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Kate Lowe is Associate Fellow at the Warburg Institute. Her BA in History was from Bedford College, University of London, and her PhD from the Warburg Institute. She has taught at the Universities of London, Hong Kong, Cambridge, Birmingham and North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has held research fellowships at Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, in Florence, the National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, in North Carolina, and the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, and has been visiting professor at the European University Institute in Florence, the Sapienza in Rome, New York University, Villa I Tatti and the University of Basel. She co-convened the seminar on medieval and early modern Italian history at the Institute of Historical Research in London from 1995-2020, and was the academic editor of the history monograph series I Tatti Studies in Italian Renaissance History, published by Harvard University Press, between 2012 and 2020.


In 2005 I co-edited Black Africans in Renaissance Europe and I have worked on various aspects of Africa in Renaissance Italy for 25 years.

The place of sub-Saharan Africa in Renaissance Italy and Europe has always been less studied than the place of Asia or the Americas. I am interested in why this has been the case. One route into this is via diasporic Africans and their lives in Europe. Another is through an examination of African works of art or pieces of material culture that made their way into collections in Renaissance Italy. Interest in sub-Saharan Africa on the part of Italians, and how they understood this region of the world to be significant during the Renaissance, are critical questions not only in history but also in both the history of collecting and the history of art in Europe in this period and beyond.

In 2017 I co-curated A Cidade Global: Lisboa no Renascimento at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga in Lisbon.

An understanding of Renaissance Lisbon/Portugal is critical to make sense of Renaissance Italy’s response to and reception of the changes ushered in by the fifteenth and sixteenth-century Portuguese voyages around the globe.

In my chapter ‘Redrawing the line between murder and suicide in Renaissance Italy’, in Trevor Dean and K. J. P. Lowe eds., Murder in Renaissance Italy (Cambridge, 2017), I examined the rather thin line between suicide and murder made to masquerade as suicide in Renaissance Italy. I am interested in all forms and aspects of suicide.



K. J. P. Lowe, Church and Politics in Renaissance Italy: the Life and Career of Cardinal Francesco Soderini (Cambridge, 1993)

K. J. P. Lowe ed., Cultural Links between Portugal and Italy in the Renaissance (Oxford, 2000)

K. J. P. Lowe, Nuns’ Chronicles and Convent Culture in Renaissance and Counter-Reformation Italy (Cambridge, 2003)

T. F. Earle and K. J. P. Lowe eds., Black Africans in Renaissance Europe (Cambridge, 2005), Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2006

Annemarie Jordan Gschwend and K. J. P. Lowe eds., The Global City: On the Streets of Renaissance Lisbon (London, 2015)

2016 Prémio Almirante Teixeira da Mota, by the Academia de Marinha (The Naval Academy) in Lisbon, for a publication on Portuguese maritime history; Honorable mention 2016 Eleanor Tufts award for the best English-language book on Spanish or Portuguese art history

K. J. P. Lowe, Provenance and Possession: Acquisitions form the Portuguese Empire in Renaissance Italy (Princeton, 2024)


‘Africa in the news in Renaissance Italy: News extracts from Portugal about Western Africa circulating in Northern and Central Italy in the 1480s and 1490s’, Italian Studies, 65: 3 (2010), pp. 310-28

‘The global consequences of mistranslation: the adoption of the “black but …” formulation in Europe, 1440-1650’, Religions, 3 (2012), pp. 544-55:

‘Visible lives: black gondoliers and other black Africans in Renaissance Venice’, Renaissance Quarterly, 66:2 (2013), pp. 412-52

‘The black female slave of Francesco Sassetti in the late fifteenth century: a flesh and blood precursor to the blackamoors’, in ReSignifications: European Blackamoors, Africana Readings, ed. Awam Ampka, exh. cat. (Florence, 2015), pp. 61-7

‘Redrawing the line between murder and suicide in Renaissance Italy’, in Trevor Dean and K. J. P. Lowe eds., Murder in Renaissance Italy (Cambridge, 2017), pp. 189-210

‘Siti inosservati: Luoghi della vita quotidiana di africani neri nel Rinascimento europeo’, in Il chiaro e lo scuro, ed. Gianfranco Salvatore (Lecce, 2021), pp. 115-41

‘Nicolai Rubinstein, the historian of Renaissance Florence, in Oxford during the war years’, in Sally Crawford, Katharina Ulmschneider and Jas Elsner eds., Ark of Civilization: Refugee Scholars and Oxford University, 1930-45 (Oxford, 2017), pp. 220-33

Trevor Dean and Kate Lowe, ‘The Italy 1200-1700 seminar’, in David Manning ed., Talking History: Seminar Culture at the Institute of Historical Research, 1921-2021 (London, 2024), pp. 43-62

Exhibitions and collaboration with museums

Member, International Advisory Board, exhibition at the British Museum entitled ‘Shakespeare: Staging the world’, July-November 2012

Academic consultant to the exhibition entitled ‘Revealing the African presence in sixteenth-century Europe’ at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD, USA (October 2012 to January 2013), and the Princeton University Art Museum (February-June 2013)

Co-curator with Annemarie Jordan Gschwend the major exhibition ‘A Cidade Global: Lisboa no Renascimento’ at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga in Lisbon, February to April 2017, which then transferred to the Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis in Porto, May to August 2017. The accompanying catalogue was A Cidade Global: Lisboa no Renascimento/The Global City: Lisbon in the Renaissance (Lisbon: Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga and Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda, 2017)

Part of a team who wrote a short entry in 2020 and 2021 to accompany a different painting including a black African figure on an online exhibition that is on the website of the Gallerie degli Uffizi in Florence, entitled ‘On being present: Recovering blackness in the Uffizi Galleries’.

Media work

Radio interview for BBC Radio 4 for ‘Shakespeare’s Restless World’, in connection with the exhibition ‘Shakespeare: Staging the world’ at the British Museum, about a Moroccan gold coin of 1600 from the Salcombe Bay Treasure, March 2012

Academic consultant and interviewee for the documentary ‘The Black Italian Renaissance’, directed by Cristian Di Mattia, released by Sky Arts in UK, 21 November 2022; Il rinascimento nascosto - Presenze africane nell'arte, directed by Cristian Di Mattia, released by Sky Arte in Italy, 27 November 2022

Interviewee for documentary ‘We Were Here - The Untold History of Black Africans in Renaissance Europe’, directed by Fred Kuwornu, for Do the Right Film, released in 2024