Institut für Kunstgeschichte


M.A. Sara Petrella

Research Associate

Abteilung für Kunstgeschichte der Neuzeit

+41 31 631 33 81
Speichergasse 27, Raum 315
Institut für Kunstgeschichte
Hodlerstrasse 8
3011 Bern

Research Topics

  • History of the Illustrated Book (16th -18th centuries), Material Bibliography
  • The Image in the History of Ethnography, History of Religions, Antiquarianism and Mythography, from the 16th to 19th centuries

Sara Petrella is Research Associate on the project Building the Exotic at the Department of Art History (University of Bern). She holds a BA in French Literature and History of Art (2008), and an MA in History of Art (2011) from the University of Geneva. She is currently finishing her PhD in History of Art at the University of Geneva. Her dissertation, entitled “Dieux en métamorphose. Regards croisés sur la Mythologie de N. Conti et V. Cartari” (supervisors Prof. Frédéric Elsig and Philippe Borgeaud), is about representations of gods and monsters  in illustrated books, with an emphasis on the interplay between text and image in the context of the history of the printed book during the 16th– and 17th centuries in Switzerland and France.

She has written a book, co-authored with Professor Philippe Borgeaud, entitled Le « singe de l’autre ». Du sauvage américain à l'histoire comparée des religions, Paris-Genève, Des Cendres-BGE, 2017 (Link), on the origins of the history of religions during the 18th century, which focuses on the representation of American savages in two illustrated books, namely, Lafitau’s Mœurs des sauvages ameriquains (Paris, 1724), and Bernard and Picart’s Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses des peuples idolâtres (Amsterdam, 1723).

Her research project at the University of Bern will analyse how foreign material culture relocated to French and Swiss collections interacted with objects illustrated and commented on in printed books. The assumption is that mutual influences and tensions can be seen between exotic objects reproduced in books, objects exposed in private collections, and objects that were integrated in the arts.

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Peer-reviewed Publications

  • “Jean Baudoin et la réception des mythographies italiennes au 17e s.”, S’exprimer autrement : poétique et enjeux de l’allégorie au 17e siècle, M. C. Pioffet and A.-E- Spica (Eds.), Tübingen, Narr, 2016, pp. 105-122.

Book Chapters and Online Publications

  • “Les Guerres de religion en images : le De tristibus Galliae et Jean Perrissin”, Peindre à Lyon au 16e siècle, F. Elsig (Ed.), Milan, Silvana Editoriale, 2014, pp. 119-146.

Exhibition Catalogs

  • Peintures italiennes et espagnoles (16e-18e siècles), Geneva, Musée d’art et d’histoire, F. Elsig and M. Natale (Eds.), Milan, Somogy, 2015, cat. 39-40, pp. 77-79.
  • Catalogue raisonné des peintures françaises du 15e au 18e siècle, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Paris, Somogy, 2014, cat. 18-19, p. 85.
  • Enfer ou paradis : aux sources de la caricature 16e-18e siècles, F. Elsig and S. Sala (Eds.), Geneva, Musée International de la Réforme, 2014, cat. 8, 21, 22, 29, 30, pp. 42-43, 90-94, 106-109.
  • De la Renaissance au Romantisme. Peintures françaises et anglaises du Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne, F. Elsig (Ed.), Lausanne, Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, 2013, cat. 3, pp. 25-27.


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2016 Research Associate, University of Bern, Department of Art History
2015 - 2016 PhD Candidate funded by Fondation E. et L. Schmidheiny, University of Geneva
2012 - 2015 Lecturer, CanDoc FNS, University of Geneva
2011 - 2012 PhD Candidate funded by Overheads FNS, University of Geneva