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John Decker

Associate Professor    Art History    

PhD University of California, Santa Barbara, 2004
MA University of California, Santa Barbara, 1999


Northern European Art of the 15th and 16th Centuries
Early Modern Devotional Theory and Devotional Practice
Ritual Behavior


Scholarly Interests

Doctor Decker’s research primarily focuses on the formation of identity from the late fourteenth through the mid sixteenth centuries. In his explorations, Decker favors a social interactionist approach to identity formation, which considers identity not in terms of a singular self but in terms of multiple selves. These various selves are created by and for a constantly shifting array of social interchanges. Often, these exchanges require or involve material or visual culture. His work strives to understand the part that images and objects played in the processes of building personae in these periods. In particular, he investigates the role of images and objects in religious practices in Early Modern Northern Europe. He is interested in the ways that those who commissioned, produced, and viewed religious images and objects often used them to generate, sustain, and negotiate various religious, personal, and public identities. To that end, he is interested in all manner of religious behavior including personal piety, monastic/conventual life, and public rites such as feast days and pilgrimages. In addition to his work on religious subjects, Doctor Decker is also interested in the ways that secular images were used in the creation of political, commercial, and regional/proto-national identities.



The Technology of Salvation and the Art of Geertgen tot Sint Jans. Series Title: Visual Culture in Early Modernity (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Press, 2009).

Edited Volumes

Death, Torture, and the Broken Body in European Art, 1300 – 1650. Series Title: Visual Culture in Early Modernity (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Press, 2015).


“More Strength for Contemplation: Spiritual Play in the Amsterdam Holy Kinship,” Journal of the Historians of Netherlandish Art (Winter 2016).

2010. “Civic Charity, Civic Virtue, the Master of Alkmaar’s Seven Works of Mercy,” Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 41, No. 1 (Spring 2010): 3-28.

2008. “Engendering Contrition, Wounding the Soul: Geertgen tot Sint Jans’ Man of Sorrows,” Artibus et Historiae, Vol. XXIX, No. 57 (2008): 59-74.

Book Chapters

2011. “‘Practical Devotion.’ Apotropaism and the Protection of the Soul,” in C. Brusati, et. al. (eds.), The Authority of the Word (Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2011): 357-385.

2011. “Between Conversion and Apostasy, Moriens’ Struggle and the Fate of the Soul,” in L. Stelling, et. al. (eds.), Turn of the Soul (Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2011): 249-280.

2007. “‘Planting Seeds of Righteousness,’ Taming the Wilderness of the Soul: Geertgen tot Sint Jan’s St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness,” in W. Melion, et. al. (eds.), Image and Imagination of the Religious Self in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Series Title Proteus, Brepols, Turnhout. 2007: 307-328.

Book Reviews

2015. Review of Anne-Maria J. van Egmond and Claudine A. Chavannes-Mazel, eds., Medieval Art in the Northern Netherlands before Van Eyck. New Facts and Features, Series Title, Kunsthistorische mongrafieën 23 (Utrecht: Clavis, 2014) in BMGN/LHCR, 130-2 (2015), review 30.

2013. Review of C. Fryklund. Late Gothic Wall Painting in the Southern Netherlands (Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2011) in Historians of Netherlandish Art, Review of Books (

2013. Review of A. Knight Powell. Depositions: Scenes from the late
Medieval Church and the Modern Museum (Brooklyn: Zone Books, 2012) in Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture, Vol. 82, No. 3 (September, 2013): 723 – 725.

2013. Review of S. Blick and L. Gelfand, eds. Push Me, Pull You. Imaginative and Emotional Interaction in Late Medieval and Renaissance Art, 2 Vols. Studies in Medieval and Reform Traditions 156/1-2 (Leiden: Brill, 2011) in Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 66, No. 2 (Summer 2013): 602 – 604.

2010. Review of B. Lane. Hans Memling, Master Painter in Fifteenth-Century Bruges (Turnhout, Brepols Publishers; London, Harvey Miller Publishers, 2009) in CAA.Reviews (October, 2010:

2010. Review of R. Dückers and P. Roelofs (eds.). The Limbourg Brothers. Reflections on the Origins and Legacy of Three Illuminators from Nijmegen (Leiden: Brill, 2009) in BMGN/ LHCR, 126, 1 (2011): 87-89.

Museum/Exhibition Reviews

2014. Museum Exhibition Review: Girl With a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis, in CAA.Reviews (January, 2014: