I was born and brought up in London, and then studied Classics and Art History at Cambridge, Harvard and London, taking my doctorate from King's College Cambridge in 1991. I am married with four children. After a research fellowship at Jesus College Cambridge, I taught the art history of Greek and Roman antiquity at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London for 8 years as a Lecturer and Reader, before coming to the Humfry Payne Senior Research Fellowship in Classical Art and Archaeology at Corpus in 1999. I have been a regular Visiting Professor of the History of Art at the University of Chicago from 2003-13, a founding member of the Centre for Global Ancient Art there, and since 2014 have been Visiting Professor of Art and Religion in the Divinity School and the History of Art Department there. Since 2014 I have been Professor of Late Antique Art in the University of Oxford. I was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009, Fellow of the British Academy in July 2017 and a Member of the Max Planck Society in 2019, with external membership of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence. I have held visiting attachments at the British School at Rome, the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, the Free University of Brussels, Fribourg University, the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan, UCLA, the Institute of Fine Art in New York and Princeton University. I serve on the editorial boards of a number of Journals around the world and am joint editor of three monograph series, Greek Culture in the Roman World, with the Cambridge University Press, Routledge Studies in Pilgrimage and Tourism, and Visual Conversations in Art and Archaeology with the Oxford University Press. From 2013-2018 I was Principal Investigator on the Empires of Faith Project between the British Museum and Wolfson College, Oxford, which explored the visual cultures of the world religions in the Mediterranean and Asia between 200 and 800 AD. The major international exhibition arising from this project ran at the Ashmolean Museum from October 19, 2017 to February 15, 2018.
Research and Teaching
My first research interest was the art of the Roman empire, broadly conceived to include late antiquity and the early middle ages including Byzantium as well as the pre-Christian Classical world. I began my researches by looking at the way art was viewed in antiquity -- and this has led to an interest in all kinds of reception from ritual and pilgrimage in the case of religious art to the literary description of art (including the rhetorical technique known as ekphrasis) to the more recent collecting and display of art as well as its modern historiography and receptions. Since the art of antiquity has such a privileged, indeed canonical, position in our culture, the study of its receptions is an exploration of more recent history's varied, competing and often ideologically understandings of its own past. In more recent years my work has developed to encompass a more global and comparative approach to the history of art, encompassing at least the arts of Eurasia.
I mainly teach graduates within the University, although I do see some Corpus undergraduates who do specific papers on art history. At Oxford and in Chicago I have taught doctoral students across a very wide range of areas from Greek and Roman archaeology to Byzantine and early Christian art, from late antique history to the literary analysis of ancient historians, from the literary criticism of descriptions of art in ancient poetry and prose to the history of the writing of art history in the twentieth century.
The Cultures of Collecting (editor, with Roger Cardinal), London (Reaktion Books), Cambridge Mass. (Harvard University Press) and Melbourne (Melbourne University Press), 1994. Translated into Japanese and published in Tokyo (Kenkyusha), 1998.
Art and the Roman Viewer: The Transformation of Art from the Pagan World to Christianity, Cambridge, New York and Melbourne (CUP), 1995.
Pilgrimage Past and Present: Sacred Travel and Sacred Space in the World Religions (jointly written with Simon Coleman), London (British Museum Press) and Cambridge Mass. (Harvard University Press), 1995.
Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph: The Art of the Roman Empire A.D. 100-450, Oxford: Oxford History of Art (OUP), 1998
Pilgrimage in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods, Oxford (Oxford University Press), 2005, editor with Ian Rutherford
Roman Eyes: Visuality and Subjectivity in Art and Text, Princeton (Princeton U.P), 2007
Images and Texts on the “Artemidorus Papyrus”, editor with Kai Brodersen, Stuttgart (Franz Steiner Verlag: Historia Einzelschriften 214) 2009
Life, Death and Representation: Some New Work on Roman Sarcophagi, editor with Janet Huskinson, Berlin and New York, De Gruyter, 2011
Saints: Faith at the Borders, editor with Françoise Meltzer, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011
Art and Rhetoric in Roman Culture, editor with Michel Meyer, Cambridge: CUP, 2014
The Poetics of Late Latin Literature, editor with Jesús Hernandez Lobato, Oxford: OUP, 2017
Comparativism in Art History, editor, New York (Routledge), 2017
The Ark of Civilization: Émigré scholars in Oxford in the Mid Twentieth Century, editor with Sally Crawford and Katharina Ulmschneider, Oxford (OUP), 2017
Imagining the Divine: Art and the Rise of World Religions, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 2017 (with Stefanie Lenk and others)
Empires of Faith in Late Antiquity: Histories of Art and Religion from India to Ireland, editor, Oxford (OUP) 2020