History of Art and Architecture

Holly Shaffer

Robert Gale Noyes Assistant Professor of Humanities, Sabbatical 2024-2025
List 419
Research Interests Eighteenth & Nineteenth Century Art, South Asian Art, British Art & Empire
Office Hours Thursdays 11:00-12:00 pm or by appointment


Professor Shaffer's research focuses on art and architecture in Britain and South Asia across visual, material, and sensory cultures. Her book, Grafted Arts: Art Making and Taking in the Struggle for Western India, 1760-1910 (Paul Mellon Centre with Yale University Press, 2022), which won the Edward Cameron Dimock, Jr. Prize in the Indian Humanities, focuses on Maratha military rulers and British East India Company officials who used the arts to engage in diplomacy, wage war, compete for prestige, and generate devotion as they allied with, or fought against, each other to control western India. This book conceptualizes the artistic combinations that resulted through “graft”—a term that acknowledges the violent and creative processes of suturing arts, and losing and gaining goods, as well as the shifting dynamics among agents who assembled such materials in India and in Britain. Other projects include the study of the migration and reinvention of forms among different media—including paintings, chromolithographic prints, photographic albums, and printed books—and across different regions in South Asia and Europe. She edited volume 51 of Ars Orientalis (2021) on the Graphic Arts in connection to this project. She also has a long-term project on ephemeral arts, with a specific attention to the relationships between food and art, such as ingredients and vessels, spaces of artistic exhibition and culinary consumption, and the discussion of taste in printed publications.

Her research informs and ties into her teaching. She explores Nineteenth-Century Art in an introductory lecture class through empire, revolution, and new artistic technologies; others focus on South Asian Art and Architecture and Food and Art in the Early Modern World. Like her lecture classes, her seminars on Architectural Reuse (co-taught with Sheila Bonde), Portraiture, Eclectic Arts, and Real and Unreal Landscapes draw on theoretical approaches in the eighteenth and nineteenth century alongside historical content and direct object study. In 2019, she co-taught a Collaborative Humanities course on Tracing Translations: Artistic Migrations and Reinventions in the Early Modern World with Shahzad Bashir, Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Humanities. Her classes include working with arts in the Haffenreffer Museum, where she was a Faculty Fellow in 2018-2019, John Hay Library, AnnMary Brown Memorial, RISD Museum, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

She is affiliated with the Center for Contemporary South Asia, the Center for Middle East Studies, and Food Studies at Brown, and is in the Society of Fellows at Rare Book School, University of Virginia.

Recent News

Historians of British Art

Professor Holly Shaffer Wins Historians of British Art Award

Congratulations to Professor Holly Shaffer, Robert Gale Noyes Assistant Professor of Humanities, whose book "Grafted Arts: Art Making and Taking in the Struggle for Western India, 1760–1910" (Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art / Yale University Press, 2022), won a Historians of British Art Award for Exemplary Scholarship on the Period between 1800–1960.
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A review of Sonal Khullar's recently published anthology, "Old Stacks New Leaves." The publication contextualizes the historical and contemporary book traditions in South Asia and features a chapter from Robert Gale Noyes Assistant Professor of Humanities, Holly Shaffer.
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