Paul Taylor

Curator of the Photographic Collection

Research interests
Art History | Early Modern Art Theory  | Seventeenth-century Dutch Art Theory | Iconography



I am the Curator of the Photographic Collection, and one of the art history editors of the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. I have been at the Warburg since 1990, after studying for my PhD at the Universities of Cambridge and Utrecht. My BA was also at Cambridge, where I read Philosophy and History of Art.

My research has mostly been about how words affect the way we look at images. I have written about the terminology of painting in Dutch, French, English and Italian artistic texts from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. To understand these terms we need to examine the features of paintings they were meant to describe, and so my analysis of words goes hand-in-hand with close attention to pictures themselves - a kind of lexicographic art criticism.

When studying early modern paintings we have to be aware that they have changed over time, through chemical alterations in the paint, or through the interventions of restorers. My recent book Condition: the Ageing of Art deals with these issues, and provides an introduction for art historians to the terminology of conservation science.

I have also worked on iconography. As Curator of the Photographic Collection I am in charge of the world’s leading archive for the study of iconography, and I regularly answer iconographic queries from art historians, auctioneers, dealers and members of the public. I have also published on the iconography of Italian, Dutch, Mesopotamian and pre-Columbian art, and have lectured on the theory of iconography.

PhD Supervision

I am willing to supervise PhDs on any area of early modern art theory, or on iconography.

Current PhD Students

My current student, Lorenza Gay, works on the depiction of the pagan gods in late medieval France.


At present I am working on a book about varieties of iconography from prehistory to the present, in all parts of the globe. I am particularly interested in the way that images have altered in terms of their iconographic reference, and in the ways that forms of iconographic reference are influenced by opportunities for communication in societies of different degrees of complexity, with different media for exchange of information.

MA Teaching 

I offer an option called Artistic Intentions, which examines the ways in which early modern artists and art theorists approached the production of paintings, focussing on the key concepts of imitation, perspective, composition, drawing, proportion, expression, draperies, colour and shading.



Selected Publications


- The Visual Culture of Holland in the 17th and 18th Centuries and its European Reception (ed. with Jacek Jaźwierski), Lublin: Wydawnictwo KUL, 2016


- Condition: the Ageing of Art, London: Paul Holberton publishing, 2015

- Meditations on a Heritage. Papers on the Work and Legacy of Sir Ernst Gombrich (ed.), London: Paul Holberton publishing, 2014

- Iconography without Texts (ed.), London and Turin: Warburg Institute and Nino Aragno, 2008

- The Iconography of Cylinder Seals (ed.), London and Turin: Warburg Institute and Nino Aragno, 2006

- Pictorial Composition from Medieval to Modern Art (ed. with François Quiviger), London and Turin: Warburg Institute and Nino Aragno, 2000

- Dutch Flower Painting 1600-1750, exh. cat., London: Dulwich Picture Gallery, 1996

- Dutch Flower Painting 1600-1720, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1995 (translation: Bloemstillevens in de Gouden Eeuw: 1600-1720, Zwolle: Waanders, 1995)

Articles and papers

- ‘From Mechanism to Technique: Diderot, Chardin and the Practice of Painting’, in Knowledge and Discernment in the Early Modern Arts¸ eds Sven Dupré and Christine Göttler, Abingdon: Routledge, 2017, 296-316

- ‘The Birth of the Amateur’, Nuncius, 31 (2016), 499–522

- ‘Gombrich and the Idea of Primitive Art’, in Meditations on a Heritage. Papers on the Work and Legacy of Sir Ernst Gombrich, ed. Paul Taylor, London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2014, 90-108

- ‘Zwierich van sprong: Samuel van Hoogstraten’s Night Watch’, in The Universal Art of Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627-1678), painter, writer and courtier, ed. Thijs Weststeijn, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013, 96-113

- ‘Leonardo in the Low Countries’, in Lives of Leonardo, eds Thomas Frangenberg and Rodney Palmer, London and Turin (Warburg Institute and Nino Aragno), 2013, pp. 29-60

- ‘Colouring Nakedness in Flanders and Holland’, in The Nude and the Norm in the Early Modern Low Countries, eds Karolien De Clippel, Katharina Van Cauteren and Katlijne Van der Stighelen, Turnhout (Brepols) 2011, 65-79

- ‘Rembrandt’s Injustice of Piso’, Oud Holland, 124 (2011), 112-18

- ‘Henri Frankfort, Aby Warburg and “Mythopoeic Thought”’, Journal of Art Historiography, 5 (2011)

- ‘Images and Stories’, The Monist: an International Quarterly Journal of General Philosophical Inquiry, 93 (2010), 370–83

- ‘Julius II and the Stanza della Segnatura’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 72 (2009), 103-41

- ‘Flatness in Dutch Art: Theory and Practice’, Oud Holland, 121 (2008), 153-84

- ‘Michelangelo’s Mistakes in the Generation of Christ’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 67 (2004), 285-94

- ‘Composition in Dutch art theory’, in Pictorial Composition from Medieval to Modern Art, eds Paul Taylor and François Quiviger, London and Turin: Warburg Institute and Nino Aragno, 2000, 146-71

- ‘The Glow in late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Dutch paintings’, in Looking through paintings: the study of painting techniques and materials in support of art historical research, ed. Erma Hermens, Leids Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, 11 (1998), 159-75

- ‘Piero’s Flagellation and the Conventions of Painted Narrative’ (with Charles Hope), in Incontri del Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Piero della Francesca, ed. Alessandra Uguccioni, Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1995, 48-101

- ‘The Concept of Houding in Dutch Art Theory’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 55 (1992), 210-32


- ‘Iconography/Iconology’, in ‘Renaissance and Reformation’, Oxford Bibliographies Online


Curriculum Vitae