Zachary Smithline


Zachary Smithline (2022) studies the art and thought of medieval Europe, particularly as they illuminate the general nature of depiction; and the history of art history, especially as it intersects with the history of science and the history of philosophical aesthetics.

Two ongoing projects explore these interests. The first applies 3D visualization techniques to a Gothic sculptural program, the Princes’ Portal and Rider of Bamberg Cathedral, which responds in subtle ways to changes in standpoint and lighting. Part modern experiment and part medieval experimentum (often closer to “experience” than “experiment” in our sense), this study refines current phenomenological approaches to visual analysis and maps a media archaeology of art history. The second project examines interactions between Erwin Panofsky (who, in 1916, spent a week of his honeymoon in Bamberg) and twentieth-century physicists. In future work, Zach hopes to use various strands of Bildwissenschaft and analytic philosophy to investigate mental imagery in medieval culture.

Before coming to Berkeley, Zach received his B.S. from Yale (2019) with a double major in Physics and History of Art; he remains involved with the university by coordinating museum accessibility initiatives for the Yale Disability Alumni Group. Zach also was a DAAD visiting researcher at the Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg (2020-21) and taught at The Met Cloisters (2016), the Yale University Art Gallery (2015-19), and the Community College of Baltimore County (2021-22), where his global survey of art history stressed theory and historiography.

In a past life, Zach was a biophysicist; click here to view his prior research.

Advisor: Whitney Davis