Adam Jasienski, Art History Faculty, Wins Porter Prize

Prestigious award from College Art Association honors scholarly paper

Adam Jasienski
Adam Jasienski

Adam Jasienski, assistant professor of art history, has been awarded the prestigious Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize from the College Art Association for his paper “Converting Portraits: Repainting as Art Making in the Early Modern Hispanic World.” Established in 1957, the prize is awarded annually for a distinguished article published in The Art Bulletin during the previous year by a scholar who is under the age of 35 or who has received a doctorate within the past 10 years.

“This is perhaps the most prestigious prize a pre-tenure scholar can receive in art history,” said Adam Herring, chair of the Art History Department. “This award is well-deserved, and we couldn’t be happier for Adam!”

The judges – including Susanna Berger, University of Southern California; Rachel Miller, California State University, Sacramento; and Nathan T. Arrington, Princeton University – said:

Drawing our attention, as never before, to how a few strokes of paint could transform secular portraits into something new, something sacrosanct, Adam Jasienski unveils the long, multifaceted lives of paintings in the early modern Hispanic world. He deftly challenges conventional notions of the portrait as a stable and consistent representation of a recognizable figure. Careful and persuasive analyses of works of art emerge from a thorough and sensitive understanding of the social and religious context of art making and viewing. The border between secular and religious was porous, and over time the import of objects could shift dramatically. Jasienski resists facile explanations to illuminate how repainting and overpainting, guided by multiple motivating factors, changed not only the appearance of images but also their ontological status and cultural functions. He shows how efforts to police the portrait’s fluctuations comprise early attempts to institute categories known today as artistic genres.

One of CAA’s longest-running awards, the Porter prize seeks to encourage high scholarly standards among younger members of the profession. It has been awarded to superb articles in Western European art and architecture but has increasingly recognized a wider range of topics (in American, Chinese, Japanese and Assyrian art) since the 1990s.

Dr. Jasienski is a specialist in 16th- and 17th-century visual culture, particularly in Spain and Latin America. His research examines the intersections of portraiture and religious imagery in the early modern Hispanic world (ca. 1500–1750). He is also interested in the tensions between orthodox and “popular” forms of making and engaging with art. Jasienski’s book-length study of Spanish and Latin American art is forthcoming from Penn State University Press. Titled Praying to Portraits, the book examines art from Spain and colonial Mexico, viewing those works through the lens of trials conducted by the Holy Office of the Inquisition. He received his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University.