Jill Burke profile picture

Job title:

Professor of Renaissance Visual and Material Cultures


On research leave until Sept 2023


Hunter Building, Room 0.59


Jill Burke is a historian of the body and its visual representation, focussing on Italy and Europe 1400-1700. She is on research leave until September 2023, as she is the Principal Investigator of a Royal Society funded project, 'Renaissance Goo', working with a soft matter scientist to remake Renaissance cosmetic and skincare recipes (see link below).

The Renaissance Goo project is part of Jill's wider investigation into how people in the Renaissance tried to look good - how they sought to change their bodies, faces and hairstyles to meet beauty ideals. Jill's next book, How to Be a Renaissance Woman, delves into the pressures Renaissance women felt to look a certain way and also how they subverted beauty ideals and used them to their own ends. It will be published by Profile Books in June 2023.

Jill's previous book, The Italian Renaissance Nude (2018) was selected for Choice's 2019 Outstanding Academic Titles list, and reviewed as "essential" and a "keystone for future studies". Jill also co-edited The Renaissance Nude, the catalogue for the exhibition of the same name in Los Angeles and London in 2018-19, and was on the curatorial team of this exhibition. She's talked about nudes on TV, radio and podcasts - links below.

Research interests

  • Cultural history c. 1400-1650
  • Historical reconstruction
  • History of the body
  • History of beauty cultures
  • History of science and knowledge


​Jill is currently on research leave and will not be teaching until September 2023. Normally Jill's teaching is directly derived from her research. She currently teaches one 3rd year course "Looking at Women in Renaissance Art" that considers women both as makers and as people represented in European art 1400-1600. Her fourth-year honours class, "The Renaissance Body" is an interdisciplinary feast of nudes, monsters and innards, considering how the body in representation reflects and informs understandings of corporality in this period. At MSc level, "Art and Sexuality in Renaissance Italy" considers the role of homoeroticism, courtesan culture and desire in Renaissance visual representation. ​


Previous to working on subjects relating to the body, Jill's work has focused on topics relating to social identity and the visual arts. Her interest in periodization led to her edited book, Rethinking the High Renaissance (Routledge, 2012); her interest in patronage and identity was discussed in her first monograph which was based on extensive archival research - Changing Patrons: Social Identity and the Visual Arts in Renaissance Florence (2004). Perhaps her happiest research moment was stumbling across a previously unknown scribbled note on the back of a receipt from 1509 describing a robot lion made by Leonardo da Vinci. The subsequent article "Meaning and Crisis in the Early Sixteenth Century" was published in Oxford Art Journal (2006). 

Current PhD students

Scarlett Butler

Feeling Fat: Experiencing and Treating Fatness in Early Modern France, 1515-1715

Tommaso Castaldi

Virtues and Vices. Communal art and secular art in Italy in the Late Middle Ages (1300-1450)

Mengxuan Sui

Diversity on Display: A Study on Gentry-Class Women and Their Painting Practice in the Jiangnan Region of High Qing China

PhD Supervision Topics

  • Renaissance and early modern visual and material culture (c. 1450-1650), especially Italian
  • Gender and the body, the nude, sexuality representation in medical texts
  • Body modification - tattoos, cosmetics, shaping the body through diet and exercise
  • Recipe texts, experimental history, remaking
  • Curating renaissance material

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