B.A., Yale University, 2003
M.A., Harvard University, 2006
Ph.D., Harvard University, 2011
Marisa Bass is a scholar of early modern art in northern Europe, with a focus on the creative and intellectual culture in the Netherlands. Her research interests include the representation of nature, the cult of images, portraiture, Renaissance notions of imagination and invention, print culture, genre painting, emblematics, antiquarianism, and the public monument.
Her most recent book, Insect Artifice: Nature and Art in the Dutch Revolt (Princeton 2019) recovers the intersections between natural history, politics, art, and philosophy in the late sixteenth-century Low Countries. At its center are the stunning miniatures of animals and insects produced by Joris Hoefnagel, a virtuosic artist and polymath who turned to the study of nature amidst the political and religious upheaval of the Dutch Revolt. Insect Artifice reveals how Hoefnagel and his colleagues engaged with natural philosophy as a means to reflect on their experiences of war and exile, and found refuge from the threats of iconoclasm and inquisition in the manuscript medium itself. This is a book that challenges the persistent application of the binary ‘art and science’ to Hoefnagel’s lifetime, and which addresses the doubts about human exceptionalism (and the knowability of the natural world) that tempered the early modern pursuit of empirical inquiry.
Prior publications include her first book Jan Gossart and the Invention of Netherlandish Antiquity (Princeton 2016), which takes the mythological paintings of Jan Gossart as a starting point to critically redefine the revival of antiquity in northern Europe and the very notion of a ‘northern Renaissance’. Together with Elizabeth Wyckoff, she also co-curated the exhibition Beyond Bosch: The Afterlife of a Renaissance Master in Print (St. Louis 2015, Harvard 2016), which explored Hieronymus Bosch’s neglected legacy in the print medium well into the seventeenth century.
She is currently working on a co-authored volume titled Conchophilia: Shells, Art, and Curiosity in Early Modern Europe, and a new book project provisionally entitled The Monument Effect: Dutch Art and the Making of the Modern Republic, which examines the obsession with commemoration and nation-building across media (from painting and funerary sculpture to prints, medals, poetry, and pilot guides) in the seventeenth-century Low Countries.
She was a Member in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (2015-2016) and a fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in Amsterdam (2017). She has held previous fellowships and residencies at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, the Huntington Library, the Scaliger Institute, the Warburg Institute, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts. She has received publication grants from the College Art Association and the Renaissance Society of America.
Bass teaches widely in the fields of early modern art, material culture, and intellectual history. Recent courses have addressed topics ranging from book history to anatomical illustrations, art and nature, Rembrandt and seventeenth-century Dutch culture, the legacies of Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder, and Renaissance historiography.
Insect Artifice: Nature and Art in the Dutch Revolt (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019)
“Batavia, the New World, and the Origins of Man in Jan Mostaert’s Eve and Four Children,” in Netherlandish Culture of the Sixteenth Century, eds. Ethan Matt Kavaler and Anne-Laure van Bruaene (Turnhout: Brepols, 2017), pp. 209–28.
“The Transi Tomb and the genius of Sixteenth-Century Netherlandish Funerary Sculpture,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 67 (2017): 159–83.
“Mimetic Obscurity in Joris Hoefnagel’s Four Elements,” in Emblems and the Natural World 1500–1700, eds. Karl A. E. Enenkel and Paul J. Smith (Leiden: Brill, 2017), pp. 521–47.