Carla Benzan

Erasmus Long-Term Fellow


Carla Benzan is the Erasmus Long-Term Fellow working on her book manuscript “The Converted Image: Early Modern Pilgrimage and the Sacro Monte di Varallo.” This project builds upon her doctoral research, which she completed at the University College London in 2015. Before coming to the Warburg, Carla was a Lecturer and Visiting Scholar at the University of Essex and a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at McGill University. 


Carla is an art historian of northern Italian art and visual culture whose research examines the shifting epistemological claims of illusionistic images in sacred and scientific contexts. Her research focuses on the new demands that visual illusionism placed on early modern viewers during the Catholic Reformation, and is guided by an interest in the productive, yet fraught, relationship between materiality and representation.  

“The Converted Image” argues that the surprising embrace of illusionistic sculpture at the Sacro Monte expanded the conventional premise of pilgrimage in a radically modern direction. Challenging the notion that the early modern period passively witnessed the ‘end of pilgrimage’, the study reveals how pilgrimage continued to be a viable and innovative site of conversion, albeit one linked to powerful and potentially unstable forms of experience prompted by images. 

Carla is co-organiser of the two-day conference “Image and Ascent: Mountainous Terrains in the History of Art”, which will take place at the Warburg 18-19 June, 2020. 


“Coming to Life at the Sacro Monte of Varallo: the sacred image ‘al vivo’ in post-Tridentine Italy” in Ad Vivum: visual materials and the vocabulary of life-likeness in Europe before 1800, eds. Thomas Balfe and Joanna Woodall (Leiden: Brill). Forthcoming 2019.

“Alone at the Summit: solitude and the ascetic imagination at Varallo’s Mount Tabor” in Spaces, Places, and Times of Solitude in Late Medieval and Early Modern Cultures, eds. Christine Göttler and Karl Enenkel (Leiden: Brill, 2018), 336–363.

“Atomic Atopic: Piero Manzoni’s space-age subtext and the ‘ins and outs’ of the modern intellectual”in Breathless Days: 1959–1960, eds. Serge Guilbaut and John O’Brian (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017).

“Falling (Asleep)” essay accompanying Scott Billings’s exhibition A Risky Jump. Vancouver, WAAP Gallery (2015), np.

“Behold the Man: Presenting Presence at the Sacro Monte of Varallo, ca. 1608” OBJECT: Graduate Research and Reviews in the History of Art and Visual Culture 16 (2014): 5–27.