Home Faculty Full Time Faculty Blake McHam, Sarah

Blake McHam, Sarah

blake mcham horiz


Distinguished Professor
Italian Renaissance Art
Ph.D., Institute of Fine Arts
New York University

Phone: (848) 932-1244

Email Dr. McHam

Biographical Information:

Professor McHam is a specialist in Italian painting and sculpture between 1200 and 1600. Her book on the influence of Pliny the Elder on Italian art and art theory was published by Yale University Press in February 2013. Recent publications include articles such as “Pliny’s Influence on Vasari’s First Edition of the Lives,” Artibus et Historiae, 64 (2011), 9-23; “Giambologna’s Equestrian Monument to Cosimo I: The Monument Makes the Memory,” Patronage and Italian Renaissance Sculpture, ed. Kathleen Wren Christian and David J. Drogin, Surrey: Ashgate, 2010, 195-222; “Donatello’s Judith as the Emblem of God’s Chosen People,” The Sword of Judith: Judith Studies across the Disciplines, ed. Kevin R. Brine, Elena Ciletti and Henrike Lähnemann, Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2010, 307-24;“Tomba come testamento: Il monumento funerario di Andrea Bregno,” Andrea Bregno: Il senso della forma nella cultura artistica del Rinascimento, ed. Claudio Strinati and Claudio Crescentini, Rome: Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali and Maschietto editore, 2009, 414-29, and “Reflections of Pliny in Giovanni Bellini’s Woman with a Mirror,” Artibus et Historiae,  58 (2008), 157-71.

She also contributed to the forthcoming exhibition and catalog, An Antiquity of Imagination : Tullio Lombardo and Venetian High Renaissance Sculpture, ed. Alison Luchs, to be held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 4 July – 31 October 2009.

Her book, The Chapel of St. Anthony at the Santo and the Development of Venetian Renaissance Sculpture (Cambridge University Press, 1994), was the first historical assessment of the design and decoration of the burial chapel of St. Anthony of Padua, a major artistic commission of sixteenth-century Italy.  She has also published many essays and articles on fifteenth-century and sixteenth-century sculpture and painting in Tuscany and in the Venetian Empire.

She has advised recently completed dissertations on such topics as Medici patronage of art in the Grand Duchy during the late 16th and early 17th century, the role of painted labels (cartellini) in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century painting, Mantegna’s paintings of simulated sculpture, the painted illustrations of Virgil’s pastoral poetry, the depiction of Salome in Renaissance art, Leone Leoni’s Casa degli Omenoni, on the Virgin's Sacred Belt and fifteenth-century artistic commissions at Santo Stefano, Prato; Simone Martini's painting of St. Louis of Toulouse; Ghiberti's sculpture and ritual performance; and on fourteenth-century patronage at San Miniato, Florence. 


Dr. McHam thanking her former students at the symposium
they held in her honor on March 9, 2013

Recent Awards: Professor Blake McHam is the recipient of two Graduate Teaching Excellence Awards from the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools (2003) and from Rutgers University (2002).


Dr. Blake McHam supervising photography
at the Santo in Padua

Recent Publications:

mcham pliny sheet

Pliny and the Artistic Culture of the Italian Renaissance: The Legacy of the Natural History, Yale University Press, 2013

“Il Trionfo della chiesa: l’altare maggiore di Girolamo Campagna a San Giorgio Maggiore,” in press, Arte veneta

“Antiquity as Cultural Capital in the Age of Giorgione,” Venice in the Renaissance: Essays in Honor of Patricia Fortini Brown, ed. Mary Frank and Blake de Maria, Milan: Five Continents, 2013, 83-93

“Art in Renaissance Florence,” Oxford Bibliographies in Renaissance and Reformation, ed. Margaret King. New York: Oxford University Press (www.oxfordbibliographies.com)

“Pliny’s Influence on Vasari’s First Edition of the Lives,” Artibus et Historiae, 64 (2011), 9-23.

“Reflections of Pliny in Giovanni Bellini’s Woman with a Mirror,” Artibus et Historiae 58 (2008), 1-15.

“Tomba come testamento: Il monumento funerario di Andrea Bregno,” Andrea Bregno: Il senso della forma, ed. Claudio Strinati and Claudio Crescentini, Rome: Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, 2008, 87-98.

“Giambologna’s Equestrian Monument to Cosimo I: The Monument Makes the Memory,” The Patronage of Sculpture in the Italian Renaissance, ed. Kathleen Christian and David Drogin, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2009.

“La tomba del doge Giovanni Mocenigo: politica e culto dinastico,” Tullio Lombardo, scultore e archtetto nella Venezia del rinascimento, Atti del convegno di studi, Venezia, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, 4-6 aprile 2006, ed. Matteo Ceriana, Verona: Cierre Grafica, 2007, 81-98.

“ Now and Then: Recovering a Sense of Different Values,” Depth of Field, ed. Donal Cooper and Marika Leino, Bern: Peter Lang, 2007, 251-95.

“ Oedipal Palimpsest, ” Source. Notes in the History of Art 27, no. 4(2008), 37-46.

"Renaissance Monuments to Favorite Sons," Renaissance Studies , 19, no. 4 (Sept. 2005), 458-486.

“Erudition on Display: The ‘Scientific’ Illustrations in Pico della Mirandola’s of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History,” Visualizing Medieval Medicine, 1200-1550, ed. Jean A. Givens, Karen M. Reeds, and Alain Touwaide, AVISTA Studies in the History of Medieval Science, Technology and Art, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006, 83-114.

La Bottega dei Lombardo alla Cappella di Sant’Antonio e la teoria di Pomponio Gaurico, I Lombardo. Architettura e scultura a Venezia tra ‘400 e ‘500, ed. Andrea Guerra, Manuela Morresi, and Richard Schofield, Venice: Marsilio, 2006, 224-239.mchambook

Recent Lectures and Activities:

“Laocoonte, o Plinio vendicato,” Italian Art Society/ Kress Annual Lecture in Italy, Rome, May 2013

“Pliny Endorses the Unfinished Work of Art,” Renaissance Society of America Annual Meetings, San Diego, March 2013

Pliny and the Birth of Disegno,” College Art Association Meetings, New York City, February 2013

“The Birth of Ekphrasis in Sculpture,” Seventh Quadrennial Italian Renaissance Sculpture Conference, Lawrence, Kansas, November 2012

“The Disputed Space of the Casino and Giambologna’s Samson and Philistine,” Renaissance Society of America Annual Meetings, Washington, D.C., March 2012 Keynote Speaker, “In the Shadow of Michelangelo: Giambologna’s Samson and Philistine Group,” Symposium Honoring Edward Olszewski, Cleveland Museum of Art, October 2011.

“Vasari’s Dialogue with Pliny,” Renaissance Society of America Annual Meetings, Montreal, March 2011.

“St. Mark Outside Venice; The Monumental Reliefs on the Facade of the Scuola di San Marco," Renaissance Society of America Annual Meetings, Chicago, March 2009.

"The Monument Makes the Memory: Ferdinando I's Monument to his Father Cosimo I," Piazza e Monumento Conference, Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florence, November 2008.

"The Armchair Traveler's Guide to the Ancient World: Renaissance Readers and Pliny's Natural History," "Travel, Trade, and Translation
in Early Modern Europe," New England Renaissance Conference, Wesleyan University, October 2008.

"Donatello's Judith as an Emblem of God's Chosen People: The Statue's Political Meanings after 1495," Keynote Address, Sixth Quadrennial Italian Renaissance Sculpture Conference, Memphis, October 2008.

"Savonarola's Interpretation of Judith," The Sword of Judith Conference, New York Public Library, April 2008.

Louis Martz Plenary Lecture, "Inscriptions in Renaissance Art: Pliny Creates Cultural Capital," South-Central Renaissance Conference, March 2008.

Organizer and Chair, Six Sessions, "Renaissance Rulers Construct Identity," Renaissance Society of America Meetings, Chicago, April

Seminar on Fourteenth through Sixteenth- Century Italian Images of Women and their Worlds

Selection Committee, Officers of the Renaissance Society of America, 2007-

Organizing Committee, Interdisciplinary Conference on the "Sword of
Judith" and Adviser re establishing online sites organizing the NYPL's
textual and visual resources related to the theme of Judith, New York
Public Library, 2007-

" Piazza e Monumento" Project Planning Committee, Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florence, 2007-

Gordon Book Prize Committee, Renaissance Society of America, 2006, 2008.

Discipline Representative, Renaissance Society of America, 2005-11
Editorial Board, Renaissance Quarterly, 2005-

Longer list of publications


Current Interests & Research:

Revival of antiquity in Renaissance art and literature
-->Social and political context of painting and sculpture of the Venetian Empire and of Florence, especially patronage and religious practices.
--Ïmages of Stability: Rhetorical Construction of Identity in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Italy

Undergraduate Classes Taught:

Age of Giotto, Masaccio and his Contemporaries
--Italian High Renaissance and Mannerist Art
--Venice: The City and its Art
--Italian Renaissance Domestic Art
--Italian Renaissance Sculpture
--Public Monuments, 19th-21st Centuries
--Art and Politics in Late Medieval and Renaissance Italy
--Sepulchral Monuments from Old Kingdom Egypt to Canova
--Leonardo da Vinci
--Domestic Art in Italy
--Women in the Italian Renaissance

Graduate Classes Taught:

--Italian Renaissance Images of Women and their Worlds
--Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Italian Art “Images of Stability”
--Altarpiece in Italy, 1400‑1520
--Secular Art in Renaissance Italy
--Thirteenth‑ and Fourteenth‑century Italian Sculpture
--Fifteenth‑century Italian Sculpture
--Sixteenth‑century Italian Sculpture
--Interaction between Venetian Painting and Sculpture, 1450-1600
--Central Italian Sixteenth‑Century Painting
--Venetian Painting of the 15th and 16th Centuries
--Late Sixteenth‑Century Sculpture and Painting in Central Italy


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