History of Art and Architecture

Christopher J. Nygren

Associate Professor



Constellation(s): Agency, Mobility/Exchange, Visual Knowledge

Dr. Christopher Nygren is Director of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program and assistant professor of Renaissance and Baroque Art in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. He earned a B.A. with honors from the University of Notre Dame and completed his M.A. and Ph.D. (with distinction) at Johns Hopkins University. His research focuses on the intersection of religion, philosophy, and art in the Italian Renaissance, and it has been featured in The Art Bulletin, Renaissance Quarterly, Word & Image, Modern Language Notes, and other leading academic journals. Over his career, he has received fellowships from the Kress Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Delmas Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Science Foundation.

His 2020 book, Titian’s Icons: Charisma, Tradition, and Devotion in the Italian Renaissance, tracks the career of one of the most successful painters of the Italian Renaissance, who was credited by his contemporaries with painting a miracle-working image (Christ Carrying the Cross, San Rocco). Taking this unusual circumstance as a point of departure, the book revisits the scope and impact of Titian’s life’s work and shows how, motivated by his status as the creator of a miracle-working object, Titian played an active and essential role in reorienting the long tradition of Christian icons over the course of the sixteenth century. Titian’s unique status as a painter whose work was viewed as a conduit of divine grace allowed him to fundamentally reconfigure Christian icon painting. This book not only tracks the career of one of the most important artists in the tradition of Western painting but also brings to light new information about how divergent agendas of religious, political, and artistic reform interacted over the long arc of the sixteenth century.

He is currently developing a second book-length project that examines the phenomenon of painting on stone substrates, which emerged in Italy around 1530. This project is provisionally titled Matter and Similitude in Italian Painting and the Transatlantic Renaissance.

Dr. Nygren is also developing a number of collaborative research projects, which give the humanities a public face, including the Genealogies of Modernity project (https://genealogiesofmodernity.org/). He is co-founder of the Gun Violence and Its Histories working group at the University of Pittsburgh, which aims to shed light on the historical contexts around gun violence. Guns, gun violence, and societal responses to them change over time and in response to the fluctuation of local, national, and global forces. GVH believes that excavating and exposing the historicity of those trajectories not only highlights the potentialities that are embedded in our own historicity, but also reveals that early modernists working in the humanities have something to say about gun violence today. www.gvh.pitt.edu

His teaching encompasses a wide array of themes, periods and geographies including Italian art from 1200-1700, German and Netherlandish Renaissance and Baroque art, and early modern Iberian art. His interest in the materiality of art and religious practice have led him to begin teaching Spanish Baroque art within a global context. This work focus on the frictions – cultural, religious, artistic – created by the enhanced flow of peoples and cultures in the Spanish colonial world.

Education Details

Ph.D. Johns Hopkins University (2011)

M.A. Johns Hopkins University (2005)

B.A. University of Notre Dame (2003)

Selected Publications


“A Stone Through the Window of Art History: Paintings on Stone and the Legacy of Pictorial Illusionism.” Steinformen. Materialität, Qualität, Imitation, edited by Isabella Augart, Maurice Saß, and Iris Wenderholm (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2019): 75-96. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110583618-006

“The Matter of Similitude: Stone Paintings and the Limits of Representation,” in “Almost Eternal”: Paintings on Stone and Material Innovation in Early Modern Europe, edited by Piers Baker-Bates and Elena Calvillo (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2018): 131-159.https://brill.com/abstract/book/edcoll/9789004361492/B9789004361492_007.xml

“A Role-Based Model for Successful Collaboration in Digital Art History,” co-authored essay written in collaboration with Tracey Berg-Fulton, Alison Langmead, Thomas Lombardi, and David Newbury. International Journal for Digital Art History 3 (2018), 152-180. https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php/dah/article/viewFile/34297/43447

“Titian’s Ecce Homo on Slate: Stone, Oil, and the Transubstantiation of Painting.” The Art Bulletin 99:1 (March 2017), 36-66. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00043079.2017.1265285

“Titian’s Christ and the Coin: Recovering the Spiritual Currency of Numismatism in Renaissance Ferrara.” Renaissance Quarterly 69/2, 449-88. (2016) DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/687607

“Figuring Miraculous Agency Between Literature and Art:  An Analysis and Translation of Eustachio Celebrino’s Li stupendi et marauigliosi miracoli del glorioso Christo di San Roccho (ca. 1523).” MLN 131:1, 20-56. (2016) DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/mln.2016.0008

“The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and Italian Art Circa 1500: Mantegna, Antico, and Correggio.” Word & Image: A Journal of Verbal/Visual Enquiry, 31:2, 140-154, (2015) DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02666286.2015.1023020

“Titian’s Miracles: Artistry and Efficacy Between the San Rocco Christ and the Accademia Pietà.” Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz (Max-Planck-Institut), LVII.3, 320-349. (2015) http://www.jstor.org/stable/43738211

“Stylizing Eros: Narrative Ambiguity and the Discourse of Desire in Titian’s So-Called Salome,” in Renaissance Love: Eros, Passion, and Friendship in Italian Art around 1500, edited by Jeanette Kohl, Marianne Koos and Adrian Randolph (Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag, I Mandorli series), 23-44. (2014) https://www.academia.edu/8074326/_Stylizing_Eros_in_Renaissance_Love_Titians_Judith_Salome


Titian’s Icons: Tradition, Charisma, and Devotion in Renaissance Italy. Penn State University Press.

Selected Awards

American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship for the project Matter and Similitude in Italian Painting and The Transatlantic Renaissance. 2017-18. https://www.acls.org/research/fellow.aspx?cid=c503b1b4-7e02-e711-9452-000c29879dd6

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar, “Visual Exegesis: Images as Instruments of Scriptural Interpretation and Hermeneutics.” 2013-14.

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Penn Humanities Forum. 2011-13.

Samuel H. Kress Pre-Doctoral Fellow in the History of Art at the Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florence. 2008-10.

Gladys Krieble Delmas Grant for Independent Research in Venice and the Veneto. 2008-09.

J. Clawson Mills Fellowship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2008-09 (declined).