SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Mrs Mariana Zegianini

MA (SOAS) MA (UAL, Central Saint Martins College) BA (UBA)
  • Research


Mariana Zegianini
Mrs Mariana Zegianini
Email address:
Thesis title:
The Unbounded Self: Subject, Site and Temporality in Seventeenth-Century Portraiture
Year of Study:
2nd Year
Internal Supervisors

External Supervisors

Dr Esther Chadwick

PhD Research

Despite the varied strategies used by artists to represent selfhood across different cultures, portraits are still defined today as representations of real individuals that are intended to capture a known or supposed likeness, usually including the face of the person. This definition has become particularly problematic when scholars, curators and audiences engage with portraits from other cultures and has contributed to define modernity as a regionally-bounded phenomenon originated in the West.

During the seventeenth-century in China, for example, the dimensions of the ‘real’ were generally subordinated to the lyricism of the landscape and the expressive use of calligraphic brushstrokes to communicate the special qualities of the person portrayed. Which paradigms would a global art history use to analyse these portraits? How would these works of art be categorised at institutional level within world museum collections?

Combining critical theory with in-depth formal and textual analysis of primary sources and techniques from the digital humanities, this thesis aims first, to evince portraiture’s agency in defining modernity; and second, to scrutinise western modernity through the intervention of Chinese portraits to open up the field of art history to other forms of subjectivity that emerge from such a cross-cultural analysis.


  • The Real and the Imagined Dong Qichang in ""Exalted Gathering in the Green Forest""' to be presented at the International Symposium: the Art of Dong Qichang (forthcoming, 21st to 23rd January 2019, Shanghai Museum)
  • Convenor of the postgraduate workshop 'Decolonising the Self: Representations of the Self in Art Theory and Practice across Cultures' (forthcoming, 22nd November 2018, SOAS University of London)
  • 'The Unbounded Self' presented at the 'Decolonisation in Praxis Conference' (7th June 2018, SOAS University of London)


  • Chinese Painting
  • Portraiture
  • Global Art History
  • Museum Studies
  • Contemporary Art and Design