College of Letters & Science
Shira Brisman
212 Elvehjem
Office Hours
On leave during the Spring 2018 semester.

Shira Brisman

Assistant Professor
Ph.D Yale University, 2012
M.A. Yale University, 2012
B.A. Yale University, 2001
Research Interests
Northern European art 1450-1850; Print culture; History of science and technology; Reformations of religion; Art History's relationship to language, literature, and primary source texts; Communication and exchange.

Shira Brisman specializes in Northern European art and theory of the early modern period. Her current research investigates the boundaries between privacy and society, patterns and abberations, religious modes of thinking and categories of secularization. Her first book, Albrecht Dürer and the Epistolary Mode of Address, argues that the experience of writing, sending and receiving letters shaped how Germany’s most famous printmaker conceived of the message-bearing properties of the work of art. Among her new projects, Contriving Balance, a historical portrait of the concept of symmetry, explores how the early modern mind sought correlations, imagined rotations, and interpreted deviations from expected patterns. Another project, entitled A Matter of Choice, is aimed at breaking down distinctions between borrowed content and original creation, preparatory study and autonomous work, skilled craftsmanship and ingenious invention by examining how the regulation of marriage and inheritance shaped the structure of the workshop. A third project, Surface Interferences, attends to the changes that have altered the appearances of fifteenth and sixteenth-century works of art, offering a history of early Netherlandish painting according to what we now see.

Prior to her arrival in Madison, she taught as Andrew W. Mellon Lecturer and Postdoctoral Fellow at Columbia University. Her research has been supported by fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, the Albrecht Dürer Scholarship at the Germanisches National Museum, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies.


Albrecht Dürer and the Epistolary Mode of Address (University of Chicago Press, 2016)

Current Research Projects: 

Contriving Balance: Symmetry and the Secrets of Creation

A Matter of Choice: Marriage and the Workshop in the Era of Reform

Surface Interferences: Early Netherlandish Painting According to its More Recent Marks

Selected Essays:

“The Unassembled Grammar of the Drawing in the Era of Reform,” Art History, edited by Bridget Heal and Joseph Leo Koerner (April 2017): 312-335.

“Nachrichten aus Nürnberg: The Annunciation as an Epistolary Address,” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 79 (2016): 49-66.

“Relay and Delay: Dürer’s Triumphal Chariots in the Era of the Post,” Art History 39.3 (June 2016): 437-465.

“A Touching Compassion: Dürer’s Haptic Theology,” Open Arts Journal 4 (Winter 2014-2015), 9-27.

“The Image that Wants to Be Read: An Invitation for Interpretation in a Drawing by Albrecht Dürer,” Word & Image 29.3 (2013), 273-303.

“Sternkraut: ‘The Word that Unlocks’ Dürer’s Self Portrait of 1493.” In: The Early Dürer. Ed. Thomas Eser and Daniel Hess (Thames & Hudson; Nuremberg: Germanisches Nationalmuseum, 2012), 194-207.

AH 105: The Artist as Scientist
AH 331: Angels, Demons, Nudes: Early Netherlandish Paintings
AH 360: Renaissances and Reformations: Northern European Art of the Early Modern Era
AH 430: Death and Magic in Renaissance Art
AH 535: The Origins of Abstraction
AH 701: The History of Art History
AH 800: Prints and their Publics
AH 805: Early Modern Media