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Sarah Coviello

PhD Student

Research interests: History of Collecting | Art Historiography | History of Taste | Collectors' Houses & Museums | Museum Studies |Exhibition and Display History | Venetian Art, Architecture, and History | Material Culture & Objects Agency


Professional Passions: Art Historian as Collectors in the 20th Century

My PhD research systematically investigates the phenomenon of art collecting by art historians, identifying the recurring patterns in the biographies and afterlives of the collections assembled.

With a focus on paradigmatic examples such as that of Bernard Berenson, Roberto Longhi, Kenneth Clark, and Federico Zeri. My research revolves around these main questions:

How does an art historian collect? How do art historians engage with their collections? Which role do the collections play in the formation of their ideas? What is intrinsically characteristic about an art historian’s art collection?

Ultimately my aim is to present Art History and collecting practices as intellectually and materially intertwined.

Supervisor: Rembrandt Duits


Yvonne Hackenbrock Student Support Fund (2017-2018)

LAHP London Arts and Humanities Partnership (2018-2020)


Before starting her PhD, Sarah Coviello achieved her BA in Art History (summa cum laude) at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, where she was part of the state-funded (MIUR) university’s honour college, the Ca’ Foscari International College. She graduated with a dissertation on the iconography of the stories of St Mark in the mosaics of St Mark’s Basilica and in Paolo Veneziano’s Pala Feriale, written after an Erasmus-funded research term at the Universität Wien (Vienna). 

She then specialised in Museum Studies completing an MLitt (Distinction) in Museum and Gallery Studies at St Andrews University, writing a dissertation on collectors’ house museums entitled ‘From Collector’s House to Museum: the Identity of Historic House Museum in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the Galleria di Palazzo Cini in Venice’.

Sarah further explored the topic of private domestic collections during her MA (Distinction) in Art History, Renaissance Culture, and Curatorship at the Warburg Institute and the National Gallery in London  with her dissertation ‘A taste of the past: Mario Praz and Herbert Horne as collectors’

Conference papers

‘When Objects become Connoisseurs: Herbert Horne and the Attribution of the Torregiani Panels’, Association for Art History Annual Conference, London, 5-7 April 2018.

‘Guess who is coming to Dinner? Dining and Training with Artworks at Home with Art Historians’,  ’Livelier than Life’: The Life of Art in Early Modern EuropeTrinity Hall, Cambridge 6th – 7th September 2018

‘Kenneth Clark: Calouste Gulbenkian’s ‘Eminent Adviser’’, Talk as Glubenkian Visiting Scholar, Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, 29 December 2018.

‘The modus operandi of art historians as collectors: the case of Kenneth Clark’s personal study collection’, Gulbenkian Symposium – Collecting: modus operandi, 1900- 1950, Lisbon, 15-16 February 2019

‘A Scholar Collects, Exhibits, and Writes about it: the Personal Study Collections of 20th-Century Art Historians’, Collecting and Display Seminar: A Matter of Access’, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Munich, 22 June 2019 

‘Scholarly research as ‘innovation’ in collecting and taste: Exhibitions, catalogues, and scholar- collectors between Britain and Italy in the mid 20th Century’, Tools for the Future: Researching Art Market Practices from Past to Present, Accademia di San Luca, Rome,  25-26 November 2019

‘A scholar collects:  Roberto Longhi and the 1951 exhibition on Caravaggio and the Caravaggesques’, The Warburg Institute Work-in-progress Seminar, on-line, 14 October 2020

Affiliations & Fellowships

Member of the Society for the History of Collecting

Glubenkian Visiting Scholar 2018/2019 @ The Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon