Our Team


Principal Investigators

Dr Abigail Brundin, Department of Italian, Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages
Professor Deborah Howard, Faculty of Architecture and History of Art
Professor Mary Laven, Faculty of History

Post-Doctoral Research Associates

Dr Maya Corry, Department of History of Art (October 2013 – March 2017)
Dr Marco Faini, Department of Italian, Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages (October 2013 – July 2016)
Dr Alessia Meneghin, Faculty of History (October 2013 – August 2016)

Doctoral Students

Irene Galandra Cooper, Faculty of History (Doctorate awarded 2017)
Zuzanna Sarnecka, Department of History of Art (Doctorate awarded 2017)
Katherine Tycz, Department of Italian, Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages (Thesis submitted September 2017)


Rachel Burgess (January 2014-October 2017)


First meeting1


Abigail Brundin is Reader in Early Modern Literature and Culture in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, and a Fellow of St Catharine’s College. She specialises in the literature and culture of Italy in the renaissance and early modern periods. She has published on women writers in the first age of print, on literature and religious reform, including censorship and the first Indexes of Prohibited Books, on convent poetry, and on the English engagement with Italy through the Grand Tour. For the Domestic Devotions project she worked to map the production of vernacular devotional literature across the three regions under investigation, in order to understand how people bought and consumed devotional books at all levels of society.

Deborah Howard is Professor Emerita of Architectural History, Director of Research in the Faculty of Architecture and History of Art and a Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge.  During her career spanning more than four decades, her research has focused especially on the art and architecture of Venice and the Veneto; the relationship between architecture and music; and cultural exchange in the eastern Mediterranean.  Her recent books include Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice: Architecture, Music, Acoustics (with Laura Moretti, 2009) and Venice Disputed: Marc’Antonio Barbaro and Venetian Architecture 1550-1600 (2011). She is a Fellow of the British Academy. She is committed to interdisciplinarity and to the exploration of the relationship between history and visual culture.  Her role in Domestic Devotions provided specialist expertise in Italian Renaissance architecture, so devotional activity in the domestic interior could be seen in its spatial, aural and visual context.  As far as artefacts are concerned, she is especially interested in glass, ceramics and furnishings.

Mary Laven is Professor of Early Modern History in the Faculty of History, and a Fellow of Jesus College. Her publications hitherto have focused on nuns, Jesuits, and the Counter-Reformation. Her work for the project considers religious renewal before the Council of Trent, with a Particular focus on material culture, miracles, and the Marche.

Maya Corry gained a BA in History from Oxford, and an MA in the History of Art from the Courtauld Institute. She recently completed her doctorate at the University of Oxford, titled: ‘Masculinity and spirituality in Renaissance Milan: the role of the beautiful body in the art of Leonardo da Vinci and the Leonardeschi’. Whilst at Oxford, she held the position of Graduate Teaching and Research Scholar in Early Modern History for Oriel College. Maya’s research interests encompass the social and cultural history of early modern Italy, particularly with regard to gender, the body, beauty, age, religious devotion, and interactions between beholders and artworks. She has an article published in the November 2013 issue of the journal Gender & History, titled ‘The alluring beauty of a Leonardesque ideal: masculinity and spirituality in Renaissance Milan’.  She is now Stipendiary Lecturer in History at the University of Oxford.

Marco Faini holds a Laurea from the University of Pavia and a PhD in Italian Studies from the University of Urbino ‘Carlo Bo’. He has been awarded post-docs from the University of Urbino (2005, 2007, 2011, 2012) and the University of Bergamo (2010). In 2009-2010 he was awarded a one-year fellowship at the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel. He has been an adjunct professor of Philology and Dante Studies at the University of Urbino, and a visiting professor of Italian Renaissance Literature at the Westfälische-Wilhelms Universität, Münster. He specialises in early modern Italian literature. His research interests to date have included heroic and mock-heroic poetry, macaronic and comic literature, emblems and imprese, and biblical epic.  After finishing his post in Cambridge, Marco held the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship at Villa I Tatti, Florence. In the academic year 2017-18 he is Instructor of Italian at the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester.

After being awarded her PhD from the University of St Andrews in 2011, Alessia Meneghin won a one-year Fellowship from the Society for Renaissance Studies to continue her research into shopping by ordinary people in late-medieval Prato and Florence. In 2012 was appointed Assistant Investigator on the ARC-funded project, directed by Dr Nicholas Eckstein (University of Sydney), on The Anatomy and Physiology of Renaissance Florence: The Dynamics of Social Change in the Fifteenth Century. Alessia is particularly interested in the social history of the rigattieri, the used-cloth dealers in fifteenth-century Florence. The results of her current research are in the process of being published in a series of articles in peer-reviewed journals. She is particularly interested in analyzing the social mobility, living standards and consumption practices of the lower groups of society, and has to date focussed on late medieval and early Renaissance Florence. To this end she has been investigating material culture, and the circulation of objects disseminated down the social scale, with a particular focus on cheap clothing and accessories.  She has recently been appointed Ahmanson Fellow at Villa I Tatti, Florence researching social and geographical mobility in Early Renaissance Florence.

Irene Galandra Cooper completed her PhD, which explores the materiality of devotion in Cinquecento Naples, at Jesus College, University of Cambridge, under the supervision of Dr Mary Laven in the History Faculty, and continued to support the team as a Research Assistant until September 2017. Irene completed a BA in Italian Literature and History of Art in Italy at the ‘Universita’ degli Studi’ in Pavia. She completed an MA at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, for which she studied and catalogued Italian fourteenth-century gilded-glass reliquaries. Irene subsequently followed her object-focused interests and worked for the Wallace Collection, London, for the National Gallery in London as the winner of the ‘Neil MacGregor scholarship for young researchers’, for the Courtauld Institute as a Research Assistant in the Medieval Art Department with Professor Joanna Cannon, and for the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge as a Research Assistant in the Department of Applied Arts, helping to catalogue their collections of Italian ceramic and bronze statuettes. She convened the graduate seminar series on material culture, Things: (Re)constructing the Material World, funded by CRASSH.

Zuzanna Sarnecka is a lecturer in Art History at the University of Warsaw. Her doctoral thesis at the University of Cambridge, under the supervision of Professor Deborah Howard as a part of the Domestic Devotions project, focused on the devotional and artistic significance of glazed terracotta sculpture in the Marche. In May 2017 she was awarded an annual START grant by the Foundation for Polish Science. She has recently published on Luca della Robbia’s devotional reading in relation to his reliefs (Artibus et Historiae, no. 74, 2016). Her other publications include: The Agency of Things in Medieval and Early Modern Art: Materials, Power and Manipulation, eds. Jurkowlaniec G. – Matyjaszkiewicz I., – Sarnecka Z. (eds.), New York and London (forthcoming July 2017), ‘The Identity of Wooden Crucifixes in the Culture of the Fifteenth-Century Umbria’, Arte Medievale, 2014, Artistic Translations Between Fourteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. Proceedings, Sarnecka Z. – Fedorowicz-Jackowska A. (eds.), (Warsaw: 2013).

Katherine Tycz has submitted her PhD thesis in Italian, entitled ‘Material Prayers: The Use of Text in Early Modern Italian Domestic Devotions’, under the supervision of Abigail Brundin at St. Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge. Her doctoral research focuses upon the materiality of text. Her thesis explores how devotees, from a range of socio-economic backgrounds, employed objects that included religious phrases, words, or prayers for their spiritual, apotropaic, and intercessory qualities. As a member of the Domestic Devotions project, she helped to curate the exhibition Madonnas & Miracles: The Holy Home in Renaissance Italy (Fitzwilliam Museum March-June 2017). She holds a BA in Italian & Art History from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA and a MA in the History of the Decorative Arts, Design History, & Material Culture from the Bard Graduate Center in New York. She has worked as graduate researcher in European Sculpture & Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as a collections cataloguer at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Connecticut, and contributed to the recent Treasured Possessions exhibition at Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum. From 2014-2016 she convened the seminar series, Things, which is funded by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) in Cambridge.  She is currently the Kress Interpretive Curatorial Fellow at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art from 2016-2017 where she is researching the museum’s Kress collection of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque artworks.

Rachel Burgess grew up in Cambridge, but also spent a year living in Sorrento as a child.  She has a first-class degree in French and Italian from the University of Leicester, with a year studying abroad at the universities of Besançon in France and Turin in Italy.  After graduating, she returned to Cambridge and worked for several years in finance in local manufacturing companies, qualifying as a management accountant.  She has enjoyed being part of such an interesting and dynamic project team allowing her to combine her love of Italian with her organisational skills.  She managed the day-to-day administration of the project, compiling and editing the bibliography and image database, and arranging seminars and conferences.  In addition, she worked alongside the team at the Fitzwilliam to plan the exhibition and produce accompanying publications. Rachel is now working in new roles in the University of Cambridge.


First meeting


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