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Dr Marta Ajmar


My work is at the confluence between academia, museums and the world of practice. I am a Renaissance/Early Modern specialist in global material culture and histories of design and making. My interest in art, design and craft practices extends to contemporary making, digital fabrication, regenerative design, experiential learning and learning through making in higher education and beyond.

Before joining the History of Art Department at the University of Warwick in 2023, I worked at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London where I was Head of Programme for the V&A/RCA Masters in History of Design. Between 2017 and 2021 I was Deputy Director of the V&A Research Institute (supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation), where I developed museum-based interdisciplinary research projects and higher education programmes in collaboration with university partners. Projects I led included Encounters on the Shop Floor, a large collaboration between makers, designers, artists, academics and museum professionals exploring making as an embodied way of knowing and modelling ways of placing it at the centre of education through learning-through-making approaches and multimodal pedagogies. Over the past decade, I have been foregrounding experiential learning and learning through making through national and international collaborations including the Making and Knowing project at Columbia University, the University of Bern and University College London and in my teaching for the V&A/RCA postgraduate programme. I am currently involved in shaping and delivering arts-meet-science modules for Imperial College London’s ‘STEMM with roots’ I-Explore programme.

My curatorial experience includes directing the research project and co-curating the associated major exhibition At Home in Renaissance Italy (V&A, 2006-07), funded by a Getty Foundation Collaborative Research Grant and the AHRC, which provided the blueprint for many of the permanent displays of the V&A's Medieval and Renaissance Galleries.

I completed my MA and PhD at the Warburg Institute (University of London), after studying art history at the University of Pavia, and Chinese language and culture at the ISMEO, Milan and the Beijing Language and Culture University (北京语言文化大学).

In 2017 I was Visiting Professor in the Art History Department at the University of Bern. I am a Research Affiliate at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Research interests

Histories and practices of making, design, craft and embodied knowing

Artisanal knowledge in Italy in the Renaissance and Early Modern period

Artistic, material and technological interconnectedness between Europe and Asia in the global Renaissance

Histories of the domestic interior and of the home as a site of cultural production

Experiential pedagogies for higher education and beyond, particularly learning through making

Teaching and supervision

Modules taught include:

  • Crafting the Global Early Modern
  • Displaying the Renaissance
  • Art History and Its Methods
  • Introduction to Art History: Classicism to Christianity

Current or recent PhD/M.Phil supervision includes:

  • The image of Cathay (China) in late Medieval/Early Renaissance Italy
  • The representation of women on Renaissance medals
  • Early Modern paper technology in Italy and England
  • Early Modern craft identity and guild communities
  • Italian Renaissance domestic interiors
  • Twentieth-century jewellery craft processes

I am particularly keen to hear from prospective PhD students who wish to research histories and practices of making and craft.

Administrative roles

Director of Graduate Studies

    Selected publications

    Material Mimesis: Local and Global Connections in the Arts of the Italian Renaissance (monograph in preparation; Research supported by Leverhulme Research Fellowship, 2016-17) (ed.) Making and Hands-On Learning: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (UCL Press/V&A, forthcoming). (with Catherine Speight) (ed.) Approaching the Italian Renaissance Interior: Sources, Methodologies, Debates (Special Issue of Renaissance Studies, 20/5, 2006; re-published as book by Blackwell: Oxford, 2007). (with Flora Dennis and Ann Matchette) (ed.) At Home in Renaissance Italy (London: V&A Publications, 2006). (with Flora Dennis) (ed.), Approaches to Renaissance Consumption (Special Issue of The Journal of Design History, 15/4, 2002)

    ARTICLES AND CHAPTERS IN BOOKS AND SPECIAL ISSUES OF JOURNALS ‘Looking into Renaissance wood intarsia: Material mimesis and embodied design’, in The Matter of Mimesis. Studies on Mimesis and Materials in Nature, Art and Science, eds. M. Bol and E.C. Spary (Brill: Leiden, 2023) ‘Looking into the transcultural object’, in EurAsian Matters: China, Europe and the Transcultural Object, 1600-1800, eds. M. Juneja and A. Grasskamp, Transcultural Research – Heidelberg Studies on Asia and Europe in a Global Context (Berlin: Springer, 2018), pp. 247-53 ‘The Renaissance in material culture. Material mimesis as force and evidence of globalization’, in The Routledge Handbook of Globalization and Archaeology, ed. T. Hodos (Routledge: London and New York, 2016), pp. 669-86 ‘Hot-drinking practices in the late Renaissance Italian household: a case study around an enigmatic pouring vessel in the premodern home’, in Conserving Health in Early Modern Culture, eds. S. Cavallo and T. Storey (Manchester University Press: Manchester, 2017), pp. 262-87 ‘Mechanical Disegno’, RIHA Journal, Special Issue "When Art History Meets Design History", March 2014, ‘The Global Renaissance: An Investigation of Cross-Cultural Objects in the Early Modern Period’, in Global Design History, eds. G.Adamson, G.Riello and S.Teasley (Routledge: London and New York, 2011), pp. 11-20. (with Luca Molà) ‘Geography and the Environment’, in A Cultural History of Childhood and Family (vol.3), eds. S. Cavallo and S.Evangelisti (Berg: Oxford, 2010), pp. 69-94 ‘‘‘The spirit is ready, but the flesh is tired’’: erotic objects and marriage in early modern Italy’, in The Erotic Cultures of Renaissance Italy, ed. S. Matthews-Grieco (Ashgate: Aldershot, 2010), pp.141-69

    Professional Associations

    • AHRC Peer Review College (2006-2012 and 2020-)
    • Advisory Board Member and Contributing Scholar, The Making and Knowing Project, Columbia University (2014-)
    • Faculty Member, British School at Rome (2012-18)
    • Committee Member, Institute of Historical Research Mellon Fellowships for Art History (2010-2015)
    • QAA Benchmarking Committee for the History of Art and Design (2006-07 and 2015-17)


    • PhD in Cultural and Intellectual History, The Warburg Institute, University of London
    • MA in Combined Historical Studies (The Renaissance), The Warburg Institute, University of London
    • BA (Laurea) in Art History, Literary Studies and Classics (Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia), Università degli Studi, Pavia
    • University Diploma in Chinese (Mandarin) Language and Culture, ISMEO, Milan/ Beijing Language and Culture University (北京语言文化大学)

    Associate Professor

    Director of Research



    Room: 5.65
    Faculty of Art Building
    University of Warwick

    Office Hours- Wednesdays and Thursdays,12.00-13.00