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Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership - Student Profiles



I completed my BA in the History of Art and Architecture at Peterhouse, Cambridge, with a double-first in 2015.  After graduating, I worked for the Prints Department at Sotheby's, London, and then Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts.  I returned to my studies at Peterhouse in 2016, completing the History of Art and Architecture MPhil.  My thesis focused on the calligraphy collection of Samuel Pepys and the wider visual culture of script within Pepys' intellectual circle.

My PhD research will explore the cultural conceptions of heraldry in sixteenth-century Europe, centering on the German-speaking regions where a unique taste for imaginative depictions of arms developed.  Heraldic images pervaded early modern visual culture, appeared on a myriad of different media, and were used across varying levels of society.  Despite this, heraldry has continued to be utilised primarily as a means for identification and attribution rather than more meaningful interpretation.

I hope to address the relationship between heraldic imagery and the Reformation, visual allusions to heraldry in multiple areas of design, and the place of makers in imaginatively rendering these armorial compositions, which existed between the ‘real’ – shields, helms, and charges – and the ‘abstract’ – as visual signatures for people and institutions.

Other Academic Interests

More broadly, I am interested in types of images that have been (contentiously) described as 'non-art,' such as script, typography, diagrams and heraldry, which can provide fascinating insights into the historical cultivation and valuation of visual discernment.  This also relates to early modern cultures of collecting and the rise of antiquarianism.
I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on a ninth-century Anglo Saxon sculptural monument and maintain a general affection for all things early medieval.      


Department: History of Art and Architecture
Supervisor: Dr Alexander Marr
College: Pembroke
AHRC subject area: History of Art
Title of thesis: [Provisional] The Early Modern Heraldic Imagination
 Frances  Rothwell Hughes