Seminar Programme

The Institute of Historical Research at the School of Advanced Studies of the University of London hosts our seminar on Collecting & Display. The monthly seminars take place at the Institute, Senate House, Malet St, London WC1E 7HU. Seminars begin at 6.00 and last approximately one hour. 

Please see the Conferences page for recent updates.


Our final seminar in Summer 2022 will take place on Zoom, but our seminars in Autumn 2022 will be hybrid – we look forward to seeing you then!

Monday, 18th July, 2022 at 6 p.m. on Zoom

Adriana Concin will speak on:

Johanna of Austria (1547-1578) – An Austrian Archduchess on the Grand Ducal Throne of Tuscany

Johanna of Austria (1547-1578) has largely been judged unfairly by history. Born in Prague in 1547 as the last child of the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I and his wife, Queen Anna Jagiellonian of Hungary and Bohemia, Johanna was married in 1565 to the Medici prince (and later Grand Duke), Francesco I de’ Medici. Johanna was received in Florence with much pomp and grandeur; indeed, the celebrations for her wedding were among the most spectacular that Florence had ever seen. During her life as a Medici consort, however, Johanna struggled to assert dominance or command political influence over the Florentine court, and posthumously, her persona suffered further disservice at the hands of both historians and popular authors alike. Indeed, she has often been turned by the latter into a caricature of zealous piety, serving as a convenient foil to her husband’s mistress, the Venetian Bianca Capello. As with most women mistreated by the annals of history, after careful consideration of her life, a more nuanced picture emerges of Johanna. This talk aims to pay testament to Johanna of Austria and to unshackle her from passé, clichéd stereotypes. It does so by tracing her activities as a consort, patron, collector, papal favourite, as well as a pivotal member of the House of Habsburg. Moreover, in the second half of the sixteenth century, Florence was a rapidly changing cultural hub and, as will be shown, Johanna of Austria was far from a mere spectator to the cultural, artistic, and socio-political transformations taking place within Tuscan dominions.

Adriana Concin is currently an Exhibition Research Assistant at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. She completed her doctoral studies at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London in 2021 with a dissertation focused on the 1565 wedding of Francesco I de’ Medici and the Habsburg Archduchess Johanna of Austria and its wider cultural implications. She has been the recipient of several fellowships, including the Eva Schler fellowship at the Medici Archive Project in Florence and the Studia Rudolphina fellowship in Prague at the Institute of Art History of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Adriana has also held the Ayesha Bulchandani graduate internship at the Frick Collection in New York. Her research interests lie in sixteenth-century collecting, cultural exchanges between Tuscany and the Holy Roman Empire, and female patronage networks. She has published on the cultural relationships between Emperor Rudolf II and Francesco I de’ Medici (Studia Rudolphina, 2021), and the frescoes of Habsburg cityscapes in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence (Burlington Magazine, 2019).

Autumn, 2022

Monday, 3rd October at 6 p.m.

Angelica Groom will speak on Collecting and Display of Zoological Curiosities at the Medici Court in Florence

Bernardino Pocetti, Cheetahs, 1586-7, ceiling of the Grotta Grande, Boboli Gardens (photo: Angelica Groom)


The collecting of zoological rarities during the early modern era played a significant role in the self-fashioning of the courtly elite, both in Europe and beyond. The Medici family, from the beginning of their reign in 1532 as Dukes of Florence and from 1569 to 1737 as Grand Dukes of Tuscany, were enthusiastic collectors of rare fauna. This paper will focus specifically on these collecting practices and on the display of animals within the setting of the Florentine court. Collecting interests varied among different members of the Medici regime and tracing these interests across the lifespan of the dynasty will highlight both the changing priorities in the display of the zoological collection and shifting attitudes towards animals more broadly.

The Medici rulers collected and displayed animals in various forms: animal parts and taxidermied specimens formed part of the Wunderkammer collections and were exhibited alongside other exotica in various designated settings of the court, including the Tribuna at the Uffizi and the Guardaroba (now known as the Map Room) of the Palazzo Vecchio.  Animals, especially exotic fauna imported into Europe from distant parts of the globe (Africa, Asia, and the Americas), were also collected in living form. Their procurement was achieved by diverse means; animals entered the collection in the form of gifts, or they were sourced via agents who were stationed in various European port cities, such as Venice, Seville, Amsterdam, where exotic commodities were being traded. The species that survived the ordeal of long sea and land voyages were destined to be displayed in the two mini zoos established by the Medici family – the Serraglio de leoni near San Marco, and the later Sarraglio degli animali rari in the Boboli Gardens, as well as in the paradisical settings of the Medici’s magnificent gardens, located in and around Florence.


Dr Angelica Groom is principal lecturer in the School of Art and Media and on the programme of History of Art and Design at the University of Brighton. She is the author of a recently published monograph Exotic Animals in the Art and Culture of the Medici Court in Florence (Brill, October 2018), as well as several book chapters relating to art, animals, collecting and natural history.

Monday, 7th November at 6 p.m.

Dr. Anna Tulliach will speak on The Civic Museum of Bologna in interwar years (1921-44) – Collecting and Display Policies.