Erin Benay

Associate Professor of Art History

Mather House Room 316

Other Information

Degree: Ph.D. Rutgers University, 2009
M.A. Rutgers University
B.A. University of New Hampshire

Associate Professor of Early Modern Art

Professor Benay is a specialist in Italian painting and visual culture of the early modern period, c. 1400-1700. She is especially interested in the ways in which objects are manufactured, how they move through space and time, and in what ways they contribute to the production of knowledge and belief. Her teaching and research address a number of topics in Renaissance and Baroque art including Caravaggio and the Caravaggisti; sensory perception, gender issues, and devotional art; the history of collecting and knowledge in 17th-century Europe; travel, ethnology, and visualizations of the ‘global;’ prints and printed matter 1500-1700; and the history of science and art.

Together with Lisa M. Rafanelli, she is the author of Faith, Gender, and the Senses in Italian Renaissance and Baroque Art: Interpreting the Noli me tangere and Doubting Thomas (Ashgate, 2015).  The book considers how representations of these two popular Renaissance subjects together engaged with contemporary theories of the senses and definitions of gender. Professor Benay’s second book, Exporting Caravaggio: the Crucifixion of Saint Andrew in the Cleveland Museum of Art (Giles, 2017) uses a single painting by Caravaggio as a point of departure to discuss how the mobility of objects and the history of collecting shape the interpretation of canonical works of art. Benay has also published essays in Open Arts Journal, Arte Veneta and Caravaggio: Reflections and Refractions (Ashgate 2014). Benay’s current book project, Italy By Way of India: Routes of Devotional Knowledge in the Early Modern Period, considers how diverse local devotional practices in southern India complicated the iconological construction of saints’ lives in later Renaissance art.  More specifically, it reveals the ways in which travel between the vying reliquary sites of Saint Thomas Apostle in Chennai, India and Ortona, Italy ruptured the formation of his European cult while simultaneously fostering a thriving Indian culture of ‘Thomas Christianity.’ This research is currently supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Institute of Indian Studies.

Prior to joining the faculty at CWRU in 2012, Prof. Benay taught at the State University of New York, Oswego and at Marlboro College in Vermont. She was a curatorial assistant at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire, the Zimmerli Museum at Rutgers University, and at the Morgan Library in New York. She has been the recipient of a number of awards and grants, including the Samuel H. Kress grant in Renaissance Art History, and has been invited to speak at numerous conferences and symposia in the United States and Europe.

In 2017 Professor Benay was awarded the John S. Diekhoff Award for excellence in graduate teaching.

To learn more about Professor Benay’s research, please visit




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