Sarah Moran

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2015/2016
discipline History
Research Fellow, Swiss National Science Foundation; Visiting Scholar at the Centrum Rubenianum in Antwerp and at the Department of History, University of Antwerp, Belgium

Research project

Theodoor van Loon and the Politics of Style in the Counter-Reformation South Low Countries


My research project analyzes the activity of the painter Theodoor van Loon (1582-c.1649) in the context of the efforts to re-Catholicize the Habsburg South Netherlands following the iconoclasm and warfare of the Dutch Revolt.  Beginning around 1600, the archdukes Albert (r. 1598-1621) of Austria and Isabella of Spain (r. 1598-1633) initiated a program to revitalization of religious life in the region by fostering education reform, the establishment of new confraternities, the development of new devotions, the founding of new monasteries, and the renovation and building of chapels and churches.  Theodoor van Loon was the most important artist employed to decorate the latter with imagery that trumpeted the triumph of Catholicism and shaped the prayers of the faithful. Working in tandem with the court architect Wensel Coeberger, Van Loon executed altarpieces for many of the most prestigious and symbolically important new institutions, including the archducal chapel at Tervuren, the pilgrimage church dedicated to the miracle-working image of the Virgin at Scherpenheuvel (Montaigu), and the church for the newly founded house of the Discalced Carmelite nuns in Brussels.  From the 1610s through the 1640s the artist also painted for the Carmelites of Leuven, the Ghent and Mechelen Jesuits, the Norbertines of the Park and Dieleghem abbeys, the Confraternity of the Holy Blood in Bruges, the Beguines of Mechelen and Brussels, and many other parish and monastic churches. 


Yet despite his popularity and the praise heaped upon him by his peers, Theodoor van Loon is strikingly underrepresented in modern art historical literature.  My project will help to redress this gap in the scholarship.  However, my purpose is not to simply ‘resurrect’ Van Loon by producing a catalogue raisonné on his oeuvre, but rather to produce an analytical monographic study that situates Van Loon’s commissions in their original political-historical context, and which analyzes his complicated relationship to Italian art by looking closely at his visual sources and considering them in light of contemporaneous art-theoretical literature.  In so doing I demonstrate that a critical consideration of Van Loon’s work not only sheds new light on the use of visual imagery as a tool for conversion in the Counter-Reformation, but also deepens our understanding of processes of international cultural exchange in early modern Europe.  Moreover, my project helps to broaden the focus of Flemish art history beyond the city of Antwerp, and it reveals the importance of the Brussels archducal court as both a crucible for religious reform and an arbiter of aesthetic taste.  I have already received two years of funding for this work from the Swiss National Science Foundation, and a EURIAS fellowship would allow me to complete my research and the manuscript for the book that will result from my project.



Sarah Moran is currently a Research Fellow with the Swiss National Science Foundation, hosted at the University of Antwerp and the Rubenianum.  She previously held a postdoctoral position at the Institute for Art History at the University of Bern. Her research interests center on cultural production in the Counter-Reformation Southern Low Countries, with foci on women’s patronage, material culture, religious art and architecture, public performance, authorship, and image theory. She is also especially interested in questions of historical methodology and in the potential of interdisciplinarity to open up new areas of research.

Selected publications


‘’The Right Hand of Pictura’s Perfection’: Cornelis de Bie’s Het Gulden Cabinet and Antwerp Painting around 1660’, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, vol.64, 2014.


A cui ne fece dono: Art, Exchange, and Affective Prayer in Anthony van Dyck’s Lamentation for the Antwerp Beguines’, in C. Göttler & W. de Boer (eds), Sensing the Divine: Religionand the Senses in Early Modern Europe, Leiden/Boston, Brill, 2013, pp. 219-256.


‘Of Locked Doors and Open Windows: Architectural Strategies at the Court Beguinages in the Seventeenth Century’, Chicago Art Journal, 2010, pp. 2-27.


junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline Cultural Studies
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline Neurosciences
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline Linguistics and Discourse Analysis
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline Linguistics