at Franz Xaver Messerschmidt.” Eighteenth-Century Studies 42, no. 3 (Spring 2009): 431–451.  
  • “Pompeo Batoni Between Rome and Vienna.”  Source: Notes in the History of Art  26, No. 2 (Winter 2007): 32­–37.
  • “Veneers of Authority: Chinese Lacquers in Maria Theresa’s Vienna.” Eighteenth-Century Studies  37, no. 4 (Summer 2004): 652–672. 
  • “Modesty and Monarchy: Rethinking Empress Maria Theresa at Schönbrunn.”  Austrian History Yearbook  35 (2004): 25–47.
  • “Conceptualizing the : Empress Maria Theresa and her Portraits.”  In Widowhood and Visual Culture in Early Modern Europe, ed. Allison Levy. (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), 109–125.