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Skidmore College
Art History Department

JollyPenny Jolly

Professor of Art History

Contact Information

Office: Filene 111
Phone: 518-580-5055

Office Hours: Please note that Professor Jolly is on phased retirement for Spring 2019, and is available for advising by appoinment only.  Students should email Professor Jolly, in advance, at if they wish to meet with her.

Degree Listing

Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
M.A., University of Pennsylvania
B.A., Oberlin College

Brief Biography

Penny Jolly teaches Skidmore's courses on European medieval art from the early Christian period through the Gothic, as well as on Renaissance Italy and northern Europe; additionally, she offers a course on the history of European dress and hair from the Renaissance through the present. Her research focuses particularly on the 15th century, especially the work of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, and involves topics such as hair and dress, including a study of earrings and the meaning of body hair in art; imagery involving gender, especially as related to breastfeeding, birthing and childhood; Adam and Eve narratives; and the iconography of Mary Magdalene in both northern Europe and Italy in the 14th through 16th centuries. With regard to the latter, she is currently working on narrative cycles of Mary Magdalene in late Gothic and Renaissance Italy.

Recent Awards

  • 2006-2007, awarded the Ralph A. Ciancio Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • 2001-2007, awarded the William R. Kenan Chair for Liberal Arts
  • 2001, selected by Skidmore College to be the Edwin Moseley Speaker

Selected Publications

  • "Gender, Dress, and Franciscan Tradition in the Mary Magdalene Chapel at San Francesco, Assisi,” forthcoming in Gesta 58, no. 1 (April 2019).
  • "Cultural Representations: Head and Body Hair in Medieval Art," in A Cultural History of Hair, ed. Roberta Milliken. London: Bloomsbury Publ., 2018. Forthcoming.
  • Picturing the “Pregnant” Magdalene in Northern Art, 1430-1550: Addressing and Undressing the Sinner-Saint. Farnham and Burlington, VT: Ashgate Press, 2014.
  • "Pubics and Privates: Body Hair in Late Medieval Art," in Meanings of Nudity in Medieval Art, ed. Sherry Lindquist (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2012), 183-206.
  • “The Wise and Foolish Magdalene, the Good Widow, and Rogier van der Weyden’s Braque Triptych,” Studies in Iconography 31 (2010): 98-156.
  • “Rogier van der Weyden’s “Pregnant” Magdalene: On the Rhetoric of Dress in the Descent from the Cross,” Studies in Iconography 28 (2007), 1-72.
  • Hair: Untangling a Social History. With additional essays by Gerald Erchak, Amelia Rauser, Jeffrey O. Segrave, and Susan Walzer. The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College: 2004. Received an Honorable Mention in the 2004 American Association of Museums Publications Competition.
  • “Marked Difference: Earrings and ‘The Other’ in Fifteenth-Century Flemish Art,” in Encountering Medieval Dress and Textiles: Object, Text, and Image, ed. Désiré Koslin and Janet Snyder, NY: Palgrave, 2002, 195-207.
  • "Learned Reading, Vernacular Seeing: Jacques Daret's Arras Altarpiece," The Art Bulletin 82 (September 2000): 428-52.
  • "Jan van Eyck's Italian Pilgrimage: A Miraculous Florentine Annunciation and the Ghent Altarpiece," Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 61 (1998): 369-94.
  • Made in God's Image? Eve and Adam in the Genesis Mosaics at San Marco, Venice, Berkeley and London: The University of California Press, 1997.
  • "Antonello da Messina's St. Jerome in His Study: An Iconographical Analysis," The Art Bulletin, LXV (1983): 238-253.
  • "Rogier van der Weyden's Escorial and Philadelphia Crucifixions and their relation to Fra Angelico at San Marco," Oud Holland, 95 (September 1981): 113-126.

Selected Lectures and Presentations

  • November 23, 2017, The Warburg Institute, London: invited keynote lecture, “Addressing and Undressing the Female Body in the Magdalen Chapel at San Francesco, Assisi: Fashioning Virtue, Embodying Vice,” for a conference on The Body Politics of Mary Magdalen.
  • February 18, 2016, Society for Study of Women in the Renaissance, CUNY Graduate Center, NY, “Dressing Renaissance Bodies: Metaphors and Meanings."
  • "Experiencing the Magdalene:  Seeing, Smelling, and Hearing Salvation in Northern Devotional Art," CAA meetings, NY, NY, February 14, 2013.
  • "Representing Eve and Adam in Medieval and Renaissance Art," University of Connecticut, Stamford, February 2, 2009.
  • "Renaissance Florence: The Medici as Patrons of Art," State University of New York, Orange Country Community College, February 1, 2007.
  • "Home is Where the Art Is: Painting in the Renaissance Domestic Interior," Concordia College, Bronxville, NY, September 14, 2006.
  • Scholar-in-residence, at the MARCO Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, University of Tennessee; public lecture "Maternal Metaphors: Mary Magdalene and Pregnancy in 15th-Century Netherlandish Painting"; Symposium presentation: "Rogier van der Weyden‟s Braque Triptych: The Wise and Foolish Magdalene"; met with graduate students and faculty, Feb. 15-17, 2006.
  • "So Is She Pregnant? Maternity Dress on St. Mary Magdalene in 15th-Century Flemish Art," Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY, March 28, 2005.
  • "Maternal Metaphors: Mary Magdalene and Pregnancy in Fifteenth-Century Netherlandish Painting," College Art Association of America meeting, Atlanta, Georgia, February, 2005.
  • "A New Role for Mary Magdalene in Rogier van der Weyden's Descent from the Cross," lecture at a joint museum symposium, the Groeningen Museum, Bruges, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Antwerp, June 23-26, 2002.
  • "Jacques Daret‟s Presentation in the Temple: From Theological Debate to the Churching of Women," College Art Association Meetings, NYC, February 25, 2000.
  • "Putting the Magic Back in Art: Jan van Eyck, Pregnancy, and Childbirth," Stetson University, Florida, January 24, 1999.
  • "Art and Magic: Jan van Eyck‟s Ghent Altarpiece and an Italian Pilgrimage," State University of New York, Albany, April 22, 1998.

Selected Exhibitions Curated

  • "Hair: Untangling a Social History," The Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, January 29-June 6, 2004.