Dr. Erin Giffin
Research Associate

In June 2017, I received my Ph.D. at the University of Washington under the guidance of Professor Stuart Lingo. My dissertation, entitled “Body and Apparition: Material Presence in Sixteenth-Century Italian Religious Sculpture,” explores the resonance of sculpture in sacred spaces through a series of case studies, including multimedia constructions like the Santa Casa di Loreto and the Sacri Monti, and monolithic compositions such as Michelangelo’s Risen Christ in Rome and Francesco da Sangallo’s Virgin and Child with Saint Anne in Florence. Underpinning these select discussions, the dissertation investigates the materiality of sculptural installations: for example, how clay or marble symbolically and materially affect the religious experience. This approach seeks to bring questions of materiality into debates regarding the design and construction of sacred interiors, and expose early modern interactions with the physical traits of sculpture. Similarly, my master’s thesis, also with Professor Stuart Lingo, addresses the materiality of sculptural installations in a secular context. The thesis, “Nicolas Cordier’s Il Moro: The African as “Christian Antiquity” in Early Modern Rome,” reevaluates an early seventeenth-century, polychromatic sculpture and its original display within the Villa Borghese in light of the religious and political machinations of the commissioning papal family.


I have presented various aspects of my master’s and PhD research, as well as subsequent explorations, at the Sixteenth Century Society Conference (2012, 2015), and at the Renaissance Society of America Conference (2015, 2017). The Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the Medici Archives Project, and the Florentine Istituto Universitario Olandese have supported my research endeavors. Between 2014 and 2017, I received the following awards: the Nordstrom Art Scholarship in recognition of academic achievement (2014), the de Cillia Teaching with Excellence Award (2016), and the de Cillia Graduating with Excellence Award (2017). Upon graduation in 2017, I was selected as the Dean’s Medalist in the Humanities for the University of Washington.


In collaboration with SACRIMA, my current research addresses replicas of the Holy House of Loreto constructed across Europe in the early modern period. This project addresses cross-cultural approaches to an architectural edifice turned sacred relic, and questions the standardization and idiosyncrasies manifested in each respective structure. In addition to this central project, I am also contributing to the creation of a digital library of early modern texts, and an archival survey aimed to offer a valuable resource for scholars interested in the question of contested imagery. 


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  • “The Tradition of Change in Copies of the Santa Casa di Loreto: The Case of Venice,” Contested Forms. The limits of the sacred image and the normative power of art in Europe and beyond, SACRIMA publication (Projected Summer 2019)

  • Catalogue entries in Phönix aus der Asche: Bildwerdng der Antike – Druckgraphiken bis 1869 / La fenice risorta dalle ceneri. L’antico diventa imagine – Opere di grafica a stampa fino al 1869, edited by Ulrich Pfisterer, Christina Ruggero. (Projected June 2019) (Synopses in Italian)

  • “Destroying, Remaking, Redefining: Purposeful Fragmentation and Revision of the Santa Casa di Loreto,” Perspective: Détruire, Vol. 2 (Forthcoming Spring 2019).

  • Catalogue entries in Platz da im Pantheon. Künstler in gedruckten Porträtserien bis 1800, edited by Annalena Döring, Franz Hefele, Ulrich Phisterer. Passau: Dietmar Klinger Verlag, 2018. (Synopses in German)


  • “The Ark of Loreto: Loretan Devotion throughout the Adriatic,” Renaissance Society of America Conference, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (March 17-19, 2019)

  • “Mater Ecclesia(e): Papal Symbolism and the Madonna of Loreto,” Sixth Feminist Art History Conference, American University, Washington, D.C. (September 28-30, 2018)

  • “A Matter of Relief: The Position of the Santa Casa di Loreto,” Workshop: Maniera and Mannerisms: a Historiographic Paradigm of Cinquecento Art, Bibliotheca Hertziana Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Rome, Italy (5-6 June, 2018)

  • “Seeking Devotion: Relocations of the Santa Casa di Loreto,” Renaissance Postgraduate Symposium: Art and Ideas on the Move (1400-1600), The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, United Kingdom (May 25, 2018)

  • “The Tradition of Change in Copies of the Santa Casa di Loreto: The Case of Venice,” SACRIMA Conference: Contested Forms, Munich, Germany (November 3, 2017)