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Maialen Maugars

Visual Arts, University of Warwick

Thesis title:

New Collecting Narratives: Birmingham Museums' Italian Renaissance and Baroque Decorative Arts Collections.

My doctoral research focuses on the Italian Renaissance and Baroque decorative art collection at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG). The collection is constituted of approximately 300 objects, mainly purchased in Italy by John Charles Robinson and Whitworth Wallis between 1883 and 1889. It was one of the first collections to be acquired for BMAG, which opened in 1885, and was displayed in a dedicated gallery – unlike other so-called ‘Industrial art’ collections, which were exhibited in BMAG’s Industrial Hall. The collection, which is composed of furniture, metalwork, textile, glass, and ceramic objects, was intended to educate and inspire Birmingham’s artisans, industrial designers, and art students. This thesis has several aims: to examine BMAG’s collecting strategy, and Robinson’s and Wallis’s acquisition practices; to study the provenance of the collection, including the export of the objects from Italy to Britain; and to analyse the collection’s reception and role in public education, industrial design, and artistic training in late nineteenth-century Birmingham.

Research topics: Renaissance and Baroque Material Culture; Decorative art; Museum Formation; History of Collecting; Provenance research; Victorian Museums; Nineteenth-century Art Market; Nineteenth-century reception of the Renaissance.

Research Area

  • Visual Arts


  • 'Exhibiting Italian Renaissance decorative art in nineteenth-century Birmingham: significance, display, reception', 70th annual meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, Chicago, 21st-24th March 2024.
  • 'A network of buyers, dealers, and shippers: exporting artworks from Venice to Birmingham in the late nineteenth century', History of Art Symposium, University of Warwick, 27th September 2023.
  • 'Analysing the provenance of Birmingham's Italian Renaissance decorative art collection: John Charles Robinson's acquisitions, 1881-83', Seminaire Collection, 7th February 2023. https://collection.hypotheses.org/1451
  • '"The Finest Art Gallery out of London" : innovation, progression, and accessibility at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery', Work in Progress seminar, History department, University of Warwick, 5th December 2022.
  • PGR knowledge-sharing event, Re-imagining Renaissances in Visual and Material Cultures: Memory, Collections and Identities, Co-convened by Prof. Juliet Simpson (Coventry: CAMC) and Prof. Louise Bourdua (Warwick: SCAPVC), 2nd November 2022.
  • 'Birmingham's Italian Renaissance Decorative Art collection: composition, acquisition, reception', Birmingham Museums Trust staff meeting, 14th September 2022.
  • ' "By the gains of Industry, we promote Art": Innovaton, progression and accessibility in Victorian provincial museums', Victorian Discoveries Conference, organised by the Victorian Studies Centre, University of Leicester, 1st July 2022 
  • 'British Buyers and Italian Art Dealers: the provenance of the Italian Renaissance Decorative Art Collection at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery', M4C Research Festival, 16th June 2022
  • Digital poster, M4C Digital Research Festival 2021, https://my.ltb.io/#/showcase/midlands4cities-digital-research-festival-2021/
  • 'Collecting Practices at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery: Actors, Networks, Objects', Joint Virtual 2021 Coventry-Warwick Post-Graduate Research Symposium, 19th May 2021
  • 'Animal Masks and Costumes in Late Medieval Court Culture', Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference, 28th June 2018 https://medievalartresearch.com/2018/06/08/conf-animals-the-2018-oxford-medieval-graduate-conference/

Public Engagement & Impact

  • Guest speaker, Solihull History of Art Society. Paper title: 'Collecting Italian Renaissance decorative art for late nineteenth-century Birmingham', 6th February 2024.
  • Guest speaker, Birmingham Museums Trust All Staff meeting. Paper title: 'Birmingham's Italian Renaissance Decorative Art collection: composition, acquisition, reception', 14th September 2022.
  • Co-organiser and chair for Warwick's History of Art department's research seminar. Guest speaker: Dr Rebecca Bridgman (Birmingham Museums Trust), 'BMAG but not as you know it: Generating Social Trust, Belonging and Solidarity through Radical Redisplay', 15th June 2022.

Other Research Interests

  • Exchanges between Europe and the East in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries
  • Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts
  • European Fin-de-Siecle (especially Great Exhibitions)
  • Impressionist and Modern art


  • Member of the Renaissance Society of America 
  • Member of The Society for the History of Collecting
  • Member of the International Council of Museums

Academic profile

Since October 2020 - PhD in History of Art, University of Warwick
Thesis title: New Collecting Narratives: Birmingham Museums’ Italian Renaissance and Baroque Decorative Arts Collections

2017-2018 - MA in Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture, Warburg Institute 
Dissertation title: ‘Vases of the Annunciation: A material culture approach'

2013-2016 - BA in History, UCL (University College London)

Dissertation title: 'Mummers and Mummings in Late Medieval Court Culture'

Funding and Awards

  • 2020-2024: AHRC Midlands4Cities Collaborative Doctoral Award

Work experience

Before starting my PhD, I worked in the Impressionist and Modern Art department at Christie's London. I also volunteered in several museums, including Sir John Soane's Museum, throughout my undergraduate degree. 


  • Work In Progress co-covener, Centre for the Study of the Renaissance, University of Warwick (2023-2024)
  • PGR representative, History of Art department Staff-Student Liaison Committee (2021-2022, 2022-2023, 2023-2024)
  • History of Art PGR representative, Faculty of Arts Education Committee, University of Warwick (2022-2023)
  • History of Art PGR representative, SCAPVC Staff-Student Liaison Committee (2021-2023)


  • 2023-2024: Seminar tutor, 'Renaissance Europe II: Arts, Culture, and Knowledge of the Renaissance' (RS201 and RS301)