BA, MA (McGill), PhD (Oxon)
Dr. Justina Spencer is a specialist in European art and visual culture of the early modern period. Before joining the Early Modern Studies Program, she was a Barbara Thom Postdoctoral Fellow at The Huntington Library and a Fonds de recherche sur la société et la culture- Québec (FRQSC) Postdoctoral Fellow at Carleton University. She earned her PhD from the University of Oxford where she was a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellow.
Dr. Spencer’s research to date has primarily focused on early modern artists who conceptualized and translated three-dimensional space onto the canvas or page, whether by means of linear perspective, optical instrumentation, or cartography. Her publications in this field critically examine a range of visual and material culture that is often excluded from art historical discourse of the period, such as perspective boxes, mathematical diagrams, optical devices, and maps. Dr. Spencer is currently completing her first book entitled Peeping In, Peering Out: Monocular Vision and Early Modern Art. This is a transnational study on the role of monocular vision in the development of linear perspective and anamorphosis from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century. Dr. Spencer’s research has been supported by, among others, the Renaissance Society of America, the Getty Research Institute, the Newberry Library, the Huntington Library, and the Dutch Institute for Art History in Florence, Italy.
Teaching & Research Interests
Art and science in the early modern period
Theories of vision and optical illusions
The practice of collecting
Visual cultures of travel and global exchange
Current Research Project
Dr. Spencer is currently examining the cross-cultural impact of European and Islamic art on the development of cartography and costume illustration from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Her analysis predominantly centers on travel accounts produced by French and Italian artists who traveled to the Levant on ambassadorial missions.
“Habits and Habillement in Seventeenth-Century Voyages: Georges de La Chappelle’s Recueil des Divers Portraits des Principals Dames de la Porte du Grand Turc” in Artes Apodemicae and Early Modern Traveling Culture, 1550-1700 [Intersections: Interdisciplinary Studies in Early Modern Culture], vol. 64, eds. Karl Enenkel and Jan de Jong (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2019), pp. 310-332.
“Illusion as Ingenuity: Dutch Perspective Boxes in the Royal Danish Kunstkammer’s ‘Perspective Chamber’” Journal of the History of Collections, vol. 30, iss. 2 (July 2018), pp. 187-201.
“Border Cultures” (book review) esse arts + opinion, no. 87 (May, 2016)
“La vie abstraite 1: Le temps transformé / La vie abstraite 2: Espace du silence, Marie-Claire Blais and Pascal Grandmaison” (exhibition review) esse arts + opinion, no. 87 (May, 2016)