Renaissance expert joins the Warburg Institute as deputy director

Friday 8 July 2016

The Warburg Institute has appointed a scholar of Renaissance Italian art as its new deputy director.

Professor Michelle O’Malley (left) will join the institute, which is part of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, on 1 October.

She has longstanding links with Warburg, not least of which is her PhD which she gained in 1994. Her dissertation was on Italian contracts and the commissioning process, her present work focuses on issues of commission, production, value and quality concerning painting and other material objects in Renaissance Italy.

Welcoming Professor O’Malley to this new and important role, Professor David Freedberg, the Warburg Institute’s director said: ‘Michelle has a distinguished academic profile and significant experience in higher education management at a senior level. Her skills and experience will be crucial in helping us to move forward as we develop the Institute and expand its reach and profile.’ 

As a member of the Material Renaissance Project, Professor O’Malley worked on the pricing methods and production strategies of Renaissance painters. Questions arising from the project and her work on contracts led to her investigating the impact that demand had on the production practices and quality of outputs of a group of highly regarded painters working in the decades around 1500. These included Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, Filippino Lippi and Perugino.

She published the fruit of this research in Painting under Pressure: Fame, Reputation and Demand in Renaissance Florence in 2013. One of her present projects investigates issues of management in the workshops of Renaissance masters, particularly in the case of devotional paintings. Under this rubric she is examining processes of manufacture, as well as how quality was understood in relation to these works.

As a senior research fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2005, Professor O’Malley explored questions of female dress in 15th- and 16th-century Italy. Her work on footwear culminated in Commission, Cost and Meaning in Renaissance Footwear (Renaissance Quarterly, vol. 63, 2010, pp. 45–83). Her research contributed to work on the Museum's Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, and she co-edited a special issue of Renaissance Studies to coincide with the re-opening of the Galleries in 2009. This was reissued as the book, Re-Thinking Renaissance Objects: Design, Function and Meaning.

She has just completed a year-long research fellowship at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina.  

‘The Warburg Institute was my first intellectual home and I am personally committed to its future success,’ said Professor O’Malley. ‘I am delighted to be joining the institute to work with the director and the staff to develop and manage, and also to contribute to, its academic programme and to represent the Warburg in the wider national and international academic community.’


Notes for editors:

1. For all enquiries, please contact: Maureen McTaggart, Media and Public Relations Officer, School of Advanced Study, University of London +44 (0)20 7862 8859 /

2. The School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London, is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities and celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2015. Officially opened in 1995 by Sir Anthony Kenny as a federation of the University of London’s research institutes, it has established itself as the UK’s national humanities hub, publicly funded to support and promote research in the humanities nationally and internationally. SAS and its member institutes offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. In 2013-14, SAS: welcomed 743 research fellows and associates; held 2,081 research dissemination events; received 26.4 million visits to its digital research resources and platforms; and received 202,891 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. Find out more at or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews.

3. The Warburg Institute is the premier institute in the world for the study of cultural history and the role of images in culture. Initially concerned with the survival of classical antiquity in Renaissance art, its range swiftly expanded. It is dedicated to the history of ideas, the dissemination and transformation of images in society, and the relationship between images, art, and their texts and subtexts, of all epochs and across the globe. As its motto – Mnemosyne – and its Library make clear, it was the forerunner of current concerns with both memory and material culture. Find out more at

4. The University of London is a federal University and is one of the oldest, largest and most diverse universities in the UK. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University is recognised globally as a world leader in Higher Education. Its members are 18 self-governing institutions of outstanding reputation, together with a number of prestigious central academic bodies and activities. Learn more about the University of London at