Amy Knight Powell

Associate Professor of Art History

Research & Practice Areas

Northern European art and visual culture 1400-1700, including issues of untimeliness, iconoclasm, abstraction, genre, and ideologies of shape, format, and size, particularly in painting in the Low Countries


ON LEAVE July 2022 – January 2024

Amy Knight Powell joined the Department of Art History at USC in 2019. Before that she taught at the University of California, Irvine.

Her research and teaching focus on early modern, northern European art (ca. 1400 – 1700), with an emphasis on painting in the Low Countries. But her work, which concerns the survival of images through time, often takes her to other periods and places. In addition to the survival, repetition, and untimeliness of images, and the ongoing challenge to the discipline of art history that these pose — whose political stakes Walter Benjamin sketches in his “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (1942) — her interests cluster around other types of trans-position, including, metaphor, allegory, analogy, and abstraction. Iconoclasm, which in practice has often facilitated the alteration and survival of images rather than their total destruction, has been a recurring theme in her work. Her thinking about these issues has always been shaped by the evolving tradition of critical theory.

She is working on two book projects:

Picture Box: A Small History of the Easel Painting (forthcoming from Zone Books)

The Whitewashed Image: Iconoclasm and Seventeenth-Century Dutch Landscapes (in progress).


Publications (accessible through

“If a Painting is a Window, is it a Means of Ventilation?” Grey Room 83, “The Aerial Image,” a special issue edited by Matthew Hunter, Emily Doucet, and Nicholas Robbins, forthcoming.

“La valise,” proceedings of the symposium Make it New: Conversations avec l’art médiéval at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 2019, in the series “Anamnèse médiéval/contemporain” Macula, forthcoming.

“Porcelain White,” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, “La parade,” a special issue edited by Marika Knowles and Christopher Wood, forthcoming.

“Bruegel’s Dirty Little Atoms,” in Purity and Contamination, ed. Lauren Jacobi and Daniel Zolli, Amsterdam University Press, forthcoming. 

“A Short History of the Picture as Box,” Representations 141 (2018): 95-130.

“Rectangle After Rectangle,” Cabinet Magazine 65 (October 2018).

“Images (Not) Made by Chance,” Art History, special issue, Art and Religious Reform in Europe, 1500-1650, ed. Bridget Heal and Joseph Koerner (April, 2017).

“Gothic Revival,” catalog essay for Mathias Poledna’s exhibition Substance at the Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, December 2014- February 2015, catalog 2017.

“Bread/Head,” postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies 7.1, Imagined Encounters, ed. Roland Betancourt (2016): 10-28.

“Squaring the Circle: The Telescopic View in Early Modern Landscapes,” Art History 39.2, a special issue, Art and Technology, ed. Genevieve Warwick and Richard Taws (2016): 283-301.

“Segers’ Iconoclastic Vernacular,” Oxford Art Journal 38.3 (2015): 343-64.

Review of Keith Moxey’s Visual Time: The Image in History,, May 2014.

“Time is (Not) Money,” essay for a special issue of the Brooklyn Rail to mark the centennial of Ad Reinhardt’s birth, ed. Barbara Rose and Alex Bacon, January 2014.

“A Machine for Souls: Allegory Before and After Trent,” in The Sensuous in the Counter-Reformation Church, eds. Marcia Hall and Tracy Cooper, Cambridge University Press,2013: 273-94.

Depositions: Scenes from the Late Medieval Church and the Modern Museum, Zone Books, 2012.

“Late Gothic Abstractions,” Gesta 51.1 (2012): 71-88.

“On Taking Crucifixes, Paintings, and Other Things Down,” Huffington Post, August 2012.

“Painting as Blur: Landscapes in Paintings of the Dutch Interior,” Oxford Art Journal 33.2 (2010): 143-66.

“Caught Between Dispensations: Heterogeneity in Early Netherlandish Painting,” Journal of Visual Culture 7.1 (2008): 83-101.

“The Errant Image: Rogier van der Weyden’s Deposition from the Cross and its Copies,” Art History 29.4 (2006): 707-28. Reprinted in Location, ed. Deborah Cherry and Fintan Cullen, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2007: 8-30.

“A Point ‘Ceaselessly Pushed Back’: The Origin of Early Netherlandish Painting,” Art Bulletin 88.4 (2006): 540-62.


  • Ph.D. , Harvard University, 2004
  • B.A. , University of California, Berkeley, 1996
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

    Northern European art and visual culture 1400-1700