Professor Hanneke Grootenboer

Featured Publication

Treasuring the Gaze: Intimate Vision in Late Eighteenth-century Eye Miniatures (University of Chicago Press, 2013)

Treasuring the Gaze: Intimate Vision in Late Eighteenth-century Eye Miniatures

The end of the eighteenth century saw the start of a new craze in Europe: tiny portraits of single eyes that were exchanged by lovers or family members. Worn as brooches or pendants, these minuscule eyes served the same emotional need as more conventional mementos, such as lockets containing a coil of a loved one's hair. The fashion lasted only a few decades, and by the early 1800s eye miniatures had faded into oblivion. Unearthing these portraits in "Treasuring the Gaze", Hanneke Grootenboer proposes that the rage for eye miniatures - and their abrupt disappearance - reveals a knot in the unfolding of the history of vision. Drawing on Alois Riegl, Jean-Luc Nancy, Marcia Pointon, Melanie Klein, and others, Grootenboer unravels this knot, discovering previously unseen patterns of looking and strategies for showing. She shows that eye miniatures portray the subject's gaze rather than his or her eye, making the recipient of the keepsake an exclusive beholder who is perpetually watched. These treasured portraits always return the looks they receive and, as such, they create a reciprocal mode of viewing that Grootenboer calls intimate vision. Recounting stories about eye miniatures - including the role one played in the scandalous affair of Mrs. Fitzherbert and the Prince of Wales, a portrait of the mesmerizing eye of Lord Byron, and the loss and longing incorporated in crying eye miniatures - Grootenboer shows that intimate vision brings the gaze of another deep into the heart of private experience. With a host of fascinating imagery from this eccentric and mostly forgotten yet deeply private keepsake, "Treasuring the Gaze" provides new insights into the art of miniature painting and the genre of portraiture.

Marcia Pointon | Art History

“Unflinchingly probing. . . . Grootenboer has produced a courageous book that deserves to be widely read for its penetrating analysis of what kinds of responses images elicit.”

Garrett Stewart, University of Iowa

Treasuring the Gaze is a major contribution not just to a curious corner of art history but to a broad spectrum of visual theory. A thrilling blend of museum finds and conceptual findings, the argument that unfolds makes for one of the most steadily interesting works on visual practice and image culture I have read in many years. With an appealing modesty and a gathering magisterial force, Treasuring the Gaze achieves what it ventures:  the revisionary foundation for a psychoanalytical aesthetics.”

Kenshur Prize Report | Erica Naginski, Harvard University

Astonishing here then, is how the complexity and reach of Grootenboer’s theoretical terrain—which,  rather breathtakingly,  encompasses  Gaston  Bachelard,  Jean-Luc  Nancy, Jacques  Lacan,  Mladen  Dolar,  Gérard  Wajcman,  Joan  Copjec,  Norman  Bryson,  Adrian Stokes, Marcia  Pointon, Jürgen  Habermas, Georges  Didi-Huberman, among  others—metes out the lineaments of a psychoanalytic approach working to be held in balance with an art historical lens that is extremely tightly focused on circa 1800.  Kenshur Prize Report, Erica Naginski (Harvard University) 

  • Early modern painting, in particular still life and portraiture
  • Art theory and historical methodology
  • Philosophy & Art

I work on early modern art, continental philosophy and critical theory, in particular with regard to 17th century Dutch painting and Northern European portraiture.  Other issues I am interested are art and philosophy —or rather art as philosophy (pensive images)—vision and the gaze, intimacy, the relation between photography and painting, and the meaning of light in painting.   Due to my involvement in art schools (I taught at the Jan van Eyck Academie in the Netherlands and served as the Head of the Ruskin School of Art 2014-16), I am deeply invested in viewing early modern art through the lens of contemporary art practice and theory.  I have written The Rhetoric of Perspective: Realism and Illusionism in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Still Life Painting (University of Chicago Press 2005), for which I received a CAA Milliard Meiss Grant, and Treasuring the Gaze: Intimate Vision in Eighteenth-Century British Eye Miniatures (University of Chicago Press, 2012), for which I was awarded a Paul Mellon author and publisher grant and the Kenshur Prize for best work in 18th century studies.

Exploring the overlapping fields of art history, critical theory and philosophy, my current project is called The Pensive Image and deals with early modern and contemporary painting as a form of thinking. I have received a Leverhulme and a Clark fellowship for this project and am currently finalizing my book as a fellow of the Netherlandish Institute for Advanced Studies in Amsterdam. Before joining the History of Art Department, I was an Andrew Mellon Fellow at Columbia University in New York, and I taught at Tulane University in New Orleans, the Jan van Eyck Academy and the University of Amsterdam. My articles have been published, among other venues, in The Art Bulletin, The Oxford Art Journal, and Art History.

  • The Pensive Image

  • Painting as Denkbild

  • The Metaphysics of Drawing

  • Wie man einen Kuss verwahrt Die Porträtminiatur als intimes Andenken

  • Arresting What Would Otherwise Slip Away: The Waiting Images of Jacob Vrel

  • On the Still Lifes of Lisa Milroy

  • The self-conscious image: Painting and Hegel’s idea of reflection

  • Ernst van de Wetering; 'Rembrandt: The Painter Thinking'

  • Subliem Stilleven. Het werk van Adriaen Coorte en Elias van der Broeck

  • The Reinvention of Seeing. Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, and the Reinvention of Seeing by Laura J. Snyder

  • More

Current DPhil Students

  • Emily Knight
  • Anita Paz
  • Lucy Whelan

I currently teach:


I offer an option course on Image & Thought for the MSt in History of Art and Visual Culture 



Participation in core courses History of Art (all team taught) FS Northern European Portraiture
  SS Dutch Golden Age