History of Art


Dr Allison Stielau


Dr Allison Stielau

Dr Allison Stielau

Allison Stielau is Lecturer in Early Modern Art. Her research, teaching, and supervision cover Northern Europe and its contact zones between 1400 to 1700, and the afterlife of that period and its artifacts in later centuries. She has published on leather étuis, fifteenth-century engravings of metalwork, weight as a category of historical and art historical evidence, and sixteenth-century siege coins. Her current book project considers the meltdown and transformation of precious metalwork in the early modern world.

Contact details

Office: 206, 21 Gordon Square
Office Hours: Thursdays 10 am on Teams and Fridays 2-3 pm in Person
Phone: +44 (0)20 3108 4029 (internal 54029)
Email: a.stielau@ucl.ac.uk

Website: astielau.com


Lecturer in History of Art
Dept of History of Art
Faculty of S&HS

Research Themes

Northern European art and material culture, c. 1400-1700; Dutch genre painting; materiality and artisanal practice; art and the European Reformations; print culture; early modern decorative art and design; monetary culture; classical myth in Renaissance visual culture: Pre-Raphaelite painting and the Gothic Revival.

Art Design and Architecture

Research summary

Allison’s research interests cover ‘object cultures’ in early modern Northern Europe in the period 1400 to 1700—art, material/visual culture, and artifacts that test the limits of those categories, like mineral samples and ingots. She has published articles on leather étuis, fifteenth-century engravings of metalwork, weight as a category of historical and art historical evidence, and sixteenth-century siege coins, among other topics. A theme connecting many of these disparate studies is transformation, whether representations of Ovidian metamorphosis, translation between media, or the physical transformations artworks experience over time and through the radical breaks caused by fiscal, political, and religious emergencies. Her current book project considers the meltdown and transformation of precious metalwork in the early modern world. A related research project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust in 2019–2020, investigates the legacies of metallic transformation in post-war German art, in the work of conceptual artists like Joseph Beuys and the ecclesiastical goldsmith Fritz Schwerdt. Further articles, on early modern portraits of goldsmiths and on the social life of coins in fifteenth-century German family life, are currently in preparation. With the US-based artist and graphic designer Anne Callahan, Allison is working on a long-term project curating diagrams used in art historical texts and pedagogy.

Selected publications

Journal Articles

"The 1869 Regensburger Silberfund: A Seventeenth-Century Hoard of Silver," Metropolitan Museum Journal 58 (2023), 34-58.

"Inscription, the Embossed Surface, and the Ceremonial Sip: The Traubenpokal of Bernkastel-Kues, 1661-2001," German History 41:3 (2023), 419-443. 

"Liquid Metaphors and the Politics of Melted Metal," West 86th 28:2 (2021), 319-326.

“The Weight of Plate in Early Modern Inventories and Secularization Lists,” Journal of Art Historiography 11 (December 2014), 1–24.

“The Case of the Case for Early Modern Objects and Images,” kritische berichte 3 (2011) [issue theme: “Die Kunst und die Dinge, Perspektiven einer schwierigen Beziehung”], 5–16.

Chapters in Edited Volumes

"I Was Made from Earth: A Rhineland Archaeological Discovery, 1572," in The Routledge Companion to Global Renaissance Art, edited by Stephanie Porras and Stephen J. Campbell [forthcoming 2024].

"The Censer In and After the Reformation: Authority, Rebellion, Transgression," in Holy Smoke: Censers Across Cultures, edited by Beate Fricke (Hirmer, 2023), 213-255. 

"Margarethe Butzbach and the Florin Extorted by Blows: Coins Securing Social Bonds in Fifteenth-Century Germany," in Money Matters in European Artworks and Literature, c. 1400-1750, edited by Natasha Seaman and Joanna Woodall, 203-226 (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2022).

“‘Adding to the Good Silver with Other Trickery’: Purity and Contamination in Clement VII’s Emergency Currency,” in Contamination and Purity in Early Modern Art and Architecture, ed. Lauren Jacobi and Daniel M. Zolli, 157–182 (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2021).

“Sixteenth-Century Notklippen as Objects of Warfare? Realia, Representation, Narration,” in Romana Kaske and Julia Saviello, eds, Objekte des Krieges: Präsenz & Repräsentation (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2019).

“Intent and Independence: Late Fifteenth-Century Object Engravings,” in Jeffrey Chipps Smith, ed., Visual Acuity and the Arts of Communication in Early Modern Germany (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2014).


“Fit Vessel: Kwab at the Rijksmuseum,” Review of Kwab: Dutch Design in the Age of Rembrandt, West 86th 26:1 (2019): 110–132.

Allison has taught a variety of courses in her research specialties. In addition to convening the BA first-year Foundations survey in both terms and serving as the third-year Dissertation Tutor, she has taught a second-year lecture ‘Sense and Sensation in Early Modern Art and Culture’, and a third-year special subject course, ‘Early Modern Metamorphosis’. She has also taught ‘Gold, Silver, Bronze: Art, Materiality, and Value, c. 1400–the Present’, an MA special subject course.
She would be interested to hear from potential postgraduate students wanting to pursue research topics relating to early modern art and visual/material culture, materials and materiality, word and image, artisanal practice, or others within her areas of expertise. Potential applicants should contact Allison directly to discuss their proposals.

Current PhD supervision

Alice Marinelli, ‘Truth, Melancholia and Denial: The Caravaggisti Problem’ (UCL, Second Supervisor, with Rose Marie San Juan)

Elsa Perryman-Owens, 'Melted, Singed, Incinerated, Saved: Traumatic Materialities of the Great Fire of London' (UCL, Primary Supervisor, with Professor Jason Peacey, UCL History)

Nicholas Babbington, ‘Held to Account: British Caricature and the Financial Discourse of the Late Eighteenth Century' (UCL, Second Supervisor, with Richard Taws)

Alison Harpur, 'Visual Culture and the Council of Ferrara-Floence (1438-1445)' (UCL, Second Supervisor, with Alison Wright)  

Emilia Pearce, 'The Sound of Seventeenth-Century Netherlandish Painting' (UCL, Second Supervisor, with Rose Marie San Juan)

Petra Sikic, 'Gesture and the Body in Early Modern Italy' (UCL, Second Supervisor, with Rose Marie San Juan)

Allison completed her PhD in Art History at Yale University in 2015. Before coming to UCL, she was a postdoctoral fellow on the international interdisciplinary research project Early Modern Conversions, based at McGill University in Canada, and a predoctoral research fellow at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles (2014–15). She holds an MA in the History of Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture from the Bard Graduate Center in New York and a BA in English from Yale University.