History of Art


Dr Jacopo Gnisci




A white man in a grey jumper and dark curly hair and a beard smiles at the camera

Jacopo is the Chair of the History of Art department's Boards of Examiners and a Lecturer in the Art and Visual Cultures of the Global South as well as a and a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Africa, Oceania, and the America at the British Museum. He is currently the co-Principal Investigator the projects Demarginalizing medieval Africa: Images, texts, and identity in early Solomonic Ethiopia (1270-1527) (AHRC Grant Ref. no. AH/V002910/1; DFG Projektnummer 448410109). Formerly, he co-dicrected other projects including Material Migrations: Mamluk Metalwork across Afro-Eurasia (Gerda Henkel Stiftung). Jacopo sits on the editorial board of several journals for medieval and African studies including Gesta,  Aethiopica: International Journal of Ethiopian and Eritrean Studies, and the Rassegna di Studi Etiopici and currently serves as an Associate of the International Center of Medieval Art (ICMA). His research has also featured in the media, in newspapers such as the New York Times and the Evening Standard.

Contact Details

Office: 203, 20 Gordon Square.
Office hours: Wednesday 14.00-15.00 and any other available time through email confirmation. Please always email about intention to attend office hours to avoid any clashes with other meetings.
Email: j.gnisci@ucl.ac.uk
Phone: (0)20 7679 7454


Lecturer in the Art and Visual Cultures of the Global South
Dept of History of Art 
Faculty of S&HS

Research Themes

Medieval art and architecture of Africa; Ethiopic, Syriac, Armenian, and Copto-Arabic illuminated manuscripts; Ethiopian and Eritrean art; historiography; Oriental Orthodox Christianity.


Jacopo’s research focuses on the history of manuscript illustration, on the art and architecture of Ethiopia and Eritrea, and on the marginalization of African art in Western institutions. He has covered on a range of topics including the interconnections between art and the liturgy, the transmission and reconceptualization of visual culture through portable objects such as medieval manuscripts, and the relationship between text and image and the creation of sainlty images, the significance of materiality and space in religious contexts, repatriation, the representation of Africans in pre-modern Western art, and the intersection of racism and scholarship in the late ninteenth century. He has moreover published studies on the use, significance, and/or symbolism of icons, metalwork, and ecclesiastical vestments in Ethiopia, and has been the first author to have an article on East Africa published in The Art Bulletin. His research has featured in documentaries, magazines, such as the Pitt Rivers and Apollo magazines, and newspapers such as the New York Times. He has been involved in several exhibitions, including Africa and Byzantium (2023-24) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Peace, Power and Prestige: Metal Arts in Africa (2020) at the Harn Museum of Art and Languages of God: Sacred Scripts of Ethiopia and Eritrea (2019) at the Bodleian Libraries, which was co-curated with members of the Ethiopian and Eritrean diaspora. The latter exhibition was accompanied by the publication of the volume Treasures of Ethiopia and Eritrea in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (2019), which he edited.

Selected Publications

Teaching and Supervision

Jacopo teaches courses on the late antique and medieval art of African and the Mediterranean world including HART0083 - Empires of Africa: Introduction to African Art & Archaeology, HART0193 - Demarginalizing 'Medieval' Africa: Challenges and Perspectives and HART0168 - Civilizations of the Book: The Global Middle Ages Through Illustrated Manuscripts. He welcomes expressions of interests from postgraduate students who wish to work on pre-modern illustrated manuscripts or African art. Potential applicants can contact Jacopo directly by email.

Current PhD Students:

Antonia DalivalleThe Grand Detour: James Bruce of Kinnaird (1730-1794) and the Reception of Ethiopia in Enlightenment Europe, (second supervisor with Professor Margot Finn, FBA, History Department).


Jacopo Gnisci graduated with a BA from the University of Rome 3 and an MA from UEA. He obtained his PhD from SOAS in 2016 while working there as a Teaching Assistant. He subsequently worked at Dallas Museum of Art and UT Dallas, the University of Hamburg, the Vatican Library, and the University of Oxford as Exhibition Assistant and Research Associate for the Monumental Art of the Christian and Early Islamic East ERC project. In 2019 he was awarded a Getty/ACLS Fellowship and in 2020 he worked as a Curator for the Endangered Material Knowledge Programme within the Department of Africa, Oceania, and the America at the British Museum. Jacopo has been carrying out fieldwork in East Africa for over 10 years. He has received several awards for his work, including a gold medal from the Sheherazade Foundation.